K&A: Harris Wittels


Julie Klausner chats with Harris Wittels, a standup comic, a TV writer, and the inventor of #humblebrag. He's also Julie Klausner's interview subject.


Julie Klausner: We've never met in real life. Is it weird that I've seen a photo of your penis?

Harris Wittels: It’d be weirder if you hadn’t seen a photo of my penis. There’s a ton of ‘em floating around out there.

JK: Pictures? Tee hee. Anyway, I must mention—I was so flattered that you read my book and you had the kindest thing to say about one of the smaller jokes in it. What prompted you to pick it up? I'm not fishing for a compliment (though if one falls in the boat, I wouldn't throw it back)—I'm just bemused you read it since you're not exactly the target audience? The target audience is ladies.

HW: I think growing up with an older sister made me a de facto lady at heart. I have seen every Sex and the City episode (was profoundly disappointed when Berger turned out to be a jerk). I had heard a lady friend of mine talk about how good the book was and I was in. It was a biography about someone loosely connected to me AND it was all about relationships?? Where do I sign!? … oh at the bottom of the receipt. Of course. Anyway, I completely enjoyed every dang word of it. So fun/sad/hilarious/real. I know you weren’t fishing, but you reeled in a marlin.

JK: Thank you, Harris Wittels. Now, enough about me—back to you! Were you a fan of Eastbound and Down before you began writing for it? What is that writers' room like?

HW: Eastbound was my all-time favorite show before I got to write on it for season 3. It was one of those shows that I hated as a writer because of how jealous I was and how it was everything I wanted to do. The writer’s room is every bit as fun as you’d think. It was Danny, Jody, a couple of other new writers and me. The first day I heard Danny pitch a joke for himself as Kenny Powers it blew my fucking mind. What was also great, was that nothing in the whole world was off limits to joke about in that writer’s room. (Was that lame? Like I’m trying to sound hardcore?)

JK: No, it's fine! So, Harris. You do a lot of different things—you're a standup, a TV writer, you act, you dance, you have a beautiful singing voice. Tell me: what did you do today? A "day in the life," if you will.

HW: My day to day life varies wildly depending on if I’m on a staff or not. When I am at Parks and Rec, I am up at 8am everyday and at work until about 9pm. However, during our three month hiatuses, I am a disgusting piece of garbage. I drank a ton last night, chased that with some vicodin, slept til one today and woke up only to fry some chicken. Though I did write for about two hours after that, so it wasn’t completely tragic.

JK: Mazel Tov! You play the part of "Harris" in the Sarah Silverman pilot. Did other actors audition for that role, even though it was (I assume) written for you? Do you think that must have been weird for them?

HW: This is impossible to not answer in Humblebrag form, but fuck it. I’m not sure if it was weird for the actors auditioning to play me, but it was definitely weird for me to audition to play me. I was getting notes on how to act more like myself, and the notes were correct is the weird part. I don’t know who I am evidently. Also, we did end up changing the name from Harris to Lloyd for the pilot, so that it at least sort of seems like I am actually acting.

JK: Do you have a favorite Humblebrag of all time? What makes it perfect?

HW: I’m not sure if I have an all-time favorite at this point. There have been thousands. I can say that my most recent favorite is this Steve Nash one: “1 of my fears is that my children's privileged life won't allow them to feel the same triumphs I've felt. And I wasn't poor. Hmmm.” A bit of a two-fer here. He asserts that not only is he privileged now, but that he grew up with money as well.

JK: Who do you hate following on Twitter but continue to follow, for guilt or out of obligation or for other reasons?

HW: Way too many political ramifications to mention. But, yeah, a ton. Everyone always talks about this “mute” function on Twitter, but I cant seem to find it. It’s like dry land in Waterworld.

JK: Is Facebook the worst? What about Instagram, what the fuck is that? Tumblr? Any thoughts?

HW: Facebook is great in terms of dating because you can see things you might not have discovered until date number 5. Like if their quote is by Jack Kerouac or the bible or something. Bullet dodged! Tumblr and Instagram feel like work to me. Count me out. 

I was a slightly rebellious type who didn’t think school mattered much. And I was right. And that is what I would tell a teenager today: school does not matter.


JK: Have you ever seen a ghost?

HW: Never seen a ghost, but I have accidentally sent an email before I was done writing it, which is equally as terrifying.


