Kristen Schaal is a horse.
Not much more needs to be said about her as a comedian and an entity does it?
I mean I could mention the breakout role as Mel on Flight of the Conchords, or her sudden galifianakian explosion in Hollywood–popping up in TV shows and movies from How I Met Your Mother to Shrek 4–and her adoration on Comedy Central. I could gush about her long-time writing partnership with Kurt Braunohler (who has assured BYT that he will be joining her at the Arlington Drafthouse tonight and tomorrow glory be!) that’s resulted in such gems as the one you see above and the brilliantly demented Penelope Princess of Pets web show on Funny or Die. But that’s just like a cows opinion: fucking MOOt.* (*joke stolen from Friends circa 1993 thanks Joey).
Because Kristen Schaal is a horse, as you can plainly see from the evidence presented to you. Some comedians offend you, some make you blush, you grimace at some and nod at others’ wisdom. Kristen’s standup makes you want to dance with delight at her absurd transformations. If so much modern comedy is Ren and Stimpy, all down endings and nose-hair closeups, she’s Animaniacs. She is, for all intents and purposes, a horse.
BYT: So yesterday we were supposed to talk and you got called into the studio to do a voiceover. Can you tell us what project that was or is it a Dreadful Secret?
Kristen Schaal: Oh no. It’s a Fox show called Bob’s Burgers and it’s a creation of…well, google Bob’s Burgers. It’s starring Eugene Mirman and Jon Bentjamin and me and it’s a ‘family comedy’…cartoon!
BYT: So it’s a car-
Kristen Schaal: It’s a little proje–sorry.
BYT: No sorry…
All: Silence. Is this a bit? Is she mad-dogging me? Oh shit I’d better say something. I don’t want her to think I’m a weirdo.
BYT: You’ve done voiceover work recently in stuff like Toy Story 3, isn’t that right?
BYT: I’ve always wondered about that. How weird is it to stand still and do all the acting with your voice?
KS: I’m usually not still! If you move your body it’s going to affect the quality of your voice so if I’m doing an action thing I’ll usually try to make the action. Sometimes I knock over the music stands and the equipment. Unlike everybody else. Usually people are more advanced than me. I do enjoy it immensely though. You have to use your imagination more than you would in a regular acting situation where you have other people in front of you and you’re engaged with them and they’re in costume. Here you have to imagine the entire scene. It is exciting but it’s a muscle. So when I first started David Cross and John Bentjamin had a show called Freak Show on Comedy Central. It was short lived unfortunately. But it was my first voiceover gig, and I remember thinking Holy Shit I have to like pretend I’m going up in an alien ship, like going up and naming shit. And now I’m like YeeAAAAY I get to pretend to go up on an alien ship! And it’s really fun.
BYT: Speaking of short-lived whimsy, I just love your web show Penelope Princess of Pets.
KS: OH thank you so much, me too.
BYT: LOLs. I hear that the BBC made a TV special out of it, is that right?
KS: Almost. We shot a pilot for it on another channel called Channel 4, almost a year ago. We shot it with the producer of the Mighty Boosh and Julian from the Mighty Boosh, and it’s finally going to air in the UK on April 19th. So when that happens it can go either way. They haven’t said we can make more. They haven’t said we absolutely can’t make more. So if they air it, if it gets a good response, they MAYBE we can make more. But like everything I do, once I’m done with something I don’t really count on more opportunities, cuz you’ll just get your heart crushed. (editor’s note: awwwww). But we’re going to show in new york on April 26th so everybody can see it. And by everybody I mean: the 50 people that can fit into that tiny bar.
BYT: Is she still trying to kill a Senator? Did they allow that kind of craziness on TV?
KS: Yeah! They were totally down with our sense of humor. But it’s a member of Parliment.
KS: He’s named Fagmore or Gaygum or some ridiculous name we found.
BYT: Speaking of Kurt Braunohler, I was hanging out with him a bit in Austin at SXSW and he’s a very tall man.
BYT: Is he too tall?
KS: No. I’ve met a couple people who are taller than him. Too tall is when people comment on how tall you are. I met I guy in LA who was really tall and I waited till we were done hanging out to mention it and he was like “Thank You for not mentioning it right away.” So then I realized: He is too tall. But I don’t think Kurt is too tall. I can still slap him.
KS: I’m just kidding I wouldn’t slap him.
