Alyssa Limperis became internet famous for making comedy videos impersonating her energetic Greek mom.
In her new special, “No Bad Days,” out on Peacock on Aug. 13, Limperis is focusing on her other parent — one who doesn’t appear in her Instagram videos, but informs everything Limperis does.
“No Bad Days” is a grief-infused comedy special about the loss of her father to cancer.
Limperis calls her dad the “healthiest person” she knew. He ran every day for 30 years, and had a vibrant spirit: In the comedy special, she mentioned the time he won a costume party without knowing he was supposed to dress up.
Then, the impossible happened. In 2014, when she was in her early 20s and living in New York, Limperis received a phone call: Her father had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare brain cancer with a grim prognosis.
Limperis moved back to Massachusetts and, over the next year, watched as her father changed from the man who biked through the state of Vermont with her to a man who needed a walker, then a wheelchair. He died about a year after his diagnosis.
“No one was fitter than my dad. He could out-sprint me and I was an all American sprinter. He was so unbelievably healthy, fit, bright and optimistic — so to watch something destroy somebody’s body so quickly, that’s what was so jarring to me,” she said.
In the special, Limperis illustrates his deterioration by running in circles, then walking, then hobbling. Of all the parts in the one-woman show, which she has performed for about six years, Limperis said the running sequence made her cry most consistently.
“There hit a point, maybe two years in, where I started crying every single time I got to that running segment. I would just weep and pause the show for a bit,” Limperis said.
Still, throughout the process, Limperis recalls how her dad kept his optimistic spirit. The day after hearing there was no more treatment for him, her father asked to go home and sit in the sun.
“All I could think was if this were me, I would be screaming and crying and angry and bitter. He just was, One day at a time, onward and positive,” she recalled. “I remember asking if he was scared. He said,’ A little, but mainly I want more time with you guys.’ So that’s what we did: Every day, we thought, that’s more time.”
Limperis began performing three months after her dad’s death. She wrote blog posts the year that he died, and then, after moving to New York, was able to write comedy. “It was all like pouring out because I had been trapped in this house where this terrible thing was happening,” she said.
After pausing performances for about two years, she revisited the show for the Peacock special, and found a difference between the two versions.
“The first version was about how I was so blown away by watching how my dad handled death. Can you believe how gracefully he handled it? I was so charged that first year with optimism, because I had seen him handle death this way,” she said.
“This version is much more about me and how I was changed from his death,” she said. There was less crying this time around, too: “I had more distance. It really felt like something that happened to someone else — that helped me.”
The special is a daring blend of humor and comedy. Limperis calls it a “trade.”
“I’ll make you laugh and we’ll have fun. But in the meantime, I’m going to be talking about this and we’re going to be feeling. I like going in between serious and funny, and riding that line,” she said.
But for Limperis, it makes sense that a “comedy” special can be streaked with grief. She lived it.In the year her dad was dying, Limperis said she and her family experienced “extremes” of laughter. At night, after her parents would go to sleep, she and her brother would laugh about “the silliest things.”
“We had to let it out. The darkest moments require laughter. It was a really magical year — a magical, terrible year,” she said.
Through the show, her intention is to memorialize her dad and to open up a conversation about the great elephant in the room: Loss. The show begins with Limperis joking about how people always want to run away from hearing about her dad. With “No Bad Days,” she forces the audience to sit, listen and remember their own stories.
“I felt very alone in what I was going through. Every time I would open up or talk to someone about it, they would have a similar story. If you bring up a loss, they will bring up a loss as well. If that happens, the isolation factor and the feeling of, ‘Am I the only person in the world who is in absolutely mind-numbing pain that feels isolating and scary?’ goes away. My goal is to do that with an audience,” she said.
The show concludes with her encouraging the audience to raise their hands if they’ve lost people. She said that vista is her favorite part. “By the end, during that moment, it’s a feeling of, ‘This is not just about me or my dad, but about all of us.’”
The grief was “mind-numbing,” as she said — but six years on, Limperis also said her father’s death “woke her up,” and propelled her on the path where she is today. While she was living with her mom after her dad’s death, Limperis began filming videos, the ones she’s known for. “She moved in with me in New York. I was witnessing how she was acting and I was like, ‘This is wild. Let’s make a video.’”
(Her mom, if you're curious, loves the special, and has seen it so many times she can mouth the lines).
What happened to her dad also changes how Limperis approaches life. “This was the healthiest man alive. There are no guarantees. You just gotta go, enjoy the day,” she said.
After performing so much about her entertaining Greek family, Limperis said she’s looking forward to new source material.
“Art helps me cope with whatever I’m going through in life. So whether it’s watching my dad die, and then it becomes the show or thinking my mom’s funny living with her and doing that. I’m excited to just see what I feel in life. Whatever I’m feeling, the art will come from there,” she said.