Andrea Savage was tired of the roles she was being offered in Hollywood — there was the harried mom, the awful mom, the mom who hates her kids — and none of those roles felt real or complex.
"I was just like: This isn't my reality," Savage says. "Why does a funny female have to be relegated to this very two-dimensional role after she pops a kid out?"
So Savage, a comedian and writer, created her own show called I'm Sorry — now entering its second season on truTV — and wrote for herself the role she couldn't find anywhere else. She plays an edgy (if frequently cringe-inducing) comedy writer who's a loving mom and wife. When it comes to where she ends and the character begins, "The lines get very blurred," Savage explains. "It's definitely an exaggerated version of me."
The goal was to show the many different roles parents inhabit day to day, and highlight some of the funny ways those can overlap, especially raising kids in Hollywood. One morning you can be shooting a scene in a strip club, Savage says, and later that afternoon you'll find yourself talking to a school administrator about homework. "You become slightly different people when you're around different people," she says.
The story lines touch on race, sex, death and divorce, but Savage says those topics have come up for the writers organically. "We definitely don't go like: Let's tackle an issue," she says. "It really comes from: What real stories do I have? ... When you use something from real life it really grounds it."
These are stories that parents don't necessarily share with one another — for example, when a child inadvertently makes an inappropriate or offensive racial remark.
"It's innocent, but it also does kick you into gear," Savage says. "It does hit you in a white liberal guilt place and go: Oh my God, what have we not done? What are we not talking about? But also kids notice things, and skin color is different. And so it's good to have the conversations start coming early."
When she compared notes with her friends, she found that parents were full of uncomfortable stories and found herself thinking: "Why is no one talking about this?!"
Talking openly about less-than-picture-perfect family moments has made Savage a magnet for embarrassing personal stories — which she finds "delightful." (For example, people feel the need to let her know that they, too, don't wear pants at home.)
"I'm sort of their like dirty secret confessional ..." she says. And "if that's my legacy, I will have died a happy lady."
Sarah Handel and Viet Le produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Beth Novey adapted it for the Web.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
What does a woman in Hollywood do when she's not feeling the two-dimensional mom role she's being offered?
ANDREA SAVAGE: The harried mom role or the awful mom role who hates her kids - why does a funny female have to be relegated to this very two-dimensional role after she, you know, pops a kid out?
FADEL: Well, if you're comedian and writer Andrea Savage, you create your own show. "I'm Sorry" on TruTV is going into its second season. Savage plays an edgy, often inappropriate comedy writer, who's also a loving mom and wife.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "I'M SORRY")
SAVAGE: (As Andrea) Obviously, I don't want to divorce you. I love you. Blah, blah, blah. But, you know, I mean, you got to admit. If you were, like, free from me for, like, three weeks, you could date, just, like, do whatever you want.
TOM EVERETT SCOTT: (As Mike) I'm all on board with that. But...
SAVAGE: (As Andrea) Right?
SCOTT: (As Mike) Would you be able to get all that you want done in three weeks?
SAVAGE: (As Andrea) Yeah, good call, actually. You know what? Let's jam it up to a year.
SCOTT: (As Mike) Wow - a year.
SAVAGE: (As Andrea) Yeah.
FADEL: Andrea Savage joins us now from NPR West.
Thanks so much for joining us.
SAVAGE: Thank you for having me.
FADEL: So you're a mom, a comedy writer. Is this character you?
SAVAGE: (Laughter) I mean, sometimes, the lines get very blurred.
SAVAGE: It's definitely an exaggerated version of me.
FADEL: I, actually, felt like in the show, there was a lot about your home life - actually, more than your work life. Was that a conscious decision?
SAVAGE: It was. You know, I think there's a lot of shows that show behind the scenes of Hollywood. And that - and I really was like - the part of what I'm trying to show is the different roles a human plays in their life...
SAVAGE: ...As, you know, a wife or a mom or a friend or a daughter or a mother or, you know, part of a school environment or part of a work environment and how those sort of - you become slightly different people when you're around different people. Being in comedy...
SAVAGE: ...But then also being, you know, a mom where I have to be in a lot of, you know, school situations where you can't act like a maniac...
