What happens when you take two women who have extensive comedy experience—they were trained by the likes of Amy Poehler in the Upright Citizens Brigade—and are real life best friends and give them a TV show? USA Network's wonderful new comedy Playing House, our new TV obsession.
Created by and starring Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, the new comedy follows the very pregnant Maggie (Parham) and what happens when her life essentially falls apart. Enter her childhood best friend Emma (St. Clair).
"We basically decided this time we'd make it really easy on ourselves," St. Clair told E! News. "Our writers room was full of UCB [Upright Citizens Brigade] people and we put up on the board: ‘Here are our favorite people from UCB. Let's write them all parts.' We didn't ever have to cast anybody…"
St. Clair said they wrote with each comedian in mind, "so that then we knew when they'd show up on set, they'd give us a billion endings so that we didn't have to work so hard." It's a technique she saw in action on Veep where she recurred last season.
Another valuable experience? Just making a TV show. Their previous project, NBC's short-lived Best Friends Forever was a first for both Parham and St. Clair and they made connections and relationships there they brought with them to Playing House.
"We're very loyal. So if you work with us, then you have to work with us for the rest of your life because we'll become obsessed with you and we'll hunt you down like B.A. Baracus, A-Team style. We'll show up at your door and you'll be like, ‘Wait a second. I thought those girls were dead.' And we're like, ‘No, we've just been living in the desert…'
"Murdock, Face, get in the truck," Parham said.
"We like jab them with a sedative and then throw them in," St. Clair continued.
"Then we go on an adventure in Studio City together," Parham concluded.
Playing House has a very improvised vibe. The duo got the first draft for each script by tape recording themselves improvising the scenes. The transcript became the first draft, and then on top of that, they improvise with the final script. It's been a labor of love for the pair who started work on the series about a year ago. The two both had babies of their own and are now ready to present the world with their other baby: Playing House.
"The show is like 150 percent our voice and what we find funny and also what we love…every single person on the show is our best friend. This show couldn't be more who we are. So if you hate it, please don't tell us [Laughs.] because it would very much hurt our feelings because it's who we are," St. Clair said.
"I think too, the thing we're most proud of, is we did it while pregnant and raising children. I think our daughters are going to be really proud of it," Parham said, tearing up.
"Everyone had fun while doing it," St. Clair said. "We had to get home for bath time every night at 6:30. Nobody was too exhausted. Our crew all has children...Everybody brought their babies to work, it was crazy. TV isn't done like that. The fact that we created not only a show that we love, but also an environment."
"Usually it kills you and you have nothing left at the end of the day," Parham said. "We're writing comedy, so we need to live our lives to write season two."
And just because it's called Playing House and follows two women doesn't mean it's just for the ladies. "At the end of the day, we came up as comedians in the Upright Citizens Brigade theater. Amy Poehler taught us early on, you don't improvise as a woman, you just are funny. What's funny is funny. Our comedian guy friends don't see us as women, for better or for worse…we go for what's funny, it's not about having it be girl comedy."
Playing House premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on USA.
(E! and USA are both part of the NBCUniversal family).