*EUR/Electronic Urban Report caught up with the delightful cast of the “Baroness von Sketch Show” to dish about their hit comedy series that has already taken Canada by storm.
“Offering a witty take on everyday concerns from the pretentiousness of ordering a fancy coffee to office and sexual politics, Baroness von Sketch Show is a fast-paced and irreverent sketch comedy satire of modern life.”
The award-winning series premiered in the U.S. earlier this month courtesy of IFC, and thank the LAWD for it, ’cause it is truly what television has been missing — most especially since “Key & Peele” called it quits. Trust — these women are HIGHlarious.
The show is performed and written by Meredith MacNeill and award-winning Second City alumni Carolyn Taylor, Aurora Browne and Jennifer Whalen. EUR correspondent Ny MaGee chopped it up with the comedians during Summer TCA at The Beverly Hilton last month, about their creative process and the responsibility female comics have to their audience.
“This is a fully collaborative effort,” says MacNeill of the series. “We’re executive producers, Carolyn’s the showrunner. I came back from the U.K., was a single mom and I was living with my parents in my mid 30’s… great life choices. I had a career over there, and then for two years I was applying for grocery store jobs and coffee shops cause they had good benefits, and from that place, I was coming up with ideas,” she explained.
“Because I worked in Britain, there was a lot of female-fronted things I was inspired by, things like Smack the Pony, and I was putting some ideas together and one was an all female, but, you know… it was an idea and it became what it became when I met Carolyn Taylor. It was a developed process that we all worked on and added our brains to. One person having a great idea is one thing, but I think we’re big believers in the more minds on something the better it’s going to be.”
During the IFC panel at 2017 Summer TCA Press Tour last month, Carolyn stated, “We started working on the show, developing it. And then I brought on Aurora and Jen because they are amazing, and then the four of us continued to go on and create the show.”
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Talk about your creative dynamic and how you feed off each other’s artistic energy.
Aurora: I’ve worked with Carolyn intimately for almost 20 years. I’ve watched and worked with Jen for a long time too, but when I met Meredith it was the same exact feeling of, whatever I wanted to shout this person will match it and do even more. Like, when we’re all in the scene together, we’re all in the scene. I love watching everybody do their bits. Everybody’s got a Pixar level of detail to their characters. Like, you know with Pixar, you watch it again and again, and it’s like, “Oh, I never noticed that ant in the background doing something.” I’ll watch things again and will be like, “Look at the little thing that she just did. I never noticed that one before.” Also, you just know that wherever you can go in the improve, if we decide to go off script, everybody’s right there with you. I feel like I can do anything with them.
Jen: Everyone is so good that it ups your game. Because it’s such high-level sense of play. It’s just really a dream, like, “Oh my god. I get to go hang out with women I love and we get to make each other laugh,” and I think I succeeded once in making you guys laugh in Red Wine Ladies, ‘cause it’s hard to make these ladies break.
Meredith: Oh, with the dick in the hair?
Meredith: The generosity that happens while creating this show, for me, is overwhelming as an artist and that allows you to have a certain kind of freedom that you may not necessarily feel in other environments. And having such talent around you and then a sense of generosity, you can take things and then you can push them as far as you want them to go and know that the whole team is coming down the fields with you and that for me is so exciting. Especially when creating comedy and sketch, if you can’t take something and push it and mold it and keep it relatable, then what’s the point?
Carolyn: We like each other so we feed off each other. It’s like being at a buffet with amazing stuff and it’s like, feed me more.
The Red Wine Ladies are recurring characters on the series, who Carolyn describes as “women who get together probably, like, once a year or every eight months and get wasted together. And they appear in the first six episodes, and then they appear in the next seven episodes, later on, getting drunk at a wedding. They are the last table to be served at a wedding. So there isn’t a ton of reincorporation, but we’ll see them.”
Meredith also notes that “our show isn’t character-based in the sense that we have recurring characters like SNL, the things we tend to focus on are human dynamics and the relatability to that. So sometimes you might see a recurring dynamic appear throughout the sketches.”
Check out the Red Wine Ladies sketch below:
Do your friends and family often ask you not to talk about them in your material?
Meredith: I find what happens is, more often than not, I haven’t written about this person at all and they’ll come and say, “Is that about me?” Which they don’t realize is actually a really big compliment for the show, but that seems to happen more often than people think. My friends and family think that this sketch is about them, even if I wasn’t the one that generated the sketch at all.
Jen: Lately I have with some friends, who are like, “You should really write about this.” Like, they’re really inspired by the show. I remember it wasn’t for this show but for another show, my mom was like, “You should write about this,” and she wrote out a scene and a whole song and I was like, “Maybe you should go make a show.”
Carolyn: We have talked about that — taking when our parents write the sketch for us and actually performing that sketch and how horrible it would be. But it’s interesting when somebody says, “Oh, you gotta do a sketch about this.” What I’m interested in is the person who keeps saying, “You gotta do a sketch about this.” I wanna do a sketch about that. The dynamic of someone how thinks they can do your job, or how you should do your job. That’s what’s interesting more than the idea that they’re pitching you.
When did you realize you could make people laugh? Is there something about your upbringing that led you to this profession?
Aurora: When I realized that I could get my dad to laugh when he was mad, or do an imitation of a commercial, that’s what started me on this whole career.
