‘Star Wars’ mania came to The Second City.
Second City Hollywood grad Brandee Stilwell knows better than anyone that Yeti dreams do come true.
A few years ago on an improv stage, Stilwell created a character– to be more specific, a creature. “I simply came out as a Yeti with a weird voice and randomly named her ‘Tonya.’ It worked. People followed me around the bar afterwards quoting whatever I had said on stage. I knew I wanted to use her again,” she says.
The avid writer and performer kept the character in her back pocket, pulling “Tonya” out at auditions for SNL and the MadTV reboot. But it wasn’t until Stilwell began The Second City’s Conservatory program and teamed up with director, performer, and faculty member Ron West that the Yeti became “Tonya Lightfoot, Sasquatch Detective.”
“Ron gave our grad team Debate & Switch, which consisted of four women and four men, a writing assignment to come up with a sketch that included all four women….I was driving towards downtown on the 110 freeway when I drove by the Los Angeles Police Academy sign, triggering a memory of the opening main titles for Charlie’s Angels. ‘Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the police academy.’ I thought, that’s it! I’ll write a Charlie’s Angels sketch…and add a Sasquatch! It ended up anchoring our show, killing every night,” says Stilwell.
And that’s when fate intervened. Three of Stilwell’s coworkers, editors at DC comics, came to see the show. They convinced the company’s publisher to attend a performance, and Stilwell was then approached to flush her character out in an outline. Over the next year and a half, Sasquatch Detective was slated to be a graphic novel for young adults, a strip in MAD Magazine and various other formats, but she eventually found her home as a backup story in the critically acclaimed Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles comic book.
Earlier this year, “America’s sassiest Sasquatch” earned her own collected edition, and not only would it include the Snagglespuss stories, but Stilwell was asked to write an additional 30-page origin story, too. Last week, Sasquatch Detective hit bookshelves (both the real kind and the online kind) as her own stand-alone book.
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Stilwell says her journey from the stage to the page proves “you never know where you’re going to get your ideas from, and you never know who is going to be in the audience watching. Even though none of this happened overnight, the wait was worth it all–the hardship, the disappointment, and the struggle.”
Sasquatch Detective is available now at DC Comics.
You can also get the digital version at Amazon.