“I wanted to give full scope of my jour­ney as a woman” —Busy Philipps

WHO - - In­ter­view - Leah Green­blatt

It’s a cool Oc­to­ber Sun­day in New York, and Brook­lyn has hardly roused it­self to brunch yet. But Wil­liams­burg’s In­dus­tria Stu­dios – done up in a Skit­tles-bright riot of colour – is buzzing with en­ergy: Phoebe Robin­son, au­thor, co­me­dian, and one half of pod­cast phe­nom­e­non 2 Dope Queens does a stealth body roll as Robyn and Prince blast in the back­ground; Broad City co-cre­ator Abbi Ja­cob­son sub­mits to a quick makeup touch-up in the cor­ner; Un­break­able Kimmy Sch­midt star El­lie Kem­per, straight off a plane from St Louis, bounces on her toes by the cater­ing ta­ble, clutch­ing a cof­fee with both hands. When Busy Philipps strides in, phone and pub­li­cist in tow, the women are ready to stop be­ing po­lite and start get­ting real.

Since you haven’t all had a chance to read one an­other’s books yet, do each of you want to give your el­e­va­tor pitch? ABBI JA­COB­SON OK, my book is called I Might Re­gret This. In the sum­mer of 2017, I was ter­ri­bly heart­bro­ken and feel­ing very over­worked and very lost, and I drove from New York to LA, so ev­ery es­say is a dif­fer­ent stop on my trip. I was in a very tran­si­tional pe­riod. I had never been in love be­fore – I had never been in love with a woman be­fore, so it was, like, a lot. It’s about the coun­try, it’s about a solo jour­ney, but also Broad City, and what it’s like to just kind of work all the time. [ Long ex­hale] Whoof. That’s my stop on the el­e­va­tor! With il­lus­tra­tions, we should add. JA­COB­SON Yes, thank you! There are il­lus­tra­tions. A lot of it is what I was lis­ten­ing to, so it’s al­bum cov­ers, pod­casts, food I made, snacks I brought, ’cause when you’re on the road for so long you gotta fig­ure that out. BUSY PHILIPPS That’s so great, I love it! I wish I had done that for my book. Busy, you’ve got a lot of mu­sic ref­er­ences in This Will Only Hurt a Lit­tle. PHILIPPS Yeah, ev­ery chap­ter is a song ti­tle that cor­re­sponds to the time, and also a gen­eral feel­ing or vibe: Hole’s ‘Live Through This’, Tori Amos’ ‘Tear in Your Hand’ … it goes chrono­log­i­cally from my early child­hood all the way through 20 years of work­ing as a pro­fes­sional ac­tress in this busi­ness and try­ing to main­tain that job, some­times with more luck than oth­ers. [ Laughs] Phoebe, you’ve al­ready had a New York Times best­seller [2016’s You Can’t Touch My Hair]. PHOEBE ROBIN­SON Well, if you gotta bring it up, you gotta. [ Laughs] But yeah, the new one, it’s called Ev­ery­thing’s Trash, But it’s Okay. Af­ter the elec­tion, I was kind of feel­ing like, “OK, that’s not how I thought the cunch – that’s coun­try – was gonna be, and” … do I have some­thing on my lip? JA­COB­SON Only gor­geous lip­stick. ROBIN­SON OK, good. Any­way, I felt re­ally in­spired by ev­ery­one who was ral­ly­ing, es­pe­cially young peo­ple. So I write about fem­i­nism, I write about pol­i­tics, but I also write about, like, meet­ing Bono, be­cause I’m so ob­sessed with U2, so meet­ing him was truly my repa­ra­tions 20 times over. And it’s also about be­ing a worka­holic, get­ting out of $60,000 of fi­nan­cial debt, find­ing my cur­rent boyfriend. I think I’m more vul­ner­a­ble this time around, where I’m just like, “I can be not funny for a cou­ple pages and that’s fine, you know?”

