Fran Drescher and her enduringly recognizable New York accent are headlining a new Showtime comedy special called Funny Women Of A Certain Age. It’s a title that takes back ownership of assumptions about older women while Drescher and her cohorts — creator Carole Montgomery, Luenell, Lynne Koplitz, Kerri Louise and Vanessa Hollingshead — descend into a night of no-filter, outrageous comedy. Each of these ladies has experienced a full five decades on Earth, and they’ve got the life experience to show for it. Through their individual sets, they break down walls of sexism, including the notion that women simply aren’t funny, while earning rolling laughs along the way.
The Nanny star was gracious enough to talk with us about the special that was recorded in Brooklyn and reunites Montgomery with the cable network where she first graced TV screens (in Comedy Club All Stars 6). Naturally, Drescher also had plenty to say about multiple other topics that are near and dear to her. Those include her cancer charity, her wide-spanning career, and her thoughts on a reboot of the show that made her a household name.
Carole Montgomery created this special. How did you get involved?
You know, she asked me, and I said yes! I didn’t know her before, and nobody was really pushing me to say, “Oh, you gotta do this.” I just thought, “Oh, I should do it,” and it would be fun for me, and so I decided to do it, and it was fun, so I’m really glad that I did.
The sets are very raw, and I found that yours and Carole’s brands of rawness contrasted nicely. Carole goes scorched earth in general on ageism, and you get pretty personal.
She did her thing, and I did mine. I think that a lot of these women are used to playing late-night comedy clubs, and that’s a type of forum, but I like to keep my stories personal because, first of all, the audience knows who I am, and they know my brand of comedy. And I like to challenge myself to be funny while still being wholesome and self-deprecating.
You’ve been very open in the past (in your 2002 memoir) about traumas that you’ve suffered, including rape, long before the Weinstein and Louis C.K. bombshells sparked the #MeToo movement. Has this affected how you draw upon real-life experiences onstage?
I’ve always been an open book, so that’s not really gonna impact me. I like to be a “what you see is what you get” kind of person for the most part, and I like my comedy to be rooted in an authentic place. I don’t like putting other people down, I like putting myself down. I think that’s funny. It’s what works for me.
You’ve got a massively packed schedule these days.
Yeah, I just signed on to do an NBC pilot. I’m also going to be doing a daytime show for Bravo, and I’m developing and honing a standup act. Hotel Transylvania is going to do an episode 4 of the animated film series, and my organization, Cancer Schmancer, keeps me very busy. At this point, I might be interested in doing an updated version of The Nanny with a whole new cast — and writing and producing that, but it’s not something that I’m worried about or thinking about today. People seem to want it, yet this is not the time for it. I know that for sure.
Do you have any updates on your quest for Cardi B to play your daughter in some sort of The Nanny reboot?
Well, that would be if we did the show all over again. I think she could be a good way to go for sure, but it’s not real today. It’s a good idea and something I definitely have on my radar.
As you mentioned, you devote a ton of time to your cancer charity.
I have a big education release coming out on Earth Day through CancerSchmancer.org starring Jamie Foxx and myself and Jeff Bridges and a bunch of kids called “Be The Change.” And I urge all your readers to go to Cancer Schmancer on April 22. Click on the link and share it with their friends and family, so that’s what I’m hoping I can leverage this PR for the Showtime special to also help in getting a million clicks. So people can share with their children, their grandchildren, this amazing video because for the first time in history, kids these days have been predicted to not live as long as their parents, and we don’t wish to make that a self-fulfilling sacrifice. It’s very viewer friendly, also informational but entertaining, and we have to get that generation to wake up and start being more aware consumers.
Staying so busy can work against maintaining a work-life balance, something that you struggled with while working on the The Nanny. Has your approach changed since then?
I think it has because I am not trying to be an overachiever anymore to prove something. I don’t need to prove anything anymore. That’s because I’ve become more grounded in myself, more insightful, more self-aware, and balance is key to everything. And I think being a cancer survivor, being a rape survivor, has helped align me in that direction. Balance is really important, honoring your body, and doing what you love. Or not doing it! That’s important to me. I regret the downsides completely, and now if I’m doing something that I’m not liking, I will walk away from anything if it doesn’t feel right.
Tell us about your NBC pilot for which you recently sealed the deal.
I basically, me and my husband are a funny, immature, sexy, middle-aged couple who kind of lose their shirts and have to move in with their grown son and his young family. I’m looking forward to playing it. I’m a mom, and I’m a grandmother, and I’m very atypical, and they don’t even like to leave their kids with us as babysitters because we’re really very young at heart, and we’re more like the kids, and they’re more like our parents.
The Showtime special is also about busting age-related stereotypes, which reminds me of a classic back-handed compliment: “Wow, you look great … for your age.” Does it bug you at age 61 to hear that stuff?
It doesn’t bug me. I think it’s a compliment. When you think about previous generations looked like at my age, and now, people are taking better care of themselves. They’re eating better, they’re more mindful. Certainly, for me, I’m very aware of carcinogens and getting rest, meditating, exercising, going organic. All these things factor into how you’re gonna age, so it’s a good thing.
‘Funny Women Of A Certain Age’ debuts on Showtime on Saturday, March 23.