SAVAGE: There's a lot of like, you know, sort of things where I go, oh, my God. This morning I was, you know, like, in a strip club shooting a scene of whatever. And now I'm talking to the administrator...
SAVAGE: ...About homework. You know what I mean?
FADEL: But there's also all these, like, really inappropriate conversations going on on the sidelines of, like, school pickup.
SAVAGE: But that's what happens. And, like, in the pilot of Season 1, there was a very prolific porn star that we found out...
SAVAGE: ...Was in our preschool class. And I mean, I actually knew about it for a year. I didn't tell anyone. But I was obsessed with her butt.
SAVAGE: And just, how was she? You know what I mean?
SAVAGE: But I feel like that's what - if your kids are going to school and you find out something about someone there, people are talking. And they're talking in a real way.
FADEL: Right. You know, around here, a lot of people are talking about their - I'm not a parent. But a lot of people are talking about their sort of "I'm Sorry" moments with their kids because there's really...
SAVAGE: Aw. That makes me happy.
FADEL: ...Not any topic that you don't touch, right? Like, you go...
FADEL: You're like, oh, race - no problem. I'll tackle that - sex, all these types of things. Can you talk about sort of how you come about with it? Is it all from your storylines? Are there, like, social issues? - you're like, OK. Let's tackle this today.
SAVAGE: We definitely don't go, like, let's tackle an issue. It really comes from, what real stories do I have? - and then more so this season, what my other writers have as well, who are also, you know, people with families. And we sort of go, what are our best stories? And do those stories have anything to do with what issues people go through in their 30s and 40s? Like, is there - we never wanted to do something just for the sake of it, really. So we deal with, you know, death. And we deal with divorce or - last season, we dealt with racism. And it's just because I had good stories about it. I find that when you use something from real life, it really grounds it and, also, makes it surprising. So you kind of don't know exactly where it's going.
FADEL: So I died laughing over the racism episode...
FADEL: ...Where you think your daughter is possibly a racist. So I'm going to - we're just going to play a quick clip from that.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "I'M SORRY")
SAVAGE: (As Andrea) I have a fear that she's going to grow up to be this amazing person - right? - in all ways. Like, she helps the homeless. I mean, she's curing cancer. But 25 years from now, she's going to be at a dinner party, hold out her arm and say, this is the color skin I like.
SCOTT: (As Mike) And she did the underside or her arm...
SAVAGE: (As Andrea) Yeah.
SCOTT: (As Mike) ...Not even the darker part.
SAVAGE: (As Andrea) No, the side has never seen the light of day.
FADEL: I just find that so funny. But I also feel like you're tackling a pretty difficult topic - a lot of things parents probably don't want to admit publicly that their kid said at home. And then it also kind of looks at, like, white guilt, white privilege. Were you worried about the episode at all and whether it hit the right tone?
SAVAGE: I was on some level. But when I was doing the first season, I really just was like, I'm not going to worry about what people think of any of this. I'm going to focus and make the show in the spirit of what I want it to be. And I know what my intentions are. And I hope that then that translates. And basically, when this happened in real life, no one had ever said anything to me. I'd never heard anyone talk about this. And I spoke about it with a close - couple of my close friends. And everyone was like, oh, my God. This happened to us.
SAVAGE: Oh, my God, this is us. And I'm talking about, like, African-American friends, Asian friends. Everyone was, you know - would be like, oh, yeah. That happened to us. And it was like, why is no one talking about this?
FADEL: Right. So it kind of gives parents, like, permission. Like, it's OK. You're not the only one (laughter).
SAVAGE: And also, it's innocent. But it also does kick you into gear. It does hit you in a white, liberal guilt place - and go, oh, my God. What have we not done? What are we not talking about? But also, kids notice things. And skin color is different. And so it's good to have the conversations start coming...
FADEL: So do parents now just walk up to you all the time to tell...
FADEL: ...You every embarrassing story that happened with their child?
SAVAGE: They do - or like, I also take my pants off when no one's home.
SAVAGE: Stuff like that - like, I'm sort of their, like, dirty secret...
SAVAGE: ...Confessional a little bit.
FADEL: (Laughter). That's Andrea Savage, creator and star of the comedy "I'm Sorry." Thank you so much for being with us.
SAVAGE: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.