Another Period, the Comedy Central show created by and starring Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome, is one of the funniest shows on television today. But you probably already know that. With its second season premiering last night (the third season has already been picked up), I can’t wait to see what awful, hilarious schemes Lillian and Beatrice Bellacourt will come up with to reach their ultimate goal of becoming famous. Turns out, reaching that goal in the turn of the century isn’t that much different from today’s wannabe stars, minus of course iPhones and social media. I spoke to Natasha and Riki about what we can expect to see from the Kardashian-esque sisters, who have a lot more in common with them than just their waist training attire. Plus found out more about the early 1900’s, which these two have become quite familiar with, given that they try to keep the show as historically accurate as possible.
I know you did a ton of research when you created the show, so I’m curious about some of the interesting, unusual facts that you learned about that time in history. What surprised you?
Natasha: Well, Riki and I have been to Newport two times now, and every time we go we just find out more. They’ve even told us before, “Oh I wish I could tell you about this story…” So, there’s so much history there. I think we might go back again.
Is there anything weird or fun that you thought, “We have to put this in the show”?
Riki: We did see things that we were like, “That’s definitely going in the show.” Like, this year when we went to Newport, they talked to us about a servants strike in one of the tours and we were like, “Oh that’s going in an episode.” We put it in an episode when the Roosevelt’s came, just to make it the most dramatic.
Natasha: And then also another thing that kind of surprised us was, last year Frederick was the Senator and we had an idea “What if he became Vice President?” And then we Googled who was Vice President in this year, and it was nobody. They didn’t have a Vice President. So now we’re like, “This can actually be historically accurate that Frederick was the Vice President and he was so terrible they’ve erased it from history.” So at least it doesn’t contradict history.
That’s super interesting. Any chance that you looked back and know what your ancestors were doing at the turn of the century?
Natasha: I feel like I come from a long line of factory workers and bakers. I think they were probably serving people somewhere. They say in order to create an aristocracy; it has to be three generations of natural superiority. So, I’m trying to create the first generation of natural superiority in my family. Hopefully I’ll pass that on to my children and then my grandchildren will be aristocratic. That’s my plan.
Tell me about what your writing process together is like. I know you have a team of writers, but how do you two work together?
Riki: Well, Natasha and I like to plan out the season together. Usually we’ll go to Ojai or even London and we’ll talk about the season and the overarching theme that we want to touch on. Then we talk about each actor and each character and the things we’d like to see happen. Then we bring those to the writer’s room and the first few weeks is just an all out brainstorm, just blue sky, what’s the funniest stuff? Then, after that we start to narrow down the ideas into stories.
Do you feel like each of you has strengths in certain areas more than others? What do you each appreciate about working with each other?
Natasha: What I like about Riki is, she is sort of an engine, I would say, and she really will help us stay on track and really stay to task until things are done to the level we know we want, which is, you know, we have pretty high expectations for our show. I feel like I kind of have the classic comic work ethic, which is… lazy [laughs], but Riki is really good at making us complete things at the level that we want them to be.
Riki: I think Natasha is really good at knowing which thing is the funniest. Because, we’ll go through a lot of ideas and I feel like she’s really good at narrowing down the right thing to finalize on.
Natasha: And I think we really work together in trusting each other’s opinions. One thing we figured out in editing is we’ll disagree about things, and then whoever is the most passionate about their argument, we usually just let that person – I might hate something, and if Riki is like, “I don’t really care either way,” then we’ll get rid of it. But if I hate it and she loves it more than I hate it, then I’ll trust that we’ll do it that way. Basically whoever is the most passionate.
How did you two first meet and first start working together?
Riki: You know, there’s not really that many people in the LA comedy scene. It seems huge, but we all kind of know each other and see each other. Then Natasha and I went on this volunteer trip to Senegal and that’s when we really bonded.
Why were you in Senegal?
Natasha: It was for “Malaria No More.” We were sent there with three other comedians. I think it was us, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, and Paul Sheer, and it was our mission to make comedy videos about malaria. As you’re sure you can tell from that description, it was not very easy. Riki and I were there for three or four days before everyone else got there, because they all got stuck in Paris, and so Riki and I were just in Africa trying to make these videos and it was very challenging. We bonded on how uncomfortable we both were.
The response of Another Period has been so great. What do you have for season 2? What are some guests you’re most excited about in the upcoming season?
