Actress Andrea Savage was sick of the two-dimensional mom roles she was being pitched, so she created her own show that depicts motherhood how it really is: hilarious, difficult and a little raunchy. The result, truTV’s “I'm Sorry,” began its second season January 9.
Savage, known for earlier roles on “Veep” and “Episodes,” joined me on “Salon Talks” to discuss the funny real-world challenges of balancing work and motherhood and what’s in store for “I’m Sorry” season two, which starts off with her daughter starting kindergarten.
["I'm Sorry"] explores the life of a busy mom, wife, and comedy writer in a veiled persona. From her obsession with a fellow pre-school mom who used to be a porn star, to questioning her theoretical market value as a prostitute, Savage's namesake character is joined by an amazing cast of guest stars and regulars that include Tom Everett Scott, Kathy Baker, Martin Mull, Adam Scott, June Diane Raphael, who we had visit us, Jason Mantzoukas, Gary Anthony Williams, and Alison Tolman and others. Judy Greer. God, I could just go on and on.
I was excited that you were coming because I figured it was the only time this season I'm going to get to say rectal prolapse as part of an interview.
I wouldn't put limits on your season, you don't know what's going to come up.
I was excited because maybe that was the first time I was going to say it and the last.
And the last rectal prolapse.
It's definitely the last. A good segue to breaking the mold of the sitcom moms in "I'm Sorry." How do you think that you're doing that?
I think by just being more real. You've got kids, you don't, I'm guessing, relate to most of the moms on television before this.
Basically, I was getting a lot of roles at a certain age coming to me [and] was just getting sick of that sort of two-dimensional, either the mom was a super harried mom, like, "My husband, ugh, he's like my child," or the mom is like, "I hate my kids. I don't care, roll over into a ditch."
I was like, "I'm not like that and my friends aren't like that." I wanted to do something where I could tell some funny stories that I had in my life, and use real characters from my life, and make something more nuanced and funny and different.
In the first season of "I'm Sorry," we meet Andrea, her husband Mike, and daughter Amelia. We get a sense of her personality, and then really yours, and her propensity for speaking her mind and out of turn sometimes with some uncomfortably funny results. Tell us, what we can expect from season two?
Season two, we did not reinvent the wheel. It's same characters, that kind of thing, our daughter is now going to kindergarten. I feel like parenting changes a little bit when kids start going into kindergarten, you're not just keeping them alive, sustenance and healthcare.
Now the rest of the world's getting at them, and they're learning stuff and asking a lot more questions. It's navigating through that world in terms of the parenting theme. Then we've got great episodes, June Diane Raphael is great on the show, and plays a friend that you've had since you were in your 20s. In this case, we waitressed together.
You think you have all this in common, you're still friends with them that many years later, but you have nothing in common and then you have to break up. That kind of where you're like, "I give them good advice all the time. They don't listen, their lives are a wreck. They're draining and I don't have time for this."
That's good timing, it's a new year. It's time to do the dump.
Exactly. There's things about divorce, there's relationship stuff with my mom, my dad. It's all based in reality and it's based on real stories, either my stories or our writer's real stories.
That is more relatable. "I'm Sorry" . . . is dirty and it's kind of edgy, and it's relatable to many moms. What kind of feedback have you gotten from fans?
It's been pretty much when you think of your wildest dreams of how you hope people will respond to what's in your head and what you create. It's been great.
I get so many, "Oh my God, this is the first time I see a relationship on screen that I relate to, the husband and the wife. You're aspirational, you're the parents I want to be. You're the mom I want to be. You're my spirit animal. It's the only show that I watch with my wife, the only show that I watch with my husband."
I feel like it's touching a nerve of people who feel like they've been underrepresented on television. My comedy, where it's dirty and a little edgy, I like that you mentioned rectal prolapse, but in no context. I could be suffering from a rectal prolapse and I was just like, "Please Alli, don't mention I have a rectal prolapse."
No, I don't have a rectal prolapse. It was part of a storyline on a show.
Tell them what it is. It's not a spoiler, right?
No, it's the pilot of the first season. Basically my daughter goes to pre-school and I find out that one of the moms in the class used to be a very prolific anal porn star. She's changed her name, and she now is in real estate.
I don't tell anybody, but I become obsessed with her butthole. The state of it, and is it okay? Should she be wearing white pants? No judgment on it, but how does that work?
It's hard to be a curious person, isn't it?
It is hard to be a curious person.
Then we show up, and she has a handicap placard on her car and is parked very close to this party.
Is she wearing white pants?