Your turn, El­lie. EL­LIE KEM­PER I wrote a book called My Squir­rel Days, and it is a col­lec­tion of es­says about grow­ing up in St Louis, try­ing to make it in show busi­ness, go­ing to col­lege – and I think it’s a lot of re­lat­able sto­ries that any­one who’s grow­ing up can un­der­stand. And the ti­tle refers to my at­tempt to be­friend a squir­rel in my back­yard be­cause I’d just seen Dances With Wolves, and I wanted to be some­one who could dance with the wolves, who could com­mune with na­ture, and maybe I didn’t have that many hu­man friends but that was OK. [ Laughs] And I don’t meet Bono, but I do meet Gary Cole­man. PHILIPPS Oh, wow wow wow. And you ac­tu­ally kind of end up get­ting Mean Girl’d by the squir­rel. KEM­PER Ab­so­lutely. Na­talie the squir­rel. I fall off a tree and she laughs in my face. Abbi, the sub­ti­tle of your book is Es­says, Draw­ings, Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and Other Stuff, and you and Busy, es­pe­cially, in­clude some pretty in­tense per­sonal sto­ries. What was the in­ner de­bate about how much to put on the page? JA­COB­SON It re­ally was a con­stant doubt – I don’t know what it was like for you guys when you went there – where I was like, “Why am I do­ing this?” In my other writ­ing, it’s mostly Broad City, and there’s a cer­tain level of vul­ner­a­bil­ity, but it’s masked be­hind a char­ac­ter. And this was the first time where I re­ally felt like, “I have to write through this ex­pe­ri­ence and then I can be done with it.” PHILIPPS Ori­gin sto­ries are al­ways my favourite sto­ries, so I wanted to give a full scope of my jour­ney as a woman and as a per­son on this planet and not just give you, like, “I showed up in Hol­ly­wood and I got this TV show and things were f--kin’ rad and then I met a bunch of peo­ple!” But es­pe­cially in the past sev­eral years, be­cause I am so open with my life in many ways on the in­ter­net, I was acutely aware that things would be ex­trap­o­lated and turned into click­bait. That was my worst fear – that in re­veal­ing th­ese su­per-per­sonal, re­ally in­tense things that I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced, it would be re­duced to some­one’s shitty head­line. And it has been, and I’m still alive, so here we are. Right, guys, was that light­hearted? [ Laughs] ROBIN­SON I feel like my writ­ing is al­ready pretty close to how I am on­line, so I didn’t feel too anx­ious about re­veal­ing any­thing. I think maybe just my par­ents read­ing the sex stuff. But my dad was re­ally chill with the first book; he was like, “I know that’s your per­sona, it’s your com­edy.” KEM­PER That’s so nice, be­cause I ag­o­nise over what my par­ents think. I play a lot of up­beat, bright char­ac­ters, so I ac­tu­ally re­ally wanted to write a book to demon­strate that I don’t only play ditzy, that I have some­thing to say other than that. But I strug­gled be­cause I am pretty pri­vate. I lit­er­ally just joined In­sta­gram three weeks ago, you guys! GROUP CHO­RUS Yaaaay! KEM­PER Thank you, but I don’t to­tally un­der­stand it. I think it’s con­fus­ing – like, how much do you share? And my friend who’s a novelist said, “You signed up to write a col­lec­tion of per­sonal es­says but you don’t want to get too per­sonal?” [ Laughs] Did any of you have to give cer­tain peo­ple a heads-up they would be in your books? PHILIPPS Yes and no. And maybe I should have done bet­ter. We just did the re­union of Daw­son’s Creek, and that’s when I told all those guys, and I think they were a lit­tle afraid. But there’s no take­downs in my book. I talk about my meet-cute with Michelle [ Wil­liams], and ob­vi­ously Michelle read the book. Colin Hanks – he was my boyfriend from col­lege and now we’re re­ally good friends – he’s read it. So I reached out to peo­ple when I thought there was some­thing they needed to see. A lot of you have sto­ries about be­ing young and new in the busi­ness and put in some bad sit­u­a­tions, and you wished you’d han­dled it dif­fer­ently. Was it hard to look back some­times and be kind to your­self? KEM­PER I mean, you can’t re­ally beat your­self up. I’ve been do­ing com­edy for 10 years, and there is no HR in com­edy. Cer­tainly in stand-up, you show up at a club or a fes­ti­val and you deal with a lot of guys get­ting away with bad be­hav­iour be­cause that’s just al­lowed, and you sort of just have to teach your­self what you’re go­ing to put up with and what you’re not. One of the things I write about in the book is, I was walk­ing into this com­edy club when I was maybe two or three years into it, and this guy and a bunch of other co­me­di­ans were stand­ing out front and one of them was just call­ing me a slut as I walked down the street as, like, a funny joke.

