We got a chance to talk to Laura Silverman while she was walking her poodle pomeranian, Senator, a couple of days ago. She named him Senator mostly because he’s regal and very confident. But she also named him that so she could say things like, “Senator, quit pissing on the carpet!”
And that’s exactly the kind of reason why we were excited to hear about her new project “Goodnight Burbank.” The show is being dubbed by its creator Hayden Black as the first half-hour comedy made for the Internet. Silverman—who is probably best known for her roles on “Dr. Katz,” “King of Queens,” “The Comeback,” and “The Sarah Silverman Program”—might be the best part about it.
Silverman and Black play intrepid, impossible TV reporters with an Estonian producer. It is manically quick, very funny and it premieres on Hulu today.
Here’s that conversation with Silverman while she was walking Senator. We’ve omitted sentences like, “Senator, get out of the bushes,” which is entirely too bad.
Hulu: Tell me about how you got involved in “Goodnight Burbank.”
Laura Silverman: It just sort of came about randomly, like most things happen. We were both at a show at Largo for a mutual acquaintance. (“Goodnight Burbank” creator) Hayden (Black) and I —we both sort of knew friends of friends. Anyways, we were waiting. There was so much time backstage waiting. He started talking me up about it. He’s like, “I’m writing a script for a friend of mine.”
I thought he was just another guy and it was another random meeting. I was like, “He can’t be interested in me, personally.” I thought maybe he’d just run into me and I was the closest thing to celebrity he was able to talk to. But he sounded very sincere. He was saying, “I’d love to have you play the lead. I understand if you don’t want to do that, but just take a look at it.” I love acting and I’ve been out of work. You just never know. He won me over.
So it was a totally natural thing and he won you over?
It was an organic thing, but that made me wary too. I thought, “Maybe I just got lucky.” As it turned out, I think I did. I said, “I don’t think you had me in mind, but I think this worked.”
People are lying if they don’t tell you that your first thought, when you read a script, is usually, “I’m not right for this.” Everybody’s human. I guess, if you don’t find other dimensions. So I did it, initially, just to challenge myself. I was like, “Oh, you have nothing better to do.” But then I fell in love with it.
Where did you build up all of that—let’s say—bitterness for this character? Did you go back to any shows to figure out any inspiration?
I don’t really know. If anything, I’d catch myself at times, because I’d just watch “The Comeback” (Lisa Kudrow’s post-Friends HBO series) for the first time in years. I had never played anything that was sort of like the adult in the room. I would catch myself if I though I was feeling a little bit too much like that character. Because I’ve always been, traditionally, playing a younger character. Or, as my friend called it the other day, “entering the middle period.” That’s been my hump in transitioning —I like being middle period, but it can be tricky.
Do you see yourself transitioning more to drama in the future?
I would love to. I love doing comedy and I embrace it. But I don’t think of myself as a comedic actress, so much as I just love being an actress. I don’t do the sort of things that comedians are supposed to do. I love to laugh. I’ve always wanted to do drama. So I’d love to, but I’m super happy to do whatever comes along.
We were talking a little bit about this before. Have you mastered the tricks to being in between roles yet?
So here’s my embarrassing/flattering story about unemployment. So I finally broke down. I filled out the application online. Sometimes you have to do the phone interview to prove that you’re actually unemployed enough for this. So someone calls me up one morning and says they’re from unemployment. I’m like, “Okay, cool, let’s do this. This is something you have to do.” So it’s this guy who sounds like a really young guy. “Hi, is this Laura Silverman? I just processed your unemployment claim.” And then he starts giggling. He goes, “I just wanted to call and say hi.” And I’m thinking, “Wow, customer service at unemployment is really great! They’re just calling to say hi?”
And then I realized that he just recognized my name. So I’m, like, for a half a second I’m really flattered, but then I’m mortified because it’s unemployment.
Tell me a little bit more about the show! That seems like a considerably less morbid conversation!
Hayden did an amazing job with the script. And producing it. It’s got something sort of special about it. It feels very intimate. There’s nothing sort of directed outward.
I really hope people like it. We just shot it in the weekends in the middle of the night in Burbank. It kind of snowballed. Jim Rash from “Community.” John Barrowman from “Doctor Who.”
How did so many people get involved in this?
Once you get the ball rolling, or they’d see footage or the trailer—I don’t know, really. I got Dominic (Monaghan) involved. We’ve become great friends, too. I don’t know how it happened. He loved it. He was only supposed to do one, but we brought him back for another episode.
I think there’s one, huge gap in logic in this show, though: I think you’re implying that news anchors feel feelings.
To me, the thing that’s really interesting is that it’s really hard work. People have aspirations. They want to become national anchors, or something different altogether. Unless they enjoy the local fame, then that’s one thing.
I was thinking the other day—this is part of the unemployment thing—acting, as a career: What a f***ing stupid thing to do? You’re never a doctor and go, “Why am I a doctor?” There’s only so many (acting) jobs. So you can sit there and cry and say, “All I want is to be a regular on a hit TV show. Is that so much to ask?” Yeah, it is! It really is!
So they’re probably thinking the same thing: “God, what a stupid thing to do!” How many national news anchors are there? Ten? So there’s got to be hopefulness, so that it’s still funny. But it has to be believable. I think we show how much of that sniping is for self-preservation.
It’s also a very smart show. There’s a lot of comedy right now that’s just using the argument that rich people are religious and conservative and making fun of that. It’s easy to dismiss religions and cultures. But we make fun of that structure itself, now, too.
And we shot at such weird hours. The schedule was 4 p.m. to 4 a.m., Friday to Sunday. Because everybody else had jobs. We started shooting in Burbank in the summer and it was way too hot. Then it got to be winter, so we were freezing out there. I had the flu, full-on, during the course of the episode. A lot of people had that flu. But we kept going because we just loved it so much.