TV

Natasha Leggero And Riki Lindhome Discuss ‘Another Period,’ Séances, And Being The Boss

Comedy Central

The brainchild of comedians Natasha Leggero and Ricki Lindhome, Another Period hilariously skewers the excesses of one of a strange, transitional moment in American history: the turn of the 20th century. Against the backdrop of scheming servants, not-so-secret incest, and suffragettes, Leggero and Lindhome tackle themes that are still as relevant today as they were a century ago.

As the third season of Another Period premieres on Comedy Central, Leggero and Lindhome spoke to us about how society women weren’t that different from the Housewives and the creative freedom that comes from running the show.

How did you guys settle on the Gilded Age as your setting? It was such a bananas time in history. I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t been mined for comedy before.

Natasha Leggero: Yeah, no one’s really done it, which is crazy, so we were like, there’s just so much funny stuff that just seemed to be sitting right there. Everyone’s so obsessed with England and what was happening there, and you’ve got Downton Abbey and everything that Julian Fellowes writes about, and it was like, wait what was happening in America at that time? If you got to Newport, you kind of get blown away, cause a lot of it still exists.

I read that the babies and cabbages pageant was a real thing?

Riki Lindhome: I think it was babies, birds, and dogs? It was women, babies, and birds. Wasn’t there lettuce as well?

Leggero: I think there might have been…

Lindhome: I mean, if you think about it, the idea of comparing women in a beauty pageant is pretty insane.

Leggero: And I also think, just to go back to your Gilded Age question, I think in general we were kind of fascinated by the idea that women weren’t allowed to own property and weren’t allowed to vote. And it’s not just, like, you know, they finally got to vote in like 1920, but they had been working for 70 years, previously to try to get these rights, so… that was pretty amazing to us. We’re still trying to get more rights and more respect.

In sort of a heightened way, you’re able to comment really well on modern stuff through the lens of what it was like back then.

Leggero: Yeah, exactly.

I really loved the séance stuff in episode two, because that was such an insane racket at the time, but it’s not that crazy compared to some of the stuff that we pay for nowadays.

Lindhome: Well, if you watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, they’ll have dinners where they pay some woman thousands of dollars to read their cards, or whatever. So, it’s not different than that.

Leggero: And doesn’t that kind of sound like a fun party? Like, that sounds like a fun night.

You guys are the showrunners, executive producers, and writers, as well as starring in Another Period. You do everything. What have you found to be the most unexpected and rewarding parts of being the boss?

Lindhome: I love having the final say in stuff, because a show is all about a person’s vision, and it’s a filter that that person puts things through. There are many versions of our show which could have been great, but this is ours. We get to make those final little decisions that turn it into what we want it to be. And creating something over a glass of wine and then to have it be on television where you’re starring in it, is surreal. It’s pretty much living the dream.

Leggero: Yeah, and it’s also hard when we get parts on other people’s shows. I mean, sometimes I have to, like, hold my tongue from telling them “Well, we could change this line” and “Maybe it would be better shot another way.” You know, you kind of get used to having your input and so you just have to be careful. Because it is more fun. When you have a vision for something, you just kind of get used to seeing the big picture of things.

Have you found that Comedy Central’s pretty amenable to what you guys want to do, or have you ever had a situation where they’re like, “You can’t push the envelope quite that far,” or have they been sort of giving you free rein?

Lindhome: Comedy Central is amazing. Comedy Central’s all about creative control and letting you sink or swim with your vision. They pretty much let us do whatever we want, within reason, but they’re very supportive creatively.

There are so many guest stars and the rotating cast of supporting characters is incredible. Obviously, it’s a great project, but how do you manage to get so many talented, busy people onboard?

Lindhome: That’s a great question. Natasha and I have been in the comedy trenches for so long, and we’ve known a lot of these people since before they were on TV. We saw them when we were at the Montreal Comedy Festival a decade ago with them. You sort of come up together, and you end up casting each other in things and create this little community. And people want to say yes. If they can do it, if they can help, we respect each other and if they have the time, so we write them something that caters to their strengths. If it’s a fun role, they want to say yes. They want to be part of it.

Leggero: And also I think that most of these people went to theater school and love to dress up and it’s just fun to play these horrible characters from such a fancy time. Where the men all get to be almost gay, and they get to have these expectations that you don’t usually get to play because there aren’t, I think, any comedy period pieces out there.

Do you have a particular character that you enjoy writing the most?

Lindhome: I love writing for Peepers (Michael Ian Black), and I love writing for Frederick (Jason Ritter). I think those are probably my favorite.