JK: Do you like Jewish girls?

HW: Very much so. I went to a Jewish sleepover camp for all of my prepubescent years, so most of my earliest sexual feelings were about summer camp Jewish girls. That shit sticks with you. That being said, I’m also into the girls of other religions (looking at you, Rastafarians).


JK: Are you going to continue writing for Parks & Recreation? What are some of the things you learned writing for that show? It was your first sitcom writing gig, is that correct? Or am I a fat dumb liar?

HW: I don’t think you are fat or dumb, but you are a liar.


JK: Thank you!!!!

HW: My first staff job was for The Sarah Silverman Program. So I learned so much at Sarah’s show, like how to write for TV. Then on Parks we were doing 22 episodes a season and learning under Greg Daniels and Mike Schur so that was like comedy writing school/boot camp. I learned so much about story and arcs and character development. Them dudes mad smart!


JK: What TV shows do you watch?

HW: I watch the obvious ones: your Mad Mens, your Game of Thrones, your Breaking Bads. Then I watch most reality stuffs. I’ll fuck with some Bachelor, House Wives (Jersey and Bev Hills predominately), Jersey Shore (not the new Pauly D spin-off. That shit is straight up boring). I just finished rewatching Six Feet Under for the second time. I’m not a huge sports guy, but I do love falling asleep to Sportscenter. It’s comforting.


JK: Was there a point during your comedic journey when you realized that you were more of a standup/writer than a "Character guy"? Or did I just insult you by not calling you a character guy? Is it worthwhile to make that distinction and to decide what you're good at and focus on it? Or to do everything you can?

HW: I’m not insulted. I am profoundly lazy, and doing characters and stuff takes so much effort. It’s way easier to just go be myself. On the flipside of that, I did do a lot of sketch stuff for many years, so I don’t think I’m like, the worst character guy. I can do a southern accent!


JK: Ooh! I know you are a fan of the band Phish. Did you ever like The Spin Doctors? Do you like them now?

HW: Why, do Phish sound like the Spin Doctors to you?  


JK: They seem to be in the same crunchy family.

HW: Frillz, my jamband in high school called “Pralines and Dik” (Wayne’s World ref) covered the song Two Princes by the Spin Doctors. That should tell you about all you need to know. And yes I still like that song. It’s catchy! Everyone else is wrong. Not me.


JK: Why don't you have a podcast? Is it legal for you not to have a podcast? It's like James Cromwell not being British, which my friend Alex pointed out was fucked up.

HW: James Cromwell isn’t British?!?? This interview is over. Okay, fine I’ll stay. I kind of sort do have a podcast actually. It’s called Analyze Phish where I attempt to get Scott Aukerman to like the band Phish. We only did 4 episodes, so I guess I don’t have that podcast anymore. Now, I don’t have one because I just found out James Cromwell isn’t British. 


JK: I'm sorry I had to break that news to you. Anyway, please describe the first time you did acid.

HW: I was at a high school dance sophomore year. My friends and I left the dance early and drove around in my friend’s station wagon listening to Weezer’s Pinkerton album all night (our sober friend was driving. Chill out). I sat in the way back in the hatch staring at traffic lights and having epiphanies about Pat Wilson’s drums on that album. Also, when the acid first came on in the school parking lot, I had what was probably the hardest 45 minute giggle fit I have ever had in my life. The entire world was funny to me. Truly magical. 


JK: What were you like as a teenager? What advice would you give teenagers today?

HW: I was a slightly rebellious type who didn’t think school mattered much. And I was right. And that is what I would tell a teenager today: school does not matter.


JK: Are you dating anybody right now? Please describe your dream date to me.

HW: I am not dating anyone, but I’m certainly not opposed to it. In the meantime I’m down to clown. My dream date definitely involves some degree of clowning.  Do you know anyone?


JK: Oh, yeah-- just this one clown, but she's not your type.


This article was originally published May 2012


K&A: Joe Mande


Julie Klausner chats with Joe Mande, a successful writer & standup, and a rapscallion on Twitter and a must-follow.


Julie Klausner: Hi Joe Mande! How are you liking living in Los Angeles so far?

Joe Mande: Los Angeles is good, thank you! I got a Prius and an apartment in Los Feliz.  I’m settling into an exciting new cliché!


JK: What will you miss least about your old neighborhood in Brooklyn?

