Remembering Gerri Lawlor, 'Sims' Voice Actor, Improv Star and Homeless Advocate

If you're a Millennial, chances are your first forays into adult living happened virtually, via the medium of The Sims. The life simulation gave kids the chance to do grown-up stuff (or take a walk on the wild side) without ever leaving the comfort and safety of their bedrooms.

When Sims voice actor and co-creator of the Simlish language, Gerri Lawlor, died on January 28, 2019, the gaming world and Sims fans felt the loss keenly. Audio director, Robi Kauker, who has worked on The Sims since its inception, said:

"Gerri was an amazing improvisational comedienne who brought her enormous personality to the mic. She was one of the funniest people with whom I ever had the opportunity to work. Gerri’s generosity and willingness to try anything is one of my most cherished memories from over twenty years of making The Sims. It’s something I still lean on and learn from to this day."

To give you some idea of what Kauker is talking about, here's Lawlor and fellow Sims actor Stephen Kearin trying not to crack up every 30 seconds while recording Simlish in 2001:

 

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In reality, Lawlor's life stretched far beyond the Sims universe. She came from the world of San Francisco improv and was a Company Player at BATS Improv, where her performances and classes were marked by a playful, fearless approach to linguistic and physical comedy. Lawlor also acted in movies like Suckerfish and Security, and provided guest vocals for avant-garde musical outfits like The Residents and The Sexy Lilliputians.

Lawlor's work was wildly unpredictable but always imbued with joy. There were her alter-egos, The Piffy and Piffy Fou, her graceful swing dances and her appearances alongside drag queens and kings at Oasis.

@Heklina / Facebook
@Heklina / Facebook

In her spare time, Lawlor was a homeless advocate, joining forces with Margaret Cho in 2014 for the Be Robin campaign, inspired by the passing of Robin Williams. Cho and Lawler put on impromptu musical and comedic street performances around San Francisco in order to raise money and collect supplies for the city's homeless population. Lawlor's graphic interpretive dances of Cho's songs were always a hit with assembled crowds:


Gerri Lawlor left her mark both on the local community and on pop culture in a larger sense. If you need proof, here's a medley of some of the world's most famous musicians singing their biggest hits in Simlish, an appropriately surreal legacy for a woman whose creative sensibilities knew no bounds.

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A Gerri Lawlor Celebration of Life will be held on Monday, February 25, 6:30pm—10pm at SF Oasis. All donations collected at the door will go to the Lawlor family. There is also a GoFundMe to help Gerri's mom, Maggie.

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