Lisa Kudrow is suddenly everywhere: in a new movie, Paper Man (opening today), where she plays the wife of an infantile man (Jeff Daniels) with an imaginary friend; starring in and writing the Internet show Web Therapy; and hosting and producing Who Do You Think You Are, the NBC hit in which celebrities (herself included) trace their genealogy. We recently spoke to Kudrow about investigating her own roots, the sad demise of The Comeback, and what it’s like to age in Hollywood (without fillers).
In Paper Man, you’re basically angry for the entire movie.
Yeah, I know, but I wanted to work with Jeff Daniels a lot. And I liked that this was a woman who was doing her version of being really supportive with a trying guy.
Meanwhile, your show, Who Do You Think You Are, is doing really well.
It’s going great — I mean, wow, much beyond our expectations, I have to say. I knew it was good, but the question was if enough people would show up on a Friday night to watch it — and then they did. I was always going to do an episode on myself, but I kept thinking, Well, maybe they won’t get the records they need. It’s tough to find Eastern Europe records on Jewish people.
But you found them; in particular, you found a distant cousin who had met your father as a little boy.
I know! Can you imagine? You live in Poland and someone’s like, “Oh, that girl who played Phoebe on Friends, you’re related to her.” What?? But it was even more exciting for me than it was for them — he knew he was alive! I didn’t.
Was there an episode that you particularly enjoyed?
Emmitt Smith, he was fantastic. How complicated is it that the person who owned your family is also your great-great grandfather? And he responded really clearly, like, “I’m glad that my heart’s not like his. And I’m glad he doesn’t know me.”
By the way, everybody’s sad that The Comeback only lasted one season.
Boy, that makes me happy to hear. Like, we weren’t wrong, we weren’t crazy. It’s too bad, you know? To me, the scariest thing about this business is that the people who make decisions, they sometimes honestly make a mistake. There’s no malice; it’s just the way it goes. But that’s that, and then it’s dead. It’s like malpractice, except you can’t sue.
And you’re not actually dead.
You’re also the star (and writer) of Web Therapy, which is an online show in which you play a therapist who has sessions over the Internet. Do you have a favorite guest star so far?
Oh my God, who’s my favorite guest? I can’t say; it wouldn’t be nice.
I’m not asking for your least favorite!
I know, but I’m going to leave people out. I love Tim Bagley every time he comes on. Oh, but we have an upcoming episode with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She’s unbelievably great. I think her show, The New Adventures of Old Christine, is funny.
Are there TV shows that you like?
Well, I like Cougar Town. I was on it! I think Courtney’s hilarious on it. She’s not just a pretty girl; she’s really goofy and ridiculous.
Speaking of being a pretty girl, I noticed in Paper Man that you look great for your age, but not like a taut alien.
Ohhh, because I’m aging? I mean, look, time marches on. You can’t look 30 when you’re not. I don’t even know what to say about it. It makes me nervous, that stuff. But still, you want to look good. So it’s sometimes just hard to watch yourself, like, ‘Oh God, what’s happening to me?’ There’s a line between looking like yourself and looking like a character from a Batman movie.
I just thought, Oh, look how pretty and normal she looks! May that be a lesson to other actresses.
Or a cautionary tale … In Cougar Town I played a dermatologist, and so the only note I had on the script was that I have to say that I haven’t had any work done — it’s too noticeable not to mention. Boy, I really hope I can put it off till I’m 60 or 70. I’ll keep you posted.