interview by: Jenn Tisdale (who is a D.C. stand up comic. Follow her on Twitter at @Jenn_Tisdale.)
For 8 years Megan Mullally dazzled us with her performance as Karen Walker on “Will and Grace,” putting the dry back into a dry gin martini. Now we have 3 chances to spend time with her on “Happy Endings,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Childrens’ Hospital.” She has a new project, however, in the form of the musical group Nancy and Beth with “Friday Night Lights,” phenom Stephanie Hunter. Nancy and Beth are performing at The Birchmere tonight so Megan Mullally had a delightful chat with me about the band, performing, and where she keeps her Emmys.
Jennifer Tisdale: First of all I want to congratulate you on your Emmy.
Ha ha ha…You mean my Emmys.
Oh shit that’s right. Where do you keep them? I would wear them around my neck. Constantly.
I brought them to my trailer, decorated my trailer with them. It’s beautiful.
Ha ha ha…So, I really like this new group: Nancy and Beth. I know you and Stephanie met while filming “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” which is actually in select theaters starting today and opens up nationwide March 12th, according to Google. You both have a background in music, how did you figure it out? It’s not exactly something that happens organically, two people both come to this place immediately upon meeting.
It’s funny, we were doing that movie together and she had mentioned that she played the ukulele and wrote songs and I said “Oh I’d like to hear your stuff,” and so the first time she played something for me she asked me to sing part of it with her and we just, we finished and just looked at each other like “Wait, why do our voices sound so crazily nice.” Then it’s weird because I think, you know it’s just interesting. Stephanie is 30 years younger than I am and yet we have this connection. We really kind of, I guess we have the same feeling for music. We also have a lot of other things in common and I don’t ever feel like “Oh my God, why am I stuck with this 23 year old girl.” You know what I mean?
Yes I do. I have a lot of younger friends actually. So many. Christ, tons.
Yeah, I mean I have friends who are 30 years older than I am, but you know we’ve become very very good friends and I don’t know…we have a lot more in common than I ever would have thought
Oh I understand. So, what is the origin of the name Nancy and Beth? Is it a secret, can you tell me?
I made a really long list of like 30 different names. I just sent Stephanie this long list, just wrote down everything that came into my head that I thought was kind of funny or different or I don’t know. There were different categories I guess. Nancy and Beth was my favorite. It was the one title that really stood out from the others because a lot of the options were The Somethings, you know? And so I just emailed her the list of titles. I didn’t discriminate or try to sway her at all but I secretly liked Nancy and Beth and she emailed back right away that she liked Nancy and Beth.
I watched a few Nancy and Beth videos. This is going to sound like a weird comparison but I felt like it was a lady version, and as a woman I hate to point out your gender but you know you’re a girl, a lady version of The Blues Brothers, sort of. Without the drugs, of course.
Oh that’s funny.
It was because they were also singing songs that were before their generation, at the time, and it was just very…it had that sort of old fashioned feeling and there are moments of physicality that is entertaining…
That’s a good comparison, I mean we do our choreography in a very lively sort of celebratory way with the band.
Yeah and you have that nice, eclectic live band with different instruments. It feels like at any moment someone could pick up a kazoo and you’re like “That makes sense, yeah…the kazoo.”
Exactly, yeah, that’s completely true. You could play the washboard. That’s funny. My favorite quote so far about the band is: “It’s like if you wanted to fuck The Judds.”
Ha ha ha ha, that’s fantastic. And I do now! Do you guys just perform covers of songs, or do you have your own music? Or are you writing your own music?
Yeah, well right now we’re only doing covers but Stephanie writes and I write also but we just haven’t gotten around to writing something together. We probably won’t be able to record anything until the fall at least just because of scheduling but we are planning to do that.
Oh good. I do want to ask about one cover…”Smell Yo Dick,” by the acclaimed critical artist Riskay. I watched that performance, which was recorded at Largo in Los Angeles, and my first thought was that we live in these incredibly politically correct times and I sometimes can’t get a sentence out because I’m in my head going “Am I going to offend somebody? I don’t know what direction this could go in.” So you 3 (Nick Offerman joined them) dare I say Caucasian individuals got on stage and covered a song with the N word in it. Were you nervous at all ?
Well I certainly don’t want to offend anyone and we’re just covering the song, so I felt pretty okay about it.
How did you hear about it. I don’t keep up with what the kids are listening to nowadays.
Somebody told me about it. Do you know Marc Evan Jackson? He’s really a very funny Improv guy and we did a movie together, so he would come to a lot of Nancy and Beth shows and he suggested we cover this song. We were like “Okay Marc,” but when we listened to it and tried singing it and we realized we had something. We should have just trusted Marc because he’s so hilarious. So that night at Largo was actually the first and only night we’ve done it. We were opening up for Nick’s one man show “American Ham,” and decided to just film it.
Well it works and you guys should do it again, forever. Speaking of shows…I was looking at your tour schedule. What brings you to Alexandria? Do you have ties here?
Well my costar on “Happy Endings,” Casey Rose Wilson is from there and a friend of mine Dermot Mulroney is also from Alexandria.
Oh I love him on “Enlightened.”
Oh my God “Enlightened” is wonderful. Genius. I love it.
Mike White (the show’s co-creator/writer) is brilliant. I heard a rumor that the show wasn’t coming back for a 3rd season and there was a Twitter campaign about bringing it back and I actually Tweeted to HBO asking that it return. I’m sure they read it.
Nick (Offerman) was devastated. We had just finished watching a particularly sad episode and I said “It’s too bad it isn’t coming back next season” and he just said “What?” It really broke his heart.
Every Sunday I watch “Girls,” which is a show about who I was 10 years ago. Then I watch “Enlightened,” which is a show about who I should be. They really need a show between the two which would be about who I am right now. Oh that show would be really dysfunctional and would make incredibly bad decisions
Ha ha ha…I’d watch it. You’re funny.
Thank you! You have 2 Emmys! Well, I know you said you were filming today so I imagine you have to get back to it. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. I was really nervous but you made it very easy for me…so thanks.
No problem. I was happy to do it. Until next time.
I recorded this conversation on a digital recorder I was using for the first time so naturally the very last part of our conversation wasn’t really picked up (because I loathe technology). I emailed Megan for some more fun tidbits about what she has going on with her usual work and this is what I got.
I sold a show to IFC that I created and will executive produce and act in. My writing partner, Tina Kapousis, and I are writing the pilot right now. We just wrapped season 5 of “Childrens’ Hospital,” and I’m on an IFC animated show called “Out There,” that just premiered recently. I recur on “Parks and Recreation,” very occasionally, and “Happy Endings,” which I’m doing this week, and I do regular voices in a new animated show for adult swim called “Axe Cop,” and recur pretty often on “Bob’s Burgers.” I’m in the films “Kings of Summer,” which comes out June 14th, and “GBF,” which is premiering soon at the Tribeca Film Festival, and have a cameo in “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” Oy. That’s a lot. I hope that’s what you wanted, otherwise I’m just a heinous egomaniac. Thanks again so much for the interview and I’ll be looking out for your comedy stylings.
Please go see Nancy and Beth at The Birchmere tonight. You will not be disappointed. It’s going to be a real treat. (OLD SCHOOL BYT BONUS: Check out this awesome video we made with Tig Notaro and Megan, back in the day)