“Screw what’s popular. Do what you love!”
It sounds great, but isn’t always so realistic. Though we all want to be masters of our creative domains, vigilantly pursuing the arcane passions that occupy the darkest recesses of the right brain, that shit just won’t sell. So, too often, we’re forced to shelve what we believe in to pursue that which we know (or we hope) will pay the bills. We still say: “Screw what’s popular. Do what you love!” but what we really mean is: “I’d love to do graphics for that freelance commercial project advertising your ink and toner business!” Anything to keep the lights on. Add a spouse and kids into the equation and it’s easy to see why our big career dreams can become quashed by real world responsibilities. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If we’re smart and determined and resourceful, there’s nothing to say we can’t have it all. Take it from Christine Walters, Matt Evans, and Maggie Kemper Rogers.
Creators/writers/stars of Other Mothered — a new web series and TV interstitial airing online and on Nick Jr.’s new late night mom-centric TV experiment, NickMom — UCB-trained Christine, Matt, and Maggie were determined to find a place in their lives for improv and performance amidst new families, a growing checklist of to-dos, and a youth-centric entertainment industry that favors talent who can be anywhere in a flash…without calling a sitter. Their devotion has paid off in the form of a smart series about passive aggressive parenting, directed by Adam Sacks.
Christine, Matt, and Maggie were kind enough to indulge some of my questions. Here’s what the trio had to say about their heartening route to success:
Can you tell me a little bit about yourselves, and what came before Other Mothered? What's been the trajectory?
Christine: When I had my son, Finn, who's now four years old, there was this realization that performing on a regular basis would be really hard. And I had just come off of performing every Saturday night for about ten years of my life. And so, I got this idea – well, Matt and I can't be the only two parents in the improv world. There's got a ton of people who have kids and have these same issues and problems. I was like, "well what if I do a show where it's all parents who get together to improvise?" We were blown away by how many improv couples there are between UCB, Magnet, the PIT. The improv community is better than JDate. Then on top of that, we all started procreating around the same time. So it became this natural thing that was like – well wow, all these people have babies. We all have this common thing. So instead of trying to figure out a forum or something like, "lets all do the deconstruction" or whatever, it was just like, well lets just improvise as people who have kids, and have it come from a different head space. Like, it's not going to be college frat humor. It's still going to be twisted and weird and morbid and fucked up, but it's going to be from a totally different point of view. And so that got it started. And then, we found out that Nick had come to one of our shows, and that they were interested in starting up this website that was comedy geared toward mothers. And Maggie, Matt and I got together and were like, "Help? We can make that happen." We started doing some of the sketches, and that was sort of the genesis of it.
Very cool. It's something we haven't seen, and we kind of forget about parents being parents sometimes, in the comedy world. So, in terms of Other Mothered, you've led up now to the genesis of the idea, but why that idea? Did you kick around other things? Other concepts?
Maggie: The other mothered thing comes from when you're pregnant, and then you have a kid, you're sort of just like, you're in the public space and you find out that anyone can say whatever they want to you. And just give you unsolicited advice. And then it gets really interesting when it's another mother doing that to you. When you're first starting out as a mom, you kind of take it. Like you're kind of like, "Maybe I don't know what I'm doing." You know? So that was one of our ideas, and one that I really really liked. You know we can churn out a ton of ideas.
Matt: The cool thing that we kind of talked about with the series was… this site is a comedy site so… we had a strong feeling about: Let's definitely make this funny, but let's make it real, too. So, you know. Let's do a good job with the acting, too, so it makes it look like… you know, people that are watching at home, or people that are watching, are like "Oh my god, I know that person. I live next to that type of person, or I've been in that situation, or that's happened to me."
Christine: There also was a little bit of trepidation about like, "Oh god, are people that we socialize with and who we know, going to think that we're making fun of them?"
Maggie: We are!
Where do you guys see this going next?