Leggero: Well, the thing about Jason Ritter playing Frederick is that guy can do anything. I mean, if you gave those lines and those actions to someone who wasn’t as good as him, it would be so ridiculous, but he is just able to pull off anything. And he’s so gifted at physical comedy and very underrated as a comedian. I mean, I don’t know if he’s underrated, but I don’t know why he’s not in everything.

Is there going to be another musical number this season? Season two’s duet between Frederick and Beatrice was one of the funniest moments on the entire show.

Lindhome: There’s actually two musical numbers this season! Both sung by Garfield (Armen Weitzmen). He has sort of an Annie storyline, looking for his birth parents.

Leggero: Riki and Kate [Micucci] write all the music, like from Garfunkel and Oates.

I was going to say it really makes me miss Garfunkel and Oates. It was a nice little throwback to that. I wouldn’t say that Another Period is explicitly a political show, but the seeing does allow for some commentary on modern issues. Was that important to you two? Or was it just a natural extension of your creative process?

Lindhome: I think it was a natural extension.

Leggero: Yeah, we definitely just got lucky in that sense, because we wanted to keep it pretty silly. Which it is, obviously. But, you know, it’s silly, but it’s still based in reality. I mean, some of the craziest stuff like you said, the beauty pageant where the cabbages are competing against the babies and when I throw a $100,000 dinner party for my dog. I mean, I felt stuff like that happened in Newport at the time.

Lindhome: And there were anti-suffragettes. There were people — there were women — who didn’t want women to have the right to vote.

Leggero: Who wants to give up just sitting around and doing nothing?

Lindhome: There is always going to be people on the wrong side of history, in both genders. So we’re like, well, we have to be those people then. We have to be the women fighting to not get the right to vote.

Leggero: And the one thing that we were aware of that actually only comes to fruition more and more is the disparity of wealth and the income tax — the whole of the Gilded Age, the reason why people were able to live in these massive mansions, that are all donated to a historical society now because even Oprah can’t afford to have 35 indoor servants and 45 outdoor servants. You know, it’s this insane time where everybody there was living like that, because there was no income tax.

So as soon as they introduced income tax, people were basically half as rich as they were and the houses and the servants were the first things to go. The excess of that. You couldn’t even keep these houses running, but now we’ve figured out again, 100 years later, how to keep the richest people in our country legally not paying taxes, so we just all come full circle.

The disparity of wealth has never been greater than it was in the Gilded Age and right now. These are the two times in history where the gap has been the biggest, so everything is just becoming more and more relevant. But again, we like to keep the show silly. This stuff is just, like, a byproduct of luck I guess.

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RIKI LINDHOME & NATASHA LEGGERO ©ELISABETH CAREN 2015

You can talk about these things, but you do it when you’re downing a ton of cocaine wine and wearing a ridiculous dress.

Lindhome: Exactly. Or, this season, we’re learning how to eat an ice cream cone. They’re brand new, and we just cannot wrap our heads around it. You know, those kinds of things.

I wanted to talk a little bit about the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up. There’s some real change on the way in Hollywood and in comedy too, but a lot of what people are talking about is more just like a vague cultural shift. So I was wondering if you guys had any practical steps or ideas to implement real change for women in comedy.

Lindhome: You know, we went to this party recently. Emily Heller threw this party for women in comedy, writers to actors, costumers, showrunners, producers, all these sorts of people. She had this get together and she got up and spoke and was like, “Need each other. Help each other. Do what men have been doing all along.”

Think of each other for work. If you meet someone hilarious, hire them. Connect with each other, know each other. Because a lot of times you’ll be the only woman in a writer’s room, so you don’t meet other women. And then when you’re hiring your next person, you’re hiring your friend who you just worked with. So she started this sort of club if you will, and stuff like that feels like that’s what women can really do in Hollywood at least, to actively move things forward.

It would be nice to see enough change that you would not have to worry about being “women in comedy,” just comedians.

Leggero: Yeah, that is one of the things that really sucks about being a female comedian. Whenever you do an interview they’re just always like, “What’s it like being a female comedian?”

I know, I tried to frame it a little bit differently. I’m sorry!

Leggero: I’m a comedian! Men just never have to answer that question. It’s like, they can talk about the process, and what it’s like to be a comedian and their peers and how they write jokes, but with women, that always seems to be the thing that people want to talk about. That did not seem like what you were saying, by the way.

Lindhome: People ask us that actual question. “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy?” Like, that is such a broad question. It’s an impossible question to answer.

It is. You can’t just make a blanket statement like “All female comedians are like this, or have the same experience.”

Lindhome: Right. And I can’t compare it to the time I was a man in comedy. So, I don’t know the difference.

Season three of Another Period premieres tomorrow, Tuesday, January 23rd, at 10:30 ET on Comedy Central.

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