Riki: Jemaine Clement is one of our big guest stars. He plays a priest. Cedric the Entertainer is playing a Kanye West-esque, Scott Joplin. And Andrew Rannells is in it, so we’ve got a lot of good people, like Michaela Watkins.
Oh I love her! So, these are just some weird questions that I’m curious about, because you’ve done so much research about this time period. I know there weren’t jesters back then, but what were comedians like then? Is there info on the history on that?
Riki: I think it was more like vaudeville, and song and dance men, things like that.
Natasha: I think for upper class people, being an actress wasn’t even – I mean, our characters don’t even think about that, because that was considered so low class. Maybe it’s the same level of prostitution, maybe one step up? But, it just wasn’t really heard of for upper class people to do that sort of thing.
When you’re preparing for the season, do you feel like you have an obligation to make a statement about women’s rights issues or is it just whatever the hell is the funniest that matters?
Riki: I don’t think we feel an obligation, but it’s just impossible to avoid. We have so many women in the cast, and we try to be historically accurate, so the lack of women’s rights is going to naturally come up in circumstances. Its just part of what was going on back then.
Natasha: And also, it’s what was going on in Newport. I think some of the first votes for women’s rights took place at Marble House, which is one of the mansions there, I think it’s Consuelo Vanderbilt’s mansion, in their backyard. But I think Riki and I have always like the idea that our characters are more like the Kardashians and they aren’t interested in women’s rights, and they are liking their oppression. That’s why we have our sister Hortense, who is more progressive, but our characters want to get famous. Because, Riki and I were thinking too, the desire to get famous didn’t just happen when media happened. I mean, it’s a human instinct. So, I think it’s fun for us to think, “What was that like a hundred years ago, before technology and media?” People still had those emotions then, so how did they act out on them? It’s so fun for us to figure out how that would happen. And also at the time, it was pretty tough for women. Women weren’t even allowed to read college-level books. They would say it’d shrink their ovaries. If a woman wanted to be a writer, she always had to have a pen name. They really weren’t encouraged to do much, besides breed.
Have you found women, through doing this, who are now your new heroes or who have inspired you?
Natasha: Riki and I are both reading this book on Alice Roosevelt that was really interesting, because she pretty much got erased from history. She was the first celebrity kind of and Eleanor blew her out of the water. And Eleanor and her were always in a rivalry. What happened to Alice?
Riki: She was like the Paris Hilton of the day. She was Teddy’s daughter and was famous for fashion basically. They called her the first daughter, because she was the one who got all the attention.
If you could have anyone from that time period on your show, an actual person, who would it be?
Riki: I guess baby Hitler, because we could talk some sense into him. [They both laugh.] Yeah, get him a new mom.
Yeah! Everybody talks about killing Hitler, but nobody talks about getting him better parental guidance.
Natasha: Exactly. I would say that I would like Oscar Wilde to come visit, but I think Lillian would not care about Oscar Wilde. I think we had one idea with Lillian and Beatrice where Oscar Wilde comes to visit and we just used his poems as toilet paper. I don’t think we would appreciate it at all. Because people used to actually use books, like pages of books, before there was toilet paper.
If you could each keep something from that period of history, but you could use it nowadays, is there anything you’d keep?
Natasha: I really appreciate the formality. I like the idea of having an outfit for the morning room and then you go sailing, and then you change into your nap outfit, then you go into your afternoon tea outfit, there’s a cocktail hour you have a different outfit for. I mean, I’m not saying I want to go back to that, but I’d love a middle ground between that and dressing like a slob from the second you wake up.
Riki: Also, I like the idea of having these cultural visits. People will have a salon, where they’ll have a writer come visit or an artist. People would just have conversations with other people they find interesting. I wish I got to do that on a more formal basis.
So, what should we be looking forward to looking for in season two or is there anything you’re extra excited about that’s coming up?
Natasha: I’m excited that we’re spending a little more time in the servant’s quarter. They all rise up and go on strike, which we learned about in one of the tours in Newport, that it really happened, I think in the same time period in 1903.
And obviously you have this happening and congrats on getting picked up for season three. Do you have other projects going on, together or individually?
Riki: Well, Garfunkel and Oates just had a special come out on Vimeo, which we’re really excited about, so people can download that now if they want to see it.
Natasha: Riki and I are writing a movie together as well. I’m also on tour right now with my husband (Moshe Kasher) called “Our Honeymoon Tour,” which is basically our honeymoon, but then we’re on tour. We’re just going to our favorite locations on the west coast. So we still have Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Tucson, and Austin.
Photo by Peter Yang.