Carmen Lynch said she first got into comedy as an outlet to express herself.
“I was kind of a shy person and it was an opportunity to speak out,” said Lynch, who grew up in Fairfax. Looking at her now, it’s hard to imagine even a trace of that shy person in a New York City comedy class.
Lynch has appeared on two seasons of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” making it to the semifinal round both times. She’s been on Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend” and VH1’s “40 Winningest Winners.” She’s performed abroad in her native Spain, and for troops in Iraq and Kuwait. In November 2012, she made an appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” which got the Huffington Post buzzing. Tomorrow night, Lynch will join three other up-and-coming comedians on the second episode of Wanda Sykes’ all-female comedy special, “Wanda Sykes Presents Herlarious” on OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network).
Perhaps to understand how Lynch went from shy student to rising comedy star, you have to go back to the beginning.
After moving to Fairfax County from Spain when she was 8 years old, Lynch attended Robinson Secondary School, where she participated in school plays as “either the understudy for the lead role or a background dancer.” After high school, Lynch studied at The College of William & Mary.
“I was one of those people who had like, 12 majors,” Lynch said. “I was premed for about a semester, then decided that was the worst idea I ever had.”
Six changes in major later, Lynch settled on psychology. Despite an interest in acting, Lynch never pursued the craft in her four years at school.
“William & Mary is so hard I didn’t have time to think about pursuing anything creative,” she said.
After college, Lynch moved to New York with the hope of breaking into acting.
“ ... I worked as a personal assistant but in the meantime I would do acting classes,” Lynch said. “And then I realized everyone in New York is doing the same thing and I’m 6 feet tall and I’m not getting any parts.”
Growing impatient and still bitten by the performance bug, Lynch decided to try stand-up after watching a show in a club one night. She enrolled in a class with no intention of pursuing the art as a career. Lynch said she was even nervous about performing in front of her peers on the last day of class.
“The teacher said, ‘You should try it,’” Lynch remembered. “Even in those two-and-a-half minutes, it was the most liberating experience. ... You’re the writer, the director and performer; you’re everything ... from that short performance, I was like, I’m definitely doing this again.”
In her first few months in comedy, Lynch looked to her own life for material.
“I was frustrated because the acting wasn’t going well, so talking about being 6 feet tall, that was an easy place to go,” Lynch said. “It was definitely a big part of my comedy when I started.”
In 2003, she earned a spot on the first season of “Last Comic Standing.”
“It was intimidating,” Lynch said. “People were way more experienced.”
Lynch returned for the show’s final season in 2010.
“ ... It was a completely different experience,” she said. “I knew most of the comics that were going to the semifinal. It was kind of cool to do the bookends.”
In August 2011, Lynch and her two roommates — photographer and filmmaker Chris Vongsawat and stand-up comic Liz Miele — launched “Apt. C3,” a weekly Web series.
“We started the day of Hurricane Irene,” Lynch said. “They stopped the subway system in New York ... and we were trapped in our apartment ... we just started playing around and made the first video. After we put it together ... we decided to do one every Monday.”
There are currently 40 episodes of “Apt. C3” available online, featuring everything from the apartment’s beloved cat, Pasta, to a stolen bottle of Pepto Bismol.
“No matter what idea we had, it was our goal to just put it out there,” Lynch said.
Though she said that like anyone, her parents, who now live in Reston, would have loved a doctor in the family, the comedy thing seems to be working out just fine.
“It just clicked for me,” Lynch said. “It’s like bliss.”
Lynch will be featured on the second episode of “Herlarious,” airing from 10 to 11 p.m. Saturday. For more information about Lynch, visit her website or check her out on Twitter: @Lynchcarmen.