03 Sparks

Sparks_Fire4Find the bright side When diagnosed with leukemia as a teen, Vanessa and family turned to humor for comfort. It’s a creative ability she subsequently turned into a career—making light of negative experiences.

Sparks_Fire4Embrace your day job Before joining SNL, Vanessa interned at Sesame Street and Late Night with Conan O’Brien and worked at an ad agency, among other jobs. She’s mined the experiences for material ever since.

Sparks_Fire4Trust your instincts When you’re on the right creative path, you’ll feel it, and success will flow from there. Vanessa found her creative calling in college and has followed that passion ever since

Sparks_Fire4Be kind Vanessa is the rare comedian who can get laughs without giving offense. Vanessa’s good-natured disposition has no doubt helped her win over both audiences and industry advocates.

Sparks_Fire4Work super hard By the time Vanessa got her big break, she’d been honing her stand-up routine and improv chops for years. The discipline has paid off: SNL writing sessions are infamous all-nighters and the show’s breakneck pace only lets up on Sunday.

Sparks_Fire4Practice mindfulness Deeply focused awareness can help set the table for flash insights. Vanessa regularly meditates, practices yoga and exercises. It all helps her remain in the moment to react quickly and naturally in improv and writing sessions.

Sparks_Fire4Celebrate play The best creative work actually comes out of the mindsets and activities of play. Embrace it as such, and, as Vanessa says, “Appreciate the fact that you’re having so much fun.

—ROBERT CHERRY