Carolyn: When I was a kid, I was in The Children’s Shakespeare Society in Montreal. I was 9-years-old and I got cast as Snug the Joiner (in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) — he played the lion in the play — and so the script said she’s got to go out and roar so I went out and I said “ROAR!” and everyone laughed. And it took me years to understand why they were laughing but something about it happened and I was like, “Oh, this feels good.” So that moment, I think, was actually a moment of like, “Oh, laughter feels really good.” And unintentional laughter, so you’re not going for the joke, you going for the truth of what you think you’re supposed to be doing and then people are laughing. It’s like, the most satisfying of all sometimes.
Meredith: Growing up, I was obsessed with… you know when you’re a kid and the Muppets shows are the real thing? And you’re like, “Of course, Miss Piggy and Kermit are like me and I’m like them.” That was the first time I was like, “You know what… I get that. That’s a place I need to work and be in.” And then, my sister and I shared a room growing up and we used to try to make each other laugh and then I realized I really could make her laugh, until she peed herself, and that happened a couple of times. So it became more of a thing. I was like, if I could make her pee herself, I know I’m doing something right.
Jen: When I about 10 I had noticed that you could defuse a situation, like, if your parents were mad, getting them to laugh, or a big laugh, would change the conversation. I also moved enough to realized that being the new kid, if you could get a laugh that’s really good. But I think what really crystallized for me was my mom. For her birthday, my dad bought her a stack of comedy albums, and I listened to them obsessively and I memorized the routines and I would stand next to the stereo and do them.
We had George Carlin, Steve Martin and from there I moved on to Monty Python. But I would do them word for word and get the timing down and get all of it down, and I did them so much that my youngest brother at the time, he would do them with me. I’d be 10 and he’d be 2 so I’d have this little echo. He actually became a comedian too. So I think that was the time when I got really into performing and I got really into the timing of things being funny and different ways that they were funny.
Do you feel that, as female comedians, you have a social responsibility to talk about certain topics?
Jen: We knew that we wanted to talk about the truth of lives and the truth about being a woman, sometimes, is that there’s an inequity in how people see you, treat you, employ you, pay you, and all that sort of stuff. So yeah, it’s important. In this case, because it’s stuff that we lived, it’s like, ‘”Hey, this happens,” and it is important to show it because it’s important to tell the truth and if there’s bits of the human experience that haven’t had as much of a light shone on them, then over here, we’re very happy to shine a light on this. So yes, I do think it’s important.
Carolyn: And not to reflect ourselves as stereotypes because often women in comedy can be written in a stereotypical way and often it’s not the women who’ve written them that way. It’s a system that expects women to be portrayed in a certain way. And there are so many amazing female comedians who are breaking that mold all the time, who’ve been doing it for generations actually. So we’re following a long line of amazing, inspiring comics. But yeah, there is a responsibility to say, “This is happening. I see the world this way” And just being ourselves is a political act. Just me being a lesbian, being queer and being unapologetic about that, being feminist and being unapologetic about that, is a political act, and things that have nothing to with men or gender, just being ourselves is a political act. And it’s important to voice who you are and what you observe in the world because, and Auror has articulated this many times, if you’ve got an issue, there will be thousands of other people who can relate to it, even if they have different life circumstance — different gender, age, race.. live in a different country, yet, they’re going to be like, “Yes, I know what it is to be in a competitive friendship.” “I know what it is to have an annoying person at work.”
Just me being a lesbian, being queer and being unapologetic about that, being feminist and being unapologetic about that, is a political act. And things that have nothing to with men or gender, just being ourselves is a political act. And it’s important to voice who you are and what you observe in the world because, and Aurora has articulated this many times, if you’ve got an issue, there will be thousands of other people who can relate to it, even if they have different life circumstance — different gender, age, race… live in a different country, yet, they’re going to be like, “Yes, I know what it is to be in a competitive friendship.” “I know what it is to have an annoying person at work.”
Aurora: Our job is to say, you’re not the only one.
Meredith: I feel as an artist and creating television, there’s a responsibility that if you’re going to be in people’s living rooms, not just in big cities, across the country, that what you’re putting out there, you should be responsible for what you’re saying and how you want to do it and how you want to say it. And I feel like I’m part of a product that I can stand behind, as a mother, as a friend. I feel very blessed and very lucky to be a part of this product — that my daughter sees me as a woman, in this space, in this world, doing my job and going home surrounding myself with like-minded people.
Jen: I feel like, having worked in so many male-dominated rooms and kinda been the only female, to me, it feels so radical and so freeing just to be like: my gender informs what I’m doing but my gender is not the reason why I’m there. Which feels so radical and I feel such a responsibility within that, as we’re saying, to tell the truth of that and make the most of that. And it can be from the larger issues that surround us all and we all have to deal with as women — to just the thing of like, I’m going to light a fart on fire because I think that’s really funny and I’ve never seen a woman do that on television and I think I’d like to do that. So, that I love and it’s delightful.
So, what do the ladies say to those who compare them to the iconic Canadian sketch comedy group “Kids in the Hall“?
“I mean, if you are compared to anything that is as great as “Kids in the Hall,” you are just, like, “Oh, thank you,” says Meredith during TCA.
“It’s a total honor, yet the POV of our show and the approach of the show and the aesthetic of the show is actually quite different,” Carolyn explains. “But yeah, being all the same gender and I think what might be true to both is both have an authentic voice, and POV. It wasn’t a voice that was put on us. It was one that we came up with organically together, and I think the “Kids” shared that as well. So while their voice was different, their aesthetic was different, their comedy was different, they were coming from a place of truth that was true to them, and I think we share that.”
Catch the “Baroness Von Sketch Show” Wednesdays at 11 p.m. and On Demand.
Get caught up on Season 1 at IFC.com.