How to Make a Successful Web Series with Natasha Leggero
On the spectrum of conceptual talk shows, Natasha Leggero’s Tubbin’ with Tash, which debuted last month on the YouTube channel JASH, is certainly one of the weirder ones, with its hot tub location possibly being the most conventional thing about it. Leggero is assisted by Moshe Kasher who plays her spa boy Pig Bottom, and the short-but-insane episodes have featured prominent comedians joining the host in her hot tub, which has led to memorable images like Reggie Watts twerking, Sarah Silverman using a tampon as a projectile, and Eric Andre getting naked, which is actually becoming business as usual for his talk show appearances.
I talked to Leggero recently about her show, her clothing optional rule, and the power of the hot tub.
Where did this show come from?
Well, I bought a hot tub, and I realized if I did a talk show in it, I would be able to write it off.
Was that the way you pitched it? “I want to recoup the cost of my hot tub?”
[Laughs] No, I mean, I went to JASH because I had been wanting to do something with them. I told them the idea, and they loved it. Actually, I was going to do a podcast from my tub, but I was like, ‘Well, this is too funny — having all these people sitting my in hot tub — to not be able to see it,’ so I called Ruben Fleischer, who I have loved working with in the past, and he loved the idea so he agreed to come direct them.
We asked tons of people, and some people were not wanting to get in the hot tub or get naked or get in a swimsuit, but we still got some people in their clothes.
Tig Notaro even wore a suit.
[Laughs] Yeah, I know, it was great. I had to get that dry-cleaned for her after.
Chelsea Peretti came on essentially wearing a trash bag. Where did that come from?
We had both seen those signs that are now California law, which they have in all pools, that say if you’ve had active diarrhea in the past fortnight, you’re not allowed in the pool. First of all, I’m not sure what active diarrhea is and also a fortnight is a pretty long time. Well, I guess we live in America, so they don’t say fortnight; they say two weeks. But the idea was that her diarrhea was so active that she had to wear a trash bag sealed with duct tape whilst around the pool area
How much of that bit and the rest of the show is planned out and scripted?
I would say it’s about 4% scripted. We’ll record for like 30 minutes, and I definitely have some questions planned out, but I didn’t send them to the people or anything. The thing about a hot tub — I feel like people in general are pretty uptight these days. Most of the people I know are sober, and I feel like comedians — if you think about the ’80s, people were doing cocaine, or at least you hear about all these comics who were doing cocaine and going wild on the road, and now it’s like every comic I know has got food sensitivity testing done and they’re not eating gluten and they’re not drinking and they stopped smoking pot and nobody smokes cigarettes and no one does drugs and everyone’s juicing. So maybe the hot tub show is a way to try to loosen back up and get back to that time when people were just not so uptight. People have a drink, smoke a little pot, and sit in the hot tub. It’s like a more loose kind of conversation.
When did you decide Tubbin’ with Tash would be more compact and joke heavy?
I’ve been in the room while we’re editing these, and there are just so many different ways you can go. I was just watching Doug Benson’s new show on JASH, Getting Doug with High, and his has just been a 35 or 40 minute video podcast of him getting high with people. I really could be doing that because one of the main comments on YouTube — besides that I don’t have any tits — is they should be longer. And I do have tits. They’re, y’know, nice, healthy. And so we could do a long version and then just cut a shorter version for YouTube. It’s hard to decide. It’s better, I guess, if people want something longer.
How has it been interviewing nude guests?
Well, I’m from the Midwest, where people are very uptight, and there certainly aren’t places with clothing optional hot tub situations. People would be so afraid of that. And I feel like the more time I spend in California (and northern California), it’s definitely just how people hot tub.
I like that idea that you shouldn’t be ashamed of your body and it shouldn’t be this thing that everyone’s so scared about, and so I made a rule that it is clothing optional and if someone does get naked, I will. I know I didn’t with Eric Andre. Well, I did, but then I was like, ‘Maybe I should think about this.’ Now, him peeing on me, that’s a different story. That’s not something I was prepared for.
That was real?
Yeah. I hadn’t been peed on since art school so it brought back some memories. I did have the water drained, though, the day after.
The jewelry you wear and your crisp articulation give your hosting persona a real elegance. Where did those choices come from?
The only idea I had in my head for the character was Bianca Jagger at Studio 54. You know, like having this VIP situation where you were only letting certain people in and then talking to them. The crisp articulation comes from spending so many years at acting conservatory in NY where they taught me how to be a working actor in the 1700s. “To the back of the auditorium, Natasha!” We learned the liquid “u” like in “Tyuuuuesday.” “The payment is dyuue on Tyuuuuesday.”
Were you going for something similar with the intro and the cards introducing the guests? They have a classy ‘80s music video quality.
Hot tubs were pretty big in the ’80s, and I guess the ’80s were a time of excess. It’s very Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. I’ve always been kind of fascinated with that show so that’s probably the inspiration for that.
Moshe Kasher plays your assistant–
He’s my spa boy, Pig Bottom.
Where did that character come from?
The character came from Moshe’s psyche. I knew I wanted a spa boy to be waiting on me, and Moshe is so funny and also I knew he’d look great and hilarious in a Speedo, so that just sort of evolved. Then he came up with [the name] “Pig Bottom.” I don’t know if you’ve googled “pig bottom,” but it’s basically someone sexually who will do absolutely anything.
So there’s class, elegance, and some darkness, at least with that relationship.
Oh, yeah. That relationship seems pretty dark. I mean, it’s definitely meant for comedy’s sake, but I’m sure there are relationships like that. We’re working right now on maybe an episode where you can see how the relationship blossomed and started. It essentially comes from my husband dying and then that day I go take the check I got from his death and go buy the hot tub, and Pig Bottom is the person who sold it to me. So that’s the backstory, and then I employ him as my slave.
What kind of additional challenges are there to shooting a water-based talk show?
Staff infection, sharks, and there’s always the risk of electrocution, which makes it a little more exciting because there are boom operators leaning over the hot tub. Dehydration. I’m in the tub for sometimes six hours at a time. But I have a whole team of people rinsing me off, touching me up, and administering B12 shots so it’s all good.
Do you have any dream guests?
Larry King, Dr. Phil, Beyonce, Greg Louganis. Malia Obama would be good. Sasha seems too uppity. You definitely get people a little more vulnerable because they’re showing their bodies, especially since male comedians all kind of have that same body — kind of pale, pasty, skinny fat thing.
Is there anything that’s surprised you about how people have handled the hot tub?
Jeff Ross, I found, became very vulnerable. I started roasting him and then he got a little mad at me, and then we just ended up having this deeper conversation which was what he really wanted to do. So that was fun, to kind of catch him in a different mode. Eric Andre, I think within four minutes of shooting, had spread his asshole to the camera, so you, know it varies.
That’s what I like too. Every one of them has its own vibe, and the water sort of acts as this neutralizing agent to really let people relax into themselves, and then we kind of take it from there.
Having done the hot tub thing, do you have any interest in taking a talk show to other unconventional locations?
We were just invited to do it at the Fun Fun Fun Festival in Austin in November, so Pig Bottom and our director for this round (Todd Strauss-Schulson) and I are going to Austin, and we’re going to get a Hummer limo with a hot tub in the back and interview some of the acts that interest me. I really want to interview Big Freedia, Cut Copy. Del the Funky Homosapien would be fun in the tub. Apparently Hummer limos with hot tubs in the back are illegal now in the state of Texas because apparently in Texas guns don’t kill people, mobile hot tubs kill people.
Tubbin’ with Tash releases new episodes every Wednesday. Natasha and Moshe Kasher will be performing at Caroline’s November 14-17