Behind the act know as “Frangela” are Frances Callier and Angela V. Shelton, two real-life best friends who together have navigated the male-centric comedy scene with sharp wit and an undeniable presence.
Not only are they women, they are black women, which is a source of pride for them and undoubtedly a source of inspiration for young, funny girls across the nation.
All of these things have contributed to the duo's success, and they show no signs of slowing down soon. With their college stand-up tour currently in progress, and frequent podcasts, numerous television show appearances and recordings happening, it’s a miracle that I was able to catch them for a two-on-one.
Keep up with the pair on their site and read below for an insider’s look at what makes these dynamic comedians tick.
It’s hard to imagine Frangela as being two separate entities, but there was a time when you weren’t a team. How did you each get your start in comedy?
Frances: Well, I started at Second City in high school.
Angela: It kept you off the streets, out of the gangs?
Frances: Off the mean streets of Chicago!
Frances: I did everything at Second City from washing dishes, to touring, to directing and producing. And that’s how I met Angela.
Angela: I started at Second City also, in Detroit. They opened a theater there in, like, 1993 and I auditioned and got in. I joined the Toronto main stage after that—I did the last show at the old firehall and I have a piece of the stage, a prized possession. Then I was at E.T.C. and Mainstage in Chicago.
How did you meet? And how did this duo come to be?
Frances: We really met in Chicago because Angela moved into our building, a building that was sort of a Second City building, and one day we ran into each other in the hallway and Angela asked me if I wanted to go to a movie and we’ve been best friends ever since!
I’d image that comedy isn’t the easiest profession to get into and that the competition is cutthroat. What was it like to declare 'I want to be a comedian,' and what were the biggest challenges starting out?
Frances: My biggest challenge—which is everybody’s biggest challenge generally—were my parents. 'How are you going to pay your electric bill? You can’t pay that with jokes!'
Angela: But has anybody actually tried?
Frances: Right, right, right—if the joke was good enough . . .
Angela: Maybe they’d be like zero balance. Whose on first?
Frances: [Laughing] You don’t have to pay your taxes again! But I think that’s the biggest challenge: the naysayers. People being like, 'you’re gonna do what?' Because at the time, you know, you’re supposed to get something stable and solid. But now, when I look at a lot of those people who made those stable and solid choices—
Angela: We look kind of brilliant for being broke and not buying a house.
Frances: Because I feel like we’ve done amazingly well.
Angela: My mom was beyond supportive, always has been. She wanted me to study acting in college but I thought that would be a waste of her money so I decided to study something useful and worthy of her sacrifice . . . Haitian history. Yep.
My biggest obstacle? Besides all these ho’s trying to jock me? I’m kidding, sort of. I gotta go with being a black woman, I know I know, it’s been done—but truthfully we get told that women aren’t funny, and then when we are funny, we get shoved into the pink or black comedy ghetto. I don’t want to become bitter, or perhaps bitter-y, but that ceiling feels more like concrete than glass sometimes.
I’ve been to my fair share of comedy shows and am shocked by how tough the crowd can be. Was there ever a time where no one laughed and you had to just stand (or sit) in awkward silence? Tell us!
Frances: What’s wonderful about working in a duo or doing improvisation and working in an ensemble is it's not you singularly against a crowd. You have forces with you, and if people are hating you, you’ve got your friends and buddies on stage, and at least you all can have a laugh about it. But in general I would say if you ever feel like the crowd is against you, you dig down deep and you get them back on your side.
Angela: Don’t give up.
Frances: You don’t give up; you do not go down without swinging and fighting.
Angela: Somebody better laugh or we are not leaving this room.
Frances: I’m going to pull a laugh out of your asshole if I have to!
Angela: That’s right. In general, the days of the heckler feel pretty much over—don’t let me conjure that Candyman back up—but a lot of clubs won’t tolerate it these days. They’ll throw people out the first time they disrupt a show. And also, I think that it costs a lot to go out now and when someone in the audience starts messing up the show it’s easy to take them down because the rest of the audience is like 'shut up, I’m paying a babysitter, a-hole!' When I first got into Second City I was told by a wise but extremely insane man 'remember, you’re the one on stage with the microphone, how can they possibly beat you?' It helps to have a funny set though.
Frances: Also, if you’re funny, you don’t really have that problem! That really is the best defense.
What was your 'big break' onto the comedy scene as Frangela? Did you know you “made it” at some point?
Frances: I would say your career is a series of big breaks.
Angela: Every time you get one you think that will be the last one you need, but nope! You need another one.
Frances: I could use another break! Actually, like 18 more. But we’ve had some great opportunities and things that have been amazing to do and be a part of and create. I would say Hey Monie [which we provided voices for] was a really huge deal. Having an animated show with two female black leads? That’s a huge deal in the world of male-dominated animated shows.
Angela: Is there or has there been an adult animated show with a woman lead?
Frances: No I don’t think so—I don’t think so.
Angela: I could be very wrong about this, and educate and forgive me if I am, but Hey Monie might be the only one.
Frangela is almost a household name now, and you have been involved in dozens of shows, movies and animations. What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on?
Frances: I still say to this day say I loved Best Week Ever, but I really enjoy being on stage and live performances. I love doing radio, and I loved doing our show and commentary in general.
Angela: I really miss the radio show, The Week According to Frangela. Real news, real funny. I loved the TV guide shows too!
Frances: Exactly, the commentary, we love it!
I wonder this about all comedians: If we were to go out to dinner, do the jokes and commentary continue?
Angela: I think a lot of people think that if you’re a comedian you’re always doing your routine, or trying out new jokes, and we do know some comedians who are like that—but that’s not us or our friends. We actually want to enjoy your company and hear from you, and sometimes that surprises people. I’ve even received negative notes for not being 'on' from people, like they expected a show with dinner and were pissed I asked about their day and tried to have a conversation.
Frances: In fact, we like to hear what other people have to say; that’s what I like to do when I go out. I’m not there to entertain other people, but I want to have a good time and laugh and I want to laugh at your stories, and what’s going on in your day.
What’s next for Frangela? Any projects in the pipeline?
Angela: We will be in a couple of episodes in season two as recurring roles on the hysterical hit Hulu show Quickdraw.
Frances: You will hopefully see us and a lot of great people in the film Bad Boys and Crazy Girls, and touring lots of colleges and at shows.
Angela: We’ve been doing promotional raps for Logo TV, which we adore. So we get to say that we are rappers. We are also working with this amazing organization, Reimagine, that helps people with serious illnesses and the people who care for them cope. Check them out and our videos for them @reimagine_me.
Frances: And we will be writing on a lot of TV shows. And getting into whatever trouble we can find!
Angela: Make sure to follow us @FrangelaDuo—we follow people back! And remember—what can’t you do, Frances?
Frances: You can’t wax that pony twice, Angela.
Angela: No you can’t girl.