Stephanie Courtney

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Stephanie Courtney
Born (1970-02-08) February 8, 1970 (age 44)
Stony Point, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress, comedian
Years active 1998–present
Spouse(s) Scott Kolanach (2008–present)

Stephanie Courtney (born February 8, 1970)[1] is an American actress and comedian, best known for playing the advertising character Flo in television and radio commercials for Progressive Insurance,[2] and noted for her recurring roles on several television series, including the voices of Renee the Receptionist and Joy Peters on the Adult Swim comedy Tom Goes to the Mayor (2004–2006); Marge on the AMC drama Mad Men (2007); and Diane on the ABC comedy Cavemen (2007). She also appeared in the season 3 premiere of Men of a Certain Age. Courtney is a member of The Groundlings, an improvisational and sketch comedy theater in Los Angeles, California.

Early life and education[edit]

Courtney was born in Stony Point, New York, the youngest of three children[3] of a high-school history-teacher father and a singer mother.[1] In 1992 she graduated from Binghamton University, where she had played Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible. By then, she said, "I was never tortured over whether I wanted to become an actor. There was never another option in my mind."[4] After graduation, she moved to New York City, where her roommate was future author and columnist Megan Daum.[1] While working as evening secretary for Smith Barney chairman Robert S. Greenhill, Courtney studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse.[1]

She moved to Los Angeles, where she roomed with her sister, actress Jennifer Courtney. The two wrote and performed the sketch "Those Courtney Girls" in Los Angeles and at the Aspen Comedy Festival.[1] She joined the training program of the improvisational and sketch comedy group The Groundlings, and in 2004 became a member of its 30-person main company.[3] There she met its theater's lighting director, Scott Kolanach,[5] whom she married in 2008.[1]

During her early time in Los Angeles she worked odd jobs to support herself, including catering.[3]

Career[edit]

Courtney broke into television commercials with a Bud Light beer ad on a Super Bowl. She went on to appear in commercials for Skittles, SC Johnson Glade products, General Mills, and the Wienerschnitzel restaurant chain.[1] She began her role as Flo, a quirky, chipper sales clerk in an abstract insurance retail store in a series of Progressive Auto Insurance commercials in 2008.[1]

As one critic described the character's appeal,

the fascination with [Flo] has stormed into the American consciousness ... in either the most annoying or endearing way possible. ...[W]hether you love her or hate her, you can't ignore her. In the two years since Flo debuted as the unflappably happy sales clerk who presides over the gleaming, white-bright store that sells insurance in handy, easy-to-transport boxes—giving the impression that shopping for insurance is as simple and unfraught as a trip to Ikea—she has become the most recognizable mascot on television, the successor to the Geico gecko, Juan Valdez, The Burger King, and the Pillsbury dough boy. Like those icons, she's caught on for a reason. Just as during the Great Depression Betty Crocker was a reassuring reminder of home-cooked meals and the suddenly less attainable comforts in life, Flo is a blast of unironic helpfulness and pleasantries in this age of snark, economic uncertainty, and fractured everything. She's a tangible person and personality in an increasingly virtual world—as real as the shopkeeper you never have to deal with anymore, because you buy everything on Amazon, or the diner waitress who used to serve you a cracked cup of black coffee before you upgraded to double macchiados doled out by a headset-wearing barista.[6]

The campaign's designer, Progressive executive Chris Owens, said in 2010,

We wanted to show how easy it was to buy insurance and how Progressive was a great value. We decided to put a fun and energetic face on it, someone who had a great personality and was friendly with customers. Stephanie came to the audition and gave such an amazing performance, everyone looked at each other and said, 'She's our girl.'[3]

The actress considers the character "me at my silliest. You start off with a script, but at the end they usually let me put a little zinger in there. ... Flo could be one of my improv characters, always on and sort of cracked in a weird way."[7] To create the look, "They tease my hair, spray it and stick the headband in it. And the makeup is like painting a portrait on my face. ... It totally changes things on my face. It's like having a mask on."[7] The character's sex appeal to some viewers baffles her, she said: "I don't know what it is. The way I play her, she's pretty much the most asexual thing on TV right now. I think the Geico lizard puts out more sexual vibes than Flo does."[7]

She has appeared in such films as The Brothers Solomon, Blades of Glory, The Heartbreak Kid, Melvin Goes to Dinner, and Fred: The Movie.

