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On Set at PLAYING HOUSE: Stalker Letters, Obama Lessons, and Improv

Keegan-Michael Key is wearing a cashmere mockleneck and it’s really, really hot in this ballroom. Not because he wants to, mind you, but because his TV wife—affectionately known as Bird Bones—on USA Network’s Playing House is having him “experiment with different neck lines.” And all the things that go with wearing such an overstated top in May—that perpetually itch, that overheated glow, the endless Steve Jobs jabs—are in no short supply thanks to the series’ co-creators Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham.

“It’s not great for a man with Keegan’s head,” St. Clair laughed at one point. Added Jane Kaczmarek, who plays Parham’s mother on the show, “I love a cotton turtleneck, it’s a New England thing.”

For all of the incredible star power in the series, it’s a bit surprising more people don’t watch Playing House. The premise is rife with potential: two outlandish-in-the-best-way friends decide to raise a baby together in a very buttoned up Connecticut town. The first season included catfishing, an alter-ego named Bosepheus, and even some Magic Mike-style body rolls. Plus, it’s a comedy nerd’s dream: Parham and St. Clair have brought on a veritable smorgasbord of funny/talented folks to guest this season in addition to the main cast—folks like Zach Woods, Ian Roberts, Andy Daly, Rob Riggle, and even THE Kenny Loggins.  A real get for the girls who are fans IRL of that glorious, glorious beard and baritone.


“We decided to write a bunch of creepy letters [to] see what happens—[we figured] we’ll either get a receptive offer or a restraining order,” explained St. Clair. And, well? It worked.

“We wrote a real creepy letter to you, Jane: maybe the creepiest?” St. Clair posited at one point—the “creep” factor being something Kaczmarek later rebuffed, pouring on the accolades for the series’ stars. “There is the most amazing synergy between these two,” she said.

After a semi-uncertain renewal thanks to fan love and appreciation—the power of the internet compels you, television executives!—the duo went into the 8-episode second season (premiering Tuesday, August 4th) with an all-or-nothing attitude. “Our mantra for this season is we’re going to have the best time of our lives,” St. Clair explained. And have fun they do: changes are afoot, and not just for Maggie (Parham) now that she has a new baby. There are, explained Key, “lots of familial changes” going around—even for Emma (St. Clair) and Mark (Key).


“He may end up losing his mind mid-season [and] running around the block in a garbage bag Silver Linings Playbook style,” St. Clair teased. There was also the explanation of a very, um, sensual-sounding dance that Mark does that involves, “a half-split” that was followed by “the butt squeaks, then a roll-around, then into the worm, and then I lost the mic—which flew up and hit me in the back.”

“It’s like an actor’s burpee,” Parham quipped.

Elsewhere in the series, Parham added, “you’ll see super-big changes. … You’re getting those Downton Abbey-like stakes, but it’s also really funny.” The duo seemed to chalk up the show’s ethos to both their writing style and relationships at the heart of the show.

“For me, that’s what TV always is: you want to tune in and watch people love each other and have, kinda, the time of their lives. That, I feel like, isn’t done as much as it could be and that’s what we’re trying to give people,” explained St. Clair.

“The way we write is we improvise and then write out a scene,” said St. Clair—something that comes easy for the two longtime comedians and best friends. The mark of a true female friendship to them? “How far up each other’s butts you can cram one another,” St. Clair joked. To which Parham added the tagline, “Two ladies. One baby. One butt.”


Getting a bit more serious, Parham added, “They love each other so much it creates comedy.”

The show’s humor—much like that of similarly hearted comedies like Parks and Recreation—ultimately comes from taking on the seemingly insurmountable with humility and grace (and whatever weirdness your personality brings to the table). Because, as Key stated at one point, “sometimes the best thing to do is not question whether or not you can do it—but just do it.” To which St. Clair replied, “Did you learn that from Obama last week, when you met him?”

Said Key: “It’s all he talked about.”

Playing House‘s second season premieres Tuesday, August 4th at 10PM. Season one is available to binge in its entirety right MEOW, so get on that!

Alicia Lutes is the Associate Editor of The Nerdist. She can be found on Twitter practicing her body rolls @alicialutes.


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