JM: I’ve been away from Brooklyn for only two months, but already miss it very much. However, what I definitely don’t miss are the Brooklyn sidewalks, which seem to be constantly littered with an almost defiant amount of dog shit and used condoms. 



JK: When will your dog, Blanche be joining you in California? Do you think she will like LA? 

JM: I’m very excited for Blanche to become a California resident. Dogs just seem happier here. What LA lacks in used condoms on the sidewalk (her #2 favorite thing in the world), it more than makes up for in sunshine (her #1 favorite thing).


JK: Tell me about your friend JoeMande on OKCupid. Who do you think would be a good match for him, romantically?

JM: JoeMande is an enormous black man living in Norway whom I found recently online while googling myself. He seems pretty chill. If there is a massive Norwegian Nubian princess on OKCupid, I hope they find one another.


JK: I know you’re working for Parks & Rec now. Do you follow politics in general? I know that show isn’t really about politics. It is a workplace comedy! But I am using it as a point of departure.

JM: I follow many politicians on Twitter. Does that count?


JK: Yes. What do you think of Paul Ryan?

JM: He seems nice, but his views on women’s reproductive rights and the role of government in general frighten me and should prevent him from becoming the Vice President of the United States. That being said, I do think he looks like he could manage the fuck out of an Applebee’s.


JK: What is your Brunch order?

JM: That’s probably the hardest question to answer. Like, in life. I wish I could eat brunch for every meal. French toast is always a pretty safe bet. Sometimes I go crazy and get chicken and waffles. Or just a biscuit with cream cheese and hot pepper jelly. A lot of the time I just  want to stuff my face with baked eggs, you know? If a place knows how to make a good roasted tomato, fucking forget about it. (I could go on for another 8 pages, but will stop as a gesture of respect to your other questions.)


JK: That is wonderful. What was the last thing you looked at on the internet while you were high?

JM: I had recently developed a bad habit of watching a lot of open-heart surgeries on YouTube, but then my girlfriend requested that I stop doing that. I believe the last stoned YouTube rabbit hole I went down was watching all the various theme songs to Martin and the Cosby Show. Really great stuff. 


JK: What’s the whitest thing about you?

JM: I have a season pass for Meet the Press on my DVR.


JK: What were you like in junior high?

JM: I was about four feet tall, rollerbladed to school, masturbated constantly, wore Smashing Pumpkins and Beastie Boys t-shirts, and was elected student council president.


JK: Why don’t you have a podcast? Is that legal? You’re a standup comedian in LA.

JM: Well, I’ve noticed that the only things I talk about on a regular basis are: sneakers, coffee, The Newsroom, and the racial makeup of the Minnesota Timberwolves. I feel bad subjecting my friends to these conversations. I can’t even imagine recording myself and expecting strangers to listen to them.


JK: Do you like cats or do you think they are dumb?

JM: I get that cats are low maintenance, which is great. But the only cool cats I’ve ever met were the ones that acted like dogs. So just get a dog. I’m speaking to you specifically, Julie. I want you to get a dog.


JK: I WANT TO GET A DOG! I will get a dog when I inevitably move to LA. Until then, it’s Cats, Cats, Cats! Anyway. Please tell the world what you and your awesome girlfriend Kylie say to Blanche when she misbehaves.

JM: When Blanche acts up we say, “Time out, Blanche” and she runs into the bathroom and stares sadly into our bathtub.


JK: HAAHAHA! I love that. I miss you! This isn’t a question. 

JM: I miss you too. Am I getting fat? That is a question.


JK: No!!!!!


This article was originally published October 2012

K&A: Jackée Harry


Julie Klausner chats with Jackée Harry, you probably know her from 227, Ladybugs, and being fabulous.


Julie Klausner: Hello Jackée! Thank you for joining me for this interview. What are you doing this very moment? Please give our readers a sense of your current setting. You don’t have to tell them what you’re wearing, though that would certainly help.

Jackée Harry: Picture it: Beverly Hills. 2012. Yours truly has just settled into bed wearing a raw silk negligée and grabs her Kindle, longing to discover the 49th shade of the Fifty Shades Of Gray, while sipping on a delicious glass of Perrier-Jouët when suddenly, the phone rings. Enraged by the interruption, an agitated Jackée begins this interview. How’s that for my setting?