She is wearing white pants. I am like, "I think she needs it because her butthole may have fallen out", which is a real thing that happens and it's called rectal prolapse. I am like, "She's probably suffering from rectal prolapse, just everyone be cool. Let her have her handicap placard."
You still can't tell everyone.
I do not tell everyone. In real life, I knew for a year and a half and I didn't tell anybody.
What kind of weird mom experiences, going from that, haven't we yet maybe not seen on screen?
I'm not going to tell you.
We were talking before we went live about the naked lady spa, maybe the awkwardness of taking my daughter with her friends.
You were talking about a birthday party for an 11-year-old, going to a nude lady spa. It's not just a nude lady spa, it's mixed.
Not together, it's not like a hippie party. It's mixed, separate sides.
I don't know what kind of things you're into, we just met. I don't know.
I have a handicap placard. Just kidding.
There's a lot of stories, I don't want to spoil any of them for this season. It's starting to ask questions about body stuff and learning to read. I found that learning to read, everyone's like, "Oh my God, they're going to learn to read." Your whole life turns to shit when your kid learns to read.
It gets real rough. You have to hide everything, they can read. Suddenly the world is a dangerous place that you haven't been aware of.
Mommy, what's Xanax?
That's the best of it. Mommy, why do you have to take one every day?
What's it like playing a close version of yourself on screen? How do you know when to dial up a real situation to make it funnier for the show maybe?
All the situations are dialed up, and not all of them are real beginning to end. They're fully scripted shows. Certain stories have dialogue taken from my life, but certain stories have a kernel of something from my life. Then Joey Slamon, who's my co-show writer, and I, and we have three writers this seasons, and we had three writers last season; we then shape it and turn it into a television show.
It's always dialed up. I know when to stop talking in real life, I don't get myself into a lot of situations. I take real things and push them out to make them a story.
I see some similarities between "I'm Sorry" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Seinfeld," "Master of None," I would say "You're the Worst" . . .
I'm the worst?
Not you're the worst.
I know what you're saying.
I love that show, which are all from the male point of view actually. What shows inspired you while you were creating this one?
Those. Pam Adlon has her show now ["Better Things"], which I haven't actually watched, and I'm a huge fan of Pam's. I didn't want to have our shows cross over in any way. Her show wasn't on when I was developing it, but other than that, there really hasn't been a super female point of view; one of these first person shows that's based on who you are in real life and you're playing a fictionalized version of yourself, of a woman. I wasn't basing it on anything but the male versions.
Let's talk a little bit about improv. We've been doing a little, there's a little riffing.
Life is improv. When people are scared of improv I just be like, "Literally the conversation we're having right now is improv."
It was a really big part of your formative years in the business.
I have to ask, what are your top takeaways from improv that you've used most in your life as a mom, and also in your professional life?
Mom, for sure when you get questions thrown at you out of nowhere. My daughter is nine and I feel like Santa, really she knows it's not real but is just holding on. Those questions, stuff like that where you have to come up with stuff on the fly.
Also, I like to make my daughter laugh. I feel like teachable moments and that kind of stuff are taken more easily when you make it fun and you try to show the funny side of it.
For career-wise, I would say improv got me, especially early on, almost every single job I've ever gotten. Even if it's a fully scripted show, improv got me the job. You add a little something in the audition in character, don't try to make it crazy. It just gives it a little bit of you thrown in there.
That's a great transition to the role that you played on "Veep," Laura Montez.
On Veep you become one of two women presidents, which is actually lovely in a fictional world, maybe someday here.
Can you tell us the story about how you get that role?
I auditioned for it. I went in and I read, they had some fake sides because it was just for a senator. I didn't really know what the role was. Julia was there and Dave Mandel and a couple other people. I did it, and then I improvised with Julia.
We just did some scenes off script, and they had me improvise a speech. I didn't know why. They were like, "Just kind of a straight political speech." Then I did the Laura Montez and did a big Spanish thing and insinuated that I'd married into it versus actually being Hispanic.
It was scripted, and then I partially improvised it. They took some of the stuff I improvised and melded it into the show. She's an incredible inspiration to me and I think to every female comic that I know.
Absolutely. She's had a rough couple of years, as widely known. We're speaking of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the star of "Veep," of course, and her battles with breast cancer.
She's doing great.
They're coming up on the final season.
They just wrapped.
Will we see you?
I don't know, I can't say anything. I can't say yes, I can't say no.
All right, it's a secret.
One thing I will say about her is not only is she an amazing comedic actress, but she's a producer on that show. I started working on "Veep" right before I started really shooting season one of my show. I watched how incredibly involved she was creatively and how she was on set and really drew a lot of inspiration from her of how I wanted to be on my set.
