Most of us have had at least one moment – or several – where they’ve screwed something up big time. We all have areas where our decision making could use improvement. With her new show, comedian Abbi Crutchfield is here to help us navigate those rough waters of adulthood. You Can Do Better premieres tomorrow night on truTV, and showcases Crutchfield as she tackles a variety of issues head-on, all in an effort to help us ‘do better’ in our lives.
A UCB alum, Crutchfield regularly performs standup in Brooklyn, where she lives, and had a guest role on Broad City last season. She has also appeared in sketches on Friends of the People, and hosted a daily entertainment news show for People.com. I talked to her about her career and You Can Do Better.
What can you tell me about You Can Do Better, your new show on truTV?
It’s gonna be a fun way to learn how to navigate the obstacles that come with adult rites of passage: drinking, sex, sports fanaticism, fitness, elections, and more. I host with Matthew Latkiewicz in a fun half hour of sketches, straight-talking to camera, “how to” videos, and man-on-the-street interviews. The early footage looks fantastic, and I can’t wait to see what people think of it.
Are the two of you coaching others on how to navigate those obstacles? Or will you be acting out these scenarios yourselves?
We’re all going on the journey together. Each episode opens and closes with someone having the kind of trouble we can all relate to, then Matt and I step in to offer guidance. Throughout the episode we do some trouble-shooting, and by the end we’ve all learned how you can do better. We’re not experts, so we talk to real-life professionals, and we’re not snarky or know-it-alls. Just helpful, cool, hilarious people.
How would you describe the dynamic between you and your co-host, Matthew Latkiewicz?
Our chemistry is best described as browned butter and peaches.
You said the show is going to be a mix of a few different formats: sketch comedy, man-on-the-street bits, etc. The trailer also promises us a segment in which you destroy a piñata. Can you tease any favorite things you had to do?
I will face off with a robot doing a task that is near and dear to my heart: painting nails. Did you know they even made machines for that? It’s in our technology episode. How did I do? Tune in and find out.
Very intriguing. So the show films in L.A., but you live in New York. How do the two cities compare for you?
Night and Day. As in, one town is more fun at night and the other by day. I have grown really fond of Los Angeles. Sunshine does wonders for my New York cynicism! Both towns are diverse and offer a wide array of delicious, unhealthy foods. L.A. Just gives you more reasons not to eat them. I am eating an apple right now, which, if I were back in New York, would have to be in a slice of Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie. WHAT HAVE I BECOME?!
Let’s talk about social media. Twitter has become a great vehicle for so many comedians, including yourself. Your tweets have been featured on “Best of the Year” lists from outlets like The Huffington Post and Paste magazine. How do you approach writing jokes on Twitter?
Don’t make me nerd out! Joke writing is my passion, and Twitter is my Disneyland.
Does having to constantly generate material Twitter and other platforms like Vine make it harder to write and perform standup? Or are they both part of the same process?
I write jokes ahead of time and then when I log onto Twitter, I motion-activation-release them like a Glade “Sense and Spray” to clear the funky political tweets that stink up my timeline. Being creative takes time and mental energy, and the more you divide it, the more diluted it becomes. I have a limit to how many platforms I can be active on at once. But they’re all so fun! It’s hard to leave them completely. Instagram is my new jam. I’ll get into Snapchat two years after teenagers declare it uncool.
So since you write ahead of time, you’re not thinking, “I need to tweet X amount of jokes a day.”
I do some form of comedy writing every day. I contribute to Someecards, I tweet, I post funny captions on Instagram, and I write hilarious texts. The cream rises to the top and I skim that off for my standup.
I’ve noticed that you don’t shy away from discussing real world issues on social media (being vocal about supporting movements like Black Lives Matter, for example). How do you personally balance being funny vs. engaging in more serious subjects?
I used to have a ton of rules for myself on social media – a lot of them having to do with not being candid unless I was also being funny – but the clammy hand of death taps us all on the shoulder, and it startles you into caring less about how you are viewed and more about what is important to you.
Right. It’s about finding a balance. You’re a comedian, but you’re also a person with opinions, and vice-versa.
Just like with standup I let the audience help me balance it. If my followers are responding more to jokes than to activism I tone down the activism. Lately people would rather have topical humor than evergreen stuff. If I’m in the mood, I will accommodate. That’s on a public platform as a comedian, mind you. Privately my priorities are different. Everyone is entitled to use social media as they wish. There are consequences and limitations, but there are no rules to how you conduct yourself. They can strive for a balance, or they can hit hard with one topic. We all have our own priorities.
Speaking of topical humor, has the election been a steady source of material for you?
A steady source, yes, but not the kind I like. Politics affect people’s lives. I am much more intrigued by the latest monstrosity Taco Bell is unloading on our food troughs.
Last night I went out and bought taco ingredients so as not to eat Taco Bell then picked out the Taco Bell flavor packet to season the meat because it had less sodium than the others. Every time I try to get out they pull me back in!
May God have mercy on our souls.
It’s too late for me, but there is still hope for you. Joking about politics has a way of making me feel very removed from it. The more jokes I make about Clinton and Trump the less I view them as people, and more as punching bags, and that’s not great since one of them is supposed to hold our highest office soon.[Makes a sad tuba sound]
You also host and perform a weekly comedy night in Brooklyn called “The Living Room Show” with your husband, Luke Thayer. How did that get started?
Luke and I started The Living Room Show to give ourselves more stage time since we were new to the city. We started it as a booked show for newcomers, and it blossomed into a popular show featuring working professionals and a full house each week. It’s one of the few clean comedy shows I know of and has never charged admission. It has been going 10 years strong and still features the best night of free comedy by TV accredited professionals anywhere in Brooklyn. It’s Fridays at 8 pm at the Postmark Café. The coffee shop donates all tips to a different charity each month. When we don’t have comedy there, throughout the week it is an outpost for the community to feel safe, welcomed, and caffeinated. I love all the people that help us keep the show going.
What advice would you give people trying to break into comedy or who are just getting started?
Doing it makes you a comedian. Doing it well means you might get paid to do it professionally. The quest to be famous is the opiate of the masses. You should always give advice to newcomers, because it’s a kindness, but you should never expect them to listen, because they haven’t grown ears yet.
Is that Karl Marx or a Crutchfield original?
Which Marx brother was he?
Finally, name one recent example either from your own life, or online, where you thought about telling someone “You Can Do Better.”
Hahaha Los Angeles traffic! I am constantly shaking my head at the foolish things people do on the road. But for as many risk-takers there are out here, there are just as many polite and accommodating commuters. “You have to get over two lanes for your exit in 500 feet? Come on in, Pally!” You can do better at signaling before you change lanes, Audis!