BYT: Too bad. I was hanging out with him and Nick Thune and they were both offensively tall. So I wanted to ask how you guys got together as writing partners.
KS: There’s a performance space called the PIT (People’s Improv Theater) and I just started doing improv on a team there, and he was teaching there. We both had this idea to start a variety show, and we pitched it to the director of the PIT separately and he was like ‘Why don’t you two do it together?’ It was pretty great how well we gelled instantly. We’ve been together ever since. It’s rare in this world to find someone you enjoying working with that much, so I’m really lucky to have Kurt…[Orphan Annie voice] ‘And I hope he feels the same about mee!’
BYT: Let’s talk about Mel from [dearly departed HBO series] Flight of the Conchords. When you were playing her, did you ever get the sense that she was actually dangerous or just charmingly obsessed?
KS: I don’t think she was harm-ful. Not legitimately dangerous. She would never do anything to hurt the guys. Though I know what you mean she does break into their house and stuff. I get a lot of interview questions like “If you could stalk anybody who would it be?” and I’m like “I wouldn’t. It’s illegal, and disgusting.” But as far as comedy goes there is a lot of good stuff to work with there.
BYT: Are there any pretentiously meta obsessed Mel fans who come up to you and creep you out to the point where you’re like “Is this a bit or are you just a weirdo?”
KS: Actually no. I’ve only met nice people. I just don’t think the show has attracted any crazies. As far as I know!
BYT: Well congratulations, I’m here! Haha.
KS: Ha. Ha?
BYT: [shit, now I'm definitely a weirdo.] One thing I like about your humor is that it’s very positive. A lot of so-called alternative comedy these days seems to be very snarky and angry. It can be really funny, don’t get me wrong, but it’s exhausting listening to a whole set of someone hating everything. Is your more positive creative style just how you are or do you actively try to avoid the complainathon?
KS: I think my stage personality is a facet of who I am. I just try to imagine what I would enjoy watching onstage and then try to execute in real life. I am a positive person. But privately, I’m incredibly negative.
KS: But overall I do think my messages are more positive than cynical. I do think life is pretty great and funny but I do like my humor to get a bit dark as well. [Deep Voice] It’s a spectrum of emotions.
BYT: It’s partially just that being really innocent and naive onstage allows you to be really absurd and risque and it’s really funny. But do you think it has something to do with your improv background rather than the traditional bootstraps standup comedian model?
KS: Maybe. Probably. One of the things about improv is that you have to train yourself to be open to everything and not judge and be ready to justify any idea that comes along whereas some standup is all about breaking things down, finding the flaws and judging them so that you can laugh at it and make yourself feel better about stuff. Which makes people a lot of money and I hope I learn how to do it.
BYT: I feel like we’re in a golden age of women comedians and comic writers and actors right now. I also just realized that all these questions are more like a serious of statements and I’m sorry about that. Anyway. are there more funny women right now or is it just me growing up and admitting that women are funny too?
KS: I think not just in the comedy world, but in all of society in general, you’re seeing a lot more of women because things are getting better! Just last year there were five women that won a Nobel Prize including the first one in economics. It’s not just comedy ‘allowing’ women to write jokes…people are lightening up all over!
BYT: And you claim to be secretly negative? That’s so hopeful. OK last question/statement. Your sex book is coming out this fall.
KS: It is yes.
BYT: Is this a how-to? What are we talking about here?
KS: Oh man. It runs the gamut. I wrote it with my boyfriend Rich Blomquist who writes for the Daily Show, so it’s got the female and male perspective. It’s just a filthy wank rag. It’s disgusting. I love it. It’s got erotic short stories and text book educational parts. We tried to cover everything we could in the amount of time we had to write it without losing our minds. Once you open that door for sex so many facets of it come up. I mean if you write a book about the environment you go from the ozone to the core and you’re done but sex just goes on and on and on, and on! We’re glad it’s over actually we just turned in the final draft this week.
BYT: So there aren’t going to be ‘joy of sex’ style hippie illustrations of the two of you.
KS: It’s got a little bit of that in there. Michael Kupperman did the illustrations, he does Snake and Bacon? So they’re going to be really great.
BYT: Great! Well great talking to you, have a great show in Arlington this weekend!
Go find her in the greener pastures of Virginia tonight! Some exercise will do you good.