She's pretty incredible, even off camera in what she does there, which I don't think a lot of people know.
I'm sure, I would imagine as much. Given the fictional world of "Veep," what are your thoughts on this most diverse House class of women ever?
I could not be more excited. I couldn't be more excited because I think it wouldn't have happened without the debacle that we're in. It's nice to finally see some lemonade coming out, a little lemonade. It's very satisfying that all of this might actually push us in a direction that we weren't maybe going to get pushed in.
There's been some interesting headlines coming out of there with cursing and all kinds of crazy stuff.
I can't believe people would **king curse.
In the hallowed halls of the House of Representatives.
In the f**king House of goddamn f**king Representatives.
I didn't say that.
I did ask if I was allowed to swear before.
She did, and yes.
You're a multi-hyphenate, I like that word, it makes me feel strong to be a multi-hyphenate too. Writer, performer, and producer. As as creator and a writer in front of the camera, have you seen an increase, especially since #MeToo and Times Up, of women directors and senior writers?
I've really been in a bubble. I've been two and a half years on my own show with barely coming out for air. I can't really speak to what the reality is. I feel like I have a lot of very funny women that I know in my life who are doing pretty great stuff, so I feel like there's been a lot more opportunity for them.
I know on my show, we have a lot of women who are the department heads, who are the UPMs, we're the line producers. We have female directors, I direct. I feel like there's definitely a push, people want to and I feel like it's moving in the right direction.
I don't think I can speak to it that well because I haven't been on anyone else's shows recently.
I did the Golden Globes last night, it was kind of a snooze fest.
I was flying, so I missed it.
It's better to be in the dark. Regina King said at the end, which was a lovely speech — they played the music . . .
I think I heard a clip of it.
The hook. She went on to say she is planning to employ a minimum of 50 percent women on any project she works on going forward. She got a standing ovation for that, as she should.
I will say, and I don't put a number on it; Joey, who's my co-show writer, is a woman, Joey Slamon. It's not necessarily we go out intentionally, but I take very seriously that I right now, for a very short amount of time, have a position to make decisions and actually affect change in terms of women in this industry.
We hire a lot of women. Not only that, I really work to make our set family friendly and female friendly in terms of our writing hours start after [school] drop off. We stop usually around 5 o'clock, I work after everyone leaves and all that. I like to hire people with families, we shoot basically from seven to seven. Then my edit hours are after drop off and we try to get out of there at six.
Again, I work past that and all that. I don't think shows have to be run in the way that they've been run before. They can be run more efficiently and they can be run in a way that you can be a woman, and have children, and also do this job.
In the past, it has been almost impossible for a woman to do both because of just the nature of how it is. You're working until two in the morning, three in the morning. You want to see your children, you've made a commitment to have children, and it's very difficult to do both. I'm trying to use the position that I'm in right now to show that you can make it work.
That's amazing. The whole thesis of Lean In is very difficult to accomplish in the way it was written. You have to make some choices, but it's good to have a supportive work environment where that's more possible.
The paradigm could change, that's what I think. It's been this way for so long, but it doesn't have to be this way.
It takes people, and it takes I think women being in positions of power, to go, "Hey, I'm going to run it this way. Hey, actually it works."
I like that.
Maybe you should try it.
Everybody try that.
Before we wrap up; what's your, other than the schedules that you just spoke of, but your personal approach to helping support maybe the next generation of women creator, writer, talent?
I like to keep them down, that's what I do.
No soup for you.
Yes. Basically ask for advice, I just tell them, "Just don't try very hard, it will just come to you. It's real easy."
No. I love when women write to me or whatever, young women especially and say, "What are your thoughts?" It really is one, and I always say this, you have to be undeniably good. Even if you're kidding yourself, you have to be so good that out of a room of 200 people, someone's going to remember you.
The competition is too big, so you need to know that you are good, and you need to believe it. You cannot have questions about that. If you're trying to get into comedy, you need to write from whatever age you are, starting then.
By the time you turn 18, you have to have the ability to have an hours worth of comedy that has been edited, shot, ready to go, and you could show it to an agent tomorrow. You could upload it and you can create your own web show, and you can create your own stuff.
If you are not creating stuff and creating your own content early on, you will not be able to compete with the people who are. It's something that wasn't around when I was coming through comedy, but it's around now. It's what people are doing, so you have to create. You have to force yourself.
Now, there's no excuse not to have material ready to go as soon as you're ready to go into the workplace.
All right, you hear that young women? Be ready.
Be prolific and don't stop.