Vanessa Hollingshead is an American actress and stand-up comedian who has performed on many comedy programs including Comedy Central Presents, Live At Jongleurs and The Jim Breuer Show. She has also acted in a number of films, including a small role in the 1999 film, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.
Hollingshead was born in New York City. Her father was Michael Hollingshead, a British-born researcher into psychedelic drugs and hallucinogens, who introduced Timothy Leary and Paul McCartney to LSD. At the age of five years, Hollingshead accidentally consumed LSD after eating a sugar cube that was laced with the drug. After this event she returned to live with her mother, Sophie, having lived with her father for a year. Hollingshead would later live for two years on a commune, and a further two years in London with her father.
After years working as an office temp, in 1994 Hollingshead performed in an open mic night at the end of a four-hour-long night, claiming at the time "Even Richard Pryor wouldn't be funny at this point". Nine months later Hollingshead performed a twelve-minute slot at the Comedy Strip on Second Avenue, New York. As a result of this performance she was offered a number of development deals and an offer to appear on The Drew Carey Show, which she turned down. In 1996 she appeared on the Tompkins Square show hosted by Jeffrey Ross in her first television appearance. Further television appearances followed in 1997 and 1998, on Live At Jongleurs and The Jim Breuer Show. Whilst continuing with both live stand-up and television appearances (most notably when writing and appearing in Comedy Central Presents in 2004), Hollingshead also appeared in several films. As well as appearing in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, she appeared with ventriloquist act Otto & George and Breuer again in the 2002 film American Dummy, and opposite Greg Fitzsimmons and Pete Correale in the 2003 film The Gynecologists. Hollingshead also runs comedy workshops for aspiring comedians.
Hollingshead was married to Lucien Hold, the Artistic Director of The Comedy Strip in New York, who she had first met when she played there in 1995. Hold died in 2004 from complications arising from scleroderma. This led to Hollingshead becoming an active member of The Scleroderma Foundation, an organization which campaigns for stem-cell research to find a cure.