JK: Absolutely perfect! And I’m sorry to agitate. So, you are a hilariously funny actress. Who did you watch growing up and wanting to emulate? I know you’re a Lucille Ball fan.

JH: Yes, Lucy was an inspiration, as well as Rosalind Cash, Diahann Carroll, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (for whom I was named after).

JK: Any female comedians or comic performers you’re a huge fan of? Besides me, obviously?

JH: There are so many amazing comediennes out there! Some of my faves are you, of course, along with Jenny Johnson, Rachel Dratch, Lisa Lampanelli, Kathy Griffin, Wanda Sykes, Ellen Degeneres, Luenell, Joan Rivers, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and Tina Fey. 

JK: How did your career change after you won your Emmy?

JH: I added a few zeroes to my net worth, and discovered which of my accountants were genuinely honest people. None of them! In all seriousness, it was a career highlight, but a lonely experience for me.

JK: Do you find that people want you to be as sassy and man-hungry as Sandra from 227? What are some important differences between you and Sandra? Both of you have gorgeous breasts.

JH: Of course, people expect me to BE ‘Sandra.’ That’s absolutely ridiculous; we are NOTHING alike. Sandra kept a little black book, whereas I rely on my little Blackberry.

JK: Are you addicted to anything?

JH: Yes, being faaaaabulous! But I’m taking it one diamond at a time-- I mean, day. 

JK: That’s a sound philosophy. Tell me about the new projects you have on your horizon! I know you’re working on a new sitcom, First Family for Byron Allen’s production company?

JH: Yes, I taped the pilot for that series with Gladys Knight, Marla Gibbs, Kellita Smith, Christopher B. Duncan, and John Witherspoon. I’m also doing a play with Marla, Let The Church Roll On, and just shot a film with Dan Garcia and Clifton Powell. My very own product line may be hitting stores soon also. I’m not ready to reveal what type of products yet, but you’ll be one of the first to know.

JK: I love products! Speaking of Byron Allen, have you ever seen an episode of Comics Unleashed?

JH: YES, and that show is a Godsend! Before then comics were so… leashed? 

JK: Agreed. What is it like working with Gladys Knight?

JH: Working with Gladys is perhaps one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in my career. She’s humble, reverent…a true legendary talent. Not to mention, she travels with an entourage of gorgeous men she calls “Pips.” What’s not to love?

JK: What makes you laugh?

JH: When funny thangs are heard, endorphins are released within my brain and the zygomatic and risorius muscles found in my face contract, resulting in a stunning smile. Then my vocal cords vibrate uncontrollably forcing a burst of air out of my mouth, which produces a “hahahaha” sound.

JK: I love a technical answer. What’s your cocktail?

JH: Grey Goose… chilled.

JK: How often do you Google yourself?

JH: I never Google myself, but I Bing myself at least twice a day.

JK: Brilliant. What websites do you visit before noon?

JH: myidriselba.com and zaxbys.com. LOVE them chicken tenders. 

JK: What’s the most scandalous thing you’ve done today alone?

JH: I plead the fifth. Let’s just say it involves a strappy pair of Christian Louboutins, whipped topping, and solar panels. 

JK: That’s very green! Tell me something people wouldn’t generally know about you.

JH: I ALWAYS wake up looking fucking fabulous. Without failure.

JK: Of course. Can you share a particularly tender memory of working with Rodney Dangerfield?

JH: The entire experience of working with Rodney was great. I miss him dearly. 

JK: Who, besides your son, is the love of your life?

JH: All three of my husbands, and my Emmy, first name- Edwin.

JK: You have one of the longest and most diverse careers of anyone working—what advice would you give to people who are in between jobs and don’t want to give into feeling too blue or inactive?

JH: Keep the faith and cast all of your troubles upon a full sleeve of Golden Oreos.

JK: Golden Oreos! Interesting. Moving on—when you tweet that you’re getting your #CardioGroove on, what does that generally mean? The Elliptical? Sex?

JH: Aren’t they one in the same, darling? 

JK: Have you ever slept with one of your fans?

JH: Hell no! I always have them leave before dawn.


JK: What’s something you’d love to do in your career?

JH: Idris Elba. 

JK: Thank you Jackée! I love you—you are my absolute favorite!

JH: I love you MOST, Jules. Thank you! xox


This article was originally published July 2012