Veronika Slowikowska worked toward making it as an actor for years. Then she went viral

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Veronika Slowikowska graduated from college in 2015, she did what conventional wisdom says aspiring actors should do: Work odd jobs to pay the bills while auditioning for commercials and background roles, hoping you eventually make it.

And although the Canadian actor and comedian has had a host of affirmations from Hollywood that have kept her going, including a recurring role in the FX series “What We Do in the Shadows,” Slowikowska inadvertently took a kind of back door to augment her fame when she began regularly posting filmed skits on social media last year.

It didn’t take long for her to go viral, and her videos have since caught the attention of fellow comedians like Jack Black, as well as other celebrities including Justin Bieber. “You don’t have quite the stamp of approval from the industry,” she said during a recent interview with The Associated Press as she reflected on the weirdness of internet fame.

But the attention has opened doors for the 28-year-old, including a spot in this year’s star-studded Netflix is a Joke Festival lineup in Los Angeles, which she did amid a live comedy show tour.

Often improvised and missing an obvious punch line, her videos encapsulate an absurdist, internet-saturated millennial and Gen Z humor that surely leave many viewers scratching their heads in confusion. But her chops and training as an actor and comedian, including from The Second City improv school in Toronto, set her apart from many content creators.

“Because I was trained and because I acted before, I think people always saw me as a little bit of both. Whereas I think maybe sometimes if you start as a content creator and then you’re trying to book something, it’s a little harder,” she mused.

Although the clear star, she makes her videos with her roommates and collaborators Kyle Chase and Michael Rees, with whom she splits profits from ads or views. They’ll often brainstorm a general premise for a skit, then improvise the dialogue once the camera is rolling.

In one of her first videos to blow up, the trio is celebrating Slowikowska’s birthday. She begs the men to push her head in a cake, but they protest, claiming she asked for this last year and became enraged when they did it. “Don’t put my face in the cake and don’t film it and don’t make it go viral,” she teases.

They finally cave. Now covered in frosting, Slowikowska immediately pulls an about-face, as her cheery laughter morphs into tears, and she storms out.

In another skit, she’s found lying face down in a tantrum on a driveway. When the person behind the camera asks what’s wrong, she mutters that she wasn’t invited to be in the new Charli XCX music video.

“All the hottest girls on the internet were in it, and I seemed to have missed the invite,” she says of the buzzy “360” music video that dropped in May, which boasts stars like Julia Fox,Rachel Sennott and Chloë Sevigny.

“We (expletive) up,” the music video’s director, Aidan Zamiri, commented on Instagram.

“Big time,” Charli XCX responded.

A feature of Slowikowska’s comedy that was an important realization for her is a willingness to look ugly when she’s in character, something she struggled with in her early days of improv.

“I was like wearing Lululemon and trying to be like, ‘See, I’m still cute,’” she recalled, saying a shift occurred in the past few years. “I really don’t think about how I look when I’m making a video, on stage, in front of a camera when I’m filming something. I don’t think there is room for that when you’re really in the moment.”

That willingness is apparent in her videos, like when she turned her swollen and bruised face after a gum graft surgery into a bit about discovering a “lip filler hack.”

Although she ultimately wants to continue acting in and eventually making film and television, she recognizes the growing popularity of consuming entertainment online.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Short form is the future’ and I hope it’s not. It’s such an amazing tool and creates community and is a great equalizer, where all of the sudden now blank knows this Polish girl from Canada,” she said. “But I think having a group of people working on something for years, like a script or a television show, is always going to be more fulfilling.”

Before internet fame, Slowikowska had booked a lead role in the co-commissioned Amazon Prime Video and Hulu teen sci-fi series “Davey & Jonesie’s Locker,” which premiered in March. She also snagged a role in the Amazon Freevee film “EXmas,” which stars Leighton Meester.

Slowikowska bounced around between Los Angeles and Toronto for a few years, before moving to New York last year, hoping to benefit from the city’s comedy scene.

Around the time she moved, however, the Hollywood actors strike began. With no auditions to go to, she turned her attention and energy to making videos.

Now, with about 500,000 followers on both her Instagram and TikTok accounts, Slowikowska is still regularly posting videos but navigating how best to leverage her experience and clout in this moment.

“I want to make my own stuff. I want to make my own movies and television series, and I’ve been working on those scripts,” she said. “And now, with this opportunity, you know, people are looking.”

Krysta Fauria, The Associated Press