Christine: I think, the thing is, because we're doing this with NickMom, it's kind of their call whether they're going to take it to the next level with us. Obviously our aspirations… we would love for that to happen, for it to become a sitcom or longer than the web, but truthfully, they're really, for us, they've been a really good partner, in that we haven't had to explain a lot to them. They got it right away. They are pretty hands off, in terms of, they don't do a lot of back and forth with us. They're like, "Yes, we get it. You might have to change this line because you can't say that, it has a product in it or something…" but they're really… I think they know what they're doing in terms of their market. Amy Poehler has a baby. Maya Rudolph has babies. And now I think it became even more relevant, I hate to say this, because it's sexist but like, Jimmy Fallon has kids. Guess what, Guys with Kids is on the air. And you know, I feel like it is that thing that like, the minute that people who are in the power positions have something that they can relate to, you start seeing it reflected in the media.
Absolutely. Very exciting. So when are the episodes released? A certain day every week?
Maggie: They are. So starting this week, Nickelodeon launched NickMom, it starts at 10 p.m. Eastern every night on Nick Jr. Each night that it's been on, we've had one of our episodes up there. It's sort of interstitial between some of their original content. It's really exciting. And they don't really have a schedule for when… they're filled up anyway. But we're making more.
How many more?
Christine: We did re-up to make eight more episodes about our mothers. So we start shooting in a couple weeks. And I think the first three that we're re-upped for are going to be holiday themed. They should be up in December.
Congrats, that's great news. Last question for you guys: What advice do you have to web series creators, writers, stars, looking to crack the web game? Where do you start, what are your secrets?
Matt: I got one. Know your voice. Write what you know. That's one way to go. Because only you have those experiences, you know. Only you know what we've been through.
Christine: Collaborate with people you like. And collaborate with people who have similar sensibilities but who aren't so precious about their stuff. You know what I mean? There's that thing of… You know, we worked with Adam [Sacks]. And we really liked working with him. He was a good collaborator. He brought something to it. That's why we want to do the next episodes with him. Like, Maggie, Matt and I… none of us are precious about… if somebody has a better idea – Hell yeah, put it on the page. I don't care if it came from you, me, or anybody else. It's important to like the people you're working with.
Maggie: For my two cents, I would say that if you're performing in any way, shape, or form and you somehow get someone from industry to come to the show, and make sure you follow up with that person after.
Christine: God, the improv show that Nickelodeon reps first came to was soooo… goddamned dirty that literally I couldn't look them in the eye during the meeting. Improv is an uncontrollable thing, and when you're on stage it's like, you wouldn't be doing a service to your fellow performer or to the scene if you bailed out of something just because you know somebody's in the audience… It's like, Oh fuck, the one night we shouldn't have, like, twins in the womb, falling in love and fucking. Like, that's the kind of show we were having. But then afterwards, I was like, you know what? They knew what they were getting into. And there was some funny shit in it. So I was just like, hey, you guys understand that there's no way we would pitch, you know, fraternal twins having sex for a web video. That was just something that came out of the ether, but we clearly, you know, have a comedy background and we can probably come up with things that are equally as funny, but just not blue, to pitch to you.
So you're saying that Womb Fuckers is not Nick Jr.'s next property?
Christine: Totally not. They're good partners to produce with, but I definitely think that would have pushed them over.
And your three reasons to watch…
Other Mothered: “Cell Phone”
Specificity and comedy go hand in hand. The more detailed a project is in its observations and commentaries, the more evocative, relatable, and funny it will be. A good way to ensure specificity is to choose (or target) a defined thing you’re making fun of—in this case passive aggressive parenting—and, live and breath within that realm.
Other Mothered: “The Invitation”
Choosing a target’s important, but that target has to be something creators are familiar with in order to ring true. For Christine, Matt, and Maggie, parenting is completely authentic because it’s an activity they’re immersed in every second of every day.
Other Mothered: “Playdate”
I’ve said it a million times. Okay, maybe not a million but I’ve said it a lot: Web success (in the case of Other Mothered web and TV success) is all about quality over quantity. You’ll be well served to embrace the whole brevity thing.