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Joy Regullano: From Pre-Med Studies to Writing for ‘Monsters at Work’

The Filipino Asian American writer, known as the show’s ‘joke assassin,’ stumbled onto her path as an actress and animation scribe while in school learning to become a doctor and take over her father’s clinic.

The production staff on Monsters at Work knows writer Joy Regullano as their “tiny but mighty joke assassin,” so named by story editor Colleen Evanson and showrunner Kevin Deters. Regullano also honed her animated comedy writing chops under the watchful eyes of DreamWorks showrunners during her time on Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight. As someone who has “quipped” her way through several big Hollywood studios, one might never guess Regullano started out as pre-med.

“I’ve always loved animation, growing up on Iron Giant and How to Train Your Dragon and all the Pixar movies, of course,” says Regullano. “But my parents are immigrants, and I never really thought it was an option to go into entertainment, acting, or writing.”

Regullano and her family are Filipino Asian Americans… and doctors. Regullano was actually pursuing a medical career at school with the intent to take over her dad's clinic one day. Not dissimilar to the plot of Pixar’s latest feature, Elemental. “I was sobbing in that theater watching that movie, and also wondering who's been spying on my life,” Regullano says with a laugh. “It’s so wild that I’m working for that studio now.”

The need to make people laugh won out over family obligations when Regullano stumbled upon the University of California, Berkeley’s Asian American Theatre Club. “I just fell in love with it,” she remembers. “I even put on a play that I wrote that semester. I thought, ‘Okay, I think this is my purpose. This is what I meant to do.’ That was hard for my parents. But, over the years, they’ve softened up. They’ve watched some of the shows I’ve written for and have said, ‘You’re really making a name for us,’ which meant a lot and was a big difference from the years before when I told them I wouldn’t be carrying on the Dr. Regullano name. My dad’s nurses have also told me he’s shown them my commercials like 10 times. One day, I’m sure he’ll praise me to my face.”

Regullano has numerous acting credits, including Barry, Speechless, and Supernatural, and her writing gigs have taken off since snagging a break with Netflix’s The Healing Powers of Dude, a series she wrote on for all eight episodes. Her most recent triumph is joining the Monsters at Work team for its second season, which began airing this month on Disney Channel and will release Sunday, May 5 on Disney+. Episode 205, releasing Saturday, April 20, was Regullano’s baby, where she got to write the script for a film noir-style episode starring Lucas Neff as Duncan, a cunning, self-centered plumber obsessed with becoming the boss of Monsters Inc. Facilities Team (MIFT)., and has a one-sided rivalry with the show’s main character, Tylor.

“In the episode, Duncan plays this lightweight private investigator,” explains Regullano. “Well, he actually just ‘hires himself,’ or takes it upon himself, to investigate something strange that’s going on with the main character, Tylor, who we all know is going through this identity crisis after being offered a job at the rival company Fear Co.”

She continues, “Anyway, Duncan’s hot on the trail, snooping around Tylor’s house, in a trench coat that belongs to his grandma. It’s ridiculous but I really got to know Duncan in this episode, what makes him tick and understanding why he deserves more compassion. Lucas improvised a bit during the voice sessions too and was really incredible. He added a lot to it.”

Check out this clip, which includes, in Regullano’s opinion, one of her best jokes in the episode: “The ceiling fan was slower than a government employee on a Friday before a three-day weekend.”

“I recently had to renew my license at the DMV, so I know what I’m talking about,” she shares.

According to Deters, episode 205 has become “a favorite for everybody on our team.” “It was a tour-de-force voice performance by Lucas and Joy’s second pass at that script had me screenshotting the Duncan dialogue she wrote. It was genius. She seems so meek and sweet in person but, on the page, she’s a killer. A real joke assassin.”

Regullano, who also was given the reigns as lead writer for episode 209, which precedes the season finale, adds, “No pressure.”

Though Episode 205 was Regullano’s pride and joy of the season, she got to work a little on each of the Season 2 episodes, Deters and Evanson making sure the writers all had some ownership over each episode. “We’ll be doing these punch-up sessions where we maybe have three to five ideas for each joke in each episode,” Regullano notes. “The show has its own joke factory, basically. And I’ve got my fingerprint in all the episodes, whether it’s with a joke or an assist, where I said something that led to someone else writing something. We also have individual ownership of our own episodes, which I thought was amazing. I really loved the way Colleen and Kevin ran things. The animation directors were also in the writers’ room whenever they were able to be and Kevin opened things up to everyone, always saying, ‘I don’t care what your position is. I want to hear what you have to say about the episode.”

That meant a lot to Regullano, who grew up watching Monsters Inc. but just recently came on board the franchise’s TV show adaptation.

“It’s still surreal that I’m writing jokes for people like Billy Crystal,” she says. “I've learned not to say how old I was when the first movie came out. It makes some of my colleagues feel old.”

Regullano feels a little aged herself, looking back on the last decade of work that’s led to this point in her career; she also feels a kinship with character Tylor, noting how the industry is changing as she tries to hold her own as a Filipino woman in a still predominantly white male industry. 

“You think about people whose jobs have just been totally eliminated through changing times and people who are worried the same is going to happen to them,” she says. “One generation hands you the world and you’re so excited until you realize how hard it is to exist here. I try not to get all existential when my mom calls me up all worried about AI and asks if I’ll still have a job in 10 years. Maybe that’s why I love jokes. It makes all the serious stuff go down better.”

Victoria Davis's picture

Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She's reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at