PHILIPPS That was his bit? [ Rolls eyes.] Such a good bit. KEM­PER Yeah, “Hey, slut! What’s up, slut?” And I said, “You can’t do this,” and then he was like, “Whoa, you’re be­ing so ex­tra!” And to me that il­lus­trated that guys can be ex­tremely in­ap­pro­pri­ate, and if you re­act to it as a hu­man would, you’re hys­ter­i­cal. I’m at a place now where I just won’t take shit like that, that kind of light ha­rass­ment. PHILIPPS To me the mi­croag­gres­sions are as much of a bum­mer as the big­ger ones, you know? I ac­tu­ally think I am very hard on my­self and what I wish I would have done dif­fer­ently. There are so many times where you feel that you just have to swal­low it. KEM­PER It’s al­most a mat­ter of, you feel like you only have so much en­ergy. So it’s pa­thetic that it has to be an is­sue of choos­ing your bat­tles, but if you were to ad­dress ev­ery sin­gle mis­treat­ment you’d be do­ing it all day. ROBIN­SON You wouldn’t work at all. JA­COB­SON This is not in my book, but Ilana [Glazer] and I just dealt with this on [the Broad City] set where an ac­tor said some­thing that he thought was a com­pli­ment to Ilana about her body, and I was right there, and we were both, like, shook. And we’re the showrun­ners! We are the bosses of the whole show. But I guess he didn’t know that. ROBIN­SON He didn’t? Read the call sheet, bitch! PHILIPPS Well, you know the fa­mous Anne Lamott quote, “If peo­ple wanted you to write about them nicely, they should have be­haved bet­ter”? Do I feel be­holden to pre­pare them? At this point in my life, no, I don’t need to hold your hand, I’m sorry. KEM­PER I changed the name of my field­hockey coach! I changed the name of the squir­rel. It was ac­tu­ally Natalia. JA­COB­SON Now she knows! Now she knows. While we’re drop­ping names, El­lie, you and Busy both had close en­coun­ters with the Pope. PHILIPPS The Pope ac­tu­ally touched me. KEM­PER I did not make con­tact. JA­COB­SON You guys, can you elab­o­rate, please? KEM­PER The Pope was vis­it­ing St Louis and I at­tended Mass at the cathe­dral, and as he was walk­ing down – I think it’s the nave – I reached out to touch him, but I failed to do so. He did not proac­tively reach out to me, and I want to know how you got him to do that. PHILIPPS It’s a re­ally wild con­flu­ence of cir­cum­stances. I was in Rome on a school trip and the Pope was giv­ing some bene­dic­tion speech at the Vat­i­can, so I wanted to get a pic­ture for my grandma, and we scooted along from the side. It was very ex­cit­ing. Phoebe, you have sto­ries about Bono and Oprah. Is it good to meet your heroes? ROBIN­SON Yeah, I think I’ve had only good ex­pe­ri­ences. Bono, Oprah, and Ju­lia Roberts is kind of the tri­fecta. Ju­lia and her fam­ily taught me to swim. I don’t know how to swim – stereo­type! But I was over­seas in Croa­tia shoot­ing Ibiza for Net­flix, and her hus­band, Danny [Moder], was our di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy, so Ju­lia and their kids would come to town ev­ery once in a while, and Danny was like, “Hey, the fam­ily’s go­ing to be in town, do you want to get a yacht?” JA­COB­SON Like you do … ROBIN­SON I was like, “I ain’t got no money, but yes!” So I just hung out with the fam­ily, think­ing, “I’m just go­ing to sit here and drink my rosé.” But they went, “Come on, we’re gonna teach you how to swim! You’re not gonna die!” They were the most en­cour­ag­ing white peo­ple ever, and I just did my lit­tle kicks and sort of fell into the wa­ter. And Oprah, she’s like black Je­sus. Now that you’ve all done it, do you think you would write an­other book? ROBIN­SON Yes! JA­COB­SON Mmm-hmm. KEM­PER [Ges­tur­ing to Busy] We’re un­sure. PHILIPPS Yeah, El­lie and I are on the fence. KEM­PER It was hard! Wasn’t it? JA­COB­SON So dif­fi­cult. But I think I would write fic­tion next. ROBIN­SON I want to be like Nora Ephron and just have a bunch of es­say col­lec­tions. And then maybe I could write fic­tion. But some­times I read fic­tion de­scrib­ing a leaf and I’m like, “Bitch, I know what a leaf is.” El­lie, maybe in your next book you can fo­cus on your B list of squir­rels. KEM­PER [ Laughs.] Yes! The squir­rels I didn’t get to, the true ex­posés. And I will not change their names on this one, Natalia.

“It has to be an is­sue of choos­ing your bat­tles” —El­lie Kem­per

Busy Philipps, on June 4 in New York, has a new talk show called Busy Tonight.

Co­me­dian Phoebe Robin­son in New York on May 20.

Abbi Ja­cob­son, on Oct. 21 in Wash­ing­ton, co-cre­ated and co-stars in Broad City with Ilana Glazer.

El­lie Kem­per, on June 1 in Los An­ge­les, stars in the ti­tle role of the web sit­com, Un­break­able Kimmy Sch­midt.

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