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1998 Sweet Bird of You Kate Short film
2003 Melvin Goes to Dinner Alex
2005 Broadcast 23 Mrs. Morgan Short film
2006 For Your Consideration Boom operator
2006 Re-Animated Team member Donna Television film
2007 Blades of Glory Reporter at sign ups
2007 Brothers Solomon, TheThe Brothers Solomon Sara
2007 Heartbreak Kid, TheThe Heartbreak Kid Gayla
2009 Coco Lipshitz: Behind the Laughter Karen Balsac Short film
2009 Christmas Eve: Alaska Melissa Short film
2010 Fred: The Movie Kevin's mom
2011 Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred Kevin's mom
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1998 Mr. Show with Bob and David Waitress Episode: "Eat Rotten Fruit from a Shitty Tree"
2000 Tenacious D Various Episode: "The Fan"
2001 Angel Gwen (Files and Records) Episode: "Dad"
2002 Everybody Loves Raymond Woman Episode: "Cookies"
2003 Man Show, TheThe Man Show Various Episode: "The New Guys"
2003 Sketch Pad Various Episode: "Roller"
2004 Significant Others Pam Episode: "A School, Not Cool & a Fool"
2004 Faking the Video Fake producer Main cast; 7 episodes
2004 Without a Trace Lynette Shaw Episode: "American Goddess"
2004–2006 Tom Goes to the Mayor Various voices Main cast; 27 episodes
2005 ER Charlotte Episode: "Just as I Am"
2005 Comeback, TheThe Comeback Carolina 2 episodes
2006 Courting Alex Ticket agent Episode: "Birthday"
2006 Lovespring International Woman on tape Episode: "A Rear Window"
2007 Celebrity Deathmatch Tina Fey Voice; episode: "The Banter Bloodbath"
2007 Mad Men Marge 5 episodes
2007–2008 Cavemen Diane 3 episodes
2008 Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! 'Demons' Casting Director Episode: "Robin Williams"
2008 Kath & Kim Ruth Episode: "Money"
2009 United States of Tara Beth Episode: "Aftermath"
2010 Jay Leno Show, TheThe Jay Leno Show Leno family member Episode 75
2010 Sons of Tucson Denise Episode: "The Break-In"
2010 House Claire Episode: "Selfish"
2010 Men of a Certain Age N/A Episode: "If I Could, I Surely Would"
2011 Looney Tunes Show, TheThe Looney Tunes Show Emma Webster (young Granny) Episode: "Eligible Bachelors"
2012 Fred: The Show Kevin's mom Main cast; 4 episodes
2012 Phineas and Ferb Additional voices Episode: "What'd I Miss?"
2014 2 Broke Girls Eleanor Episode: "And the Wedding Cake Cake Cake"
Web
Year Title Role Notes
2007 Derek and Simon: The Show Glenda Episode: "Troubled Times: Part 2 – Murder & Deception"
2008 Face to Bush Mary McQueegle
2008–2009 Back on Topps Debbie Topps
Video games
Year Title Role Notes
2003 Celebrity Deathmatch Mischa Barton Voice

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Russell, Mallory (February 27, 2012). "Meet Progressive's Flo: Standup Comic Stephanie Courtney". Business Insider. Retrieved May 21, 2013. 
  2. ^ Elliott, Stuart (2010-01-17). "Until Flo Ebbs, Progressive Will Capitalize on Her Popularity". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-09. 
  3. ^ a b c d Hiltbrand, David (April 8, 2010). "Actress-comedian Stephanie Courtney finds her niche with insurance commercials". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 21, 2013. 
  4. ^ Paknejad, Tina (Summer 2009). "Newly Famous Pitchwoman". Binghamton University Magazine. Archived from the original on May 28, 2010. 
  5. ^ Parsley, Aaron (September 2, 2009). "5 Things to Know About TV's Progressive Insurance Lady". People. Retrieved May 21, 2013. 
  6. ^ LaPorte, Nicole (May 30, 2010). "The Most Annoying (or Beloved) Pitch Woman on TV". The Daily Beast. Retrieved May 21, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c "Progressive Girl Has Strange Pull On WSB-TV Channel 2 Viewers". Atlanta, Georgia: WSB-TV. December 2, 2008. Retrieved May 21, 2013. 

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