Kate Flannery is best known for her scene-stealing role on The Office, where she plays booze-soaked, oddball Meredith. But her comedy roots run deep, especially in sketch and improv. And now’s she’s at the helm of a new show, Standup in Stilettos on TV Guide Network, where she gets to expose some of the best female comedians in the country every Saturday. We recently sat down with Flannery in New York to chat about the show, the upcoming ninth season of The Office and much more. Check it out!
How did you get started doing comedy?
I was actually in college in Philadelphia at the University for the Arts. I auditioned for a comedy group called Comic Relief which is kind of a terrible name considering at the time they had that charity benefit for the homeless called Comic Relief with Whoopi Goldberg. So I’d have to explain to people “Not THAT Comic Relief.” I had a really good time doing it. I had an aunt in Chicago who encouraged me to come visit and check out Second City. I remember my first night there I was so blown away, I felt like, ‘Oh my god, this is the greatest place on the planet.’ And I immediately started saving my pennies. I think I was there less than six months later. I auditioned for classes for the Second City training center and then I got hired by the Annoyance Theater first and then Second City Touring company which is like the Holy Grail. So I had a really terrific experience.
Standup In Stilettos features all female comedians. But is it geared to just women?
It’s for everyone. Some of the subject matter is female but I also feel like it’s just women, you know… The truth is funniest so it’s women talking about their lives.
Why is it necessary for a show like this to exist?
It’s kind of ridiculous that it’s 2012 and there has never been a series with female stand-ups. It’s just long overdue.
Why is it important to you?
I just think it’s fun…Wait– why is it important to me? Because I’m a female! And I’m in comedy! Yes! And it’s nice to have a safe place where we actually support each other. We’re not trying to gross each other out– although we might try to gross each other out. There’s no sexism. It’s kind of like the all-girls school. It’s like you can excel freely and you don’t have to worry about if you run into some guy.
I read that when you were in Second City there were only two females per cast. Is that true?
That is true. Yeah, actually by the time I left it became half and half. But it took a while. Before I started it was one female and five men. It was kind of ridiculous.
Did that bother you when you were starting out?
It only bothered me when I realized how it was messed up– after they righted the wrong notes. It was like, ‘Hey wait a second how come they didn’t have three and three before? What took them so long?’ But yeah, you sort of accept what you’re getting yourself into and I wasn’t suffering or anything.
How different from then is the comedy world now, would you say?
I think there’s just room for everybody. I feel like there’s so much talent and I just think that men have evolved, the world has evolved. The whole idea that women aren’t funny is just so over. It’s so old-fashioned. It’s just kind of finished.
Are you excited for season nine of The Office?
Always. It’s always great to go back to work. It’s like the greatest gig. The greatest writers. It’s something I’m continually proud of and so humbled to be a part of. It will always be my most proud job because it’s such a respectable show on so many levels and so many people relate to it.
A lot of people have been coming and going on the show. This past season James Spader and Mindy Kaling left for her own show on Fox…
I’m hoping she’s going to come back to tie up [her character] Kelly. I think she has to. I have no idea what’s happening but I’m declaring — no, I’m hoping by saying it, that it will make it true. She’s such a brilliant writer. So great. I’m very sorry to see her go, but happy for her! It’s bittersweet.
How do you think the next season will be different?
I don’t think it’s going to be that different. I don’t anticipate that. I know Catherine Tate’s coming back and I know she’ll be on for the whole season which is going to really rev things up. I have to say I’m very happy there’s another fiery redhead on the show, along with Ellie Kemper.
How much do you identify with your character Meredith, who’s often boozing too much and carousing?
What are you implying? [laughs] I identify as an observer but also my dad owned a bar so I totally understand this beast. And I understand the alcoholic woman. I’ve certainly served a lot of alcoholic women, you know, I understand the humor in it too. I know it’s a dark humor but it’s humor nonetheless.
She’s kind of a weird, almost not-human, oddball character.
Sort of, yeah. You’d be surprised. Living in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston — there are a lot of Merediths. Actually, what am I saying? Probably in Arizona, there are a lot of Merediths.
Do you have a wild side?
[laughs] Yeah, my boyfriend and I do a lot of fun stuff. Wild side? I’m not like putting keys in a bowl at a party if that’s what you’re talking about. But we do go to a lot of art shows and we still go to punk bands sometimes — and I’m not too old to say that — but I feel like we’re very much in the world. I feel like I’ve actually had a better time; I know some people don’t go out as much because they don’t want to deal with people who recognize them but I feel like if anything I feel like I’ve enjoyed my life more since I’ve been on the show.
Do you get stopped a lot?
Sometimes it depends where we are. Sometimes I’ll get a little nod or a “heeeey,” And people are always really nice and it’s funny if you’re at a bar or something, it’s good to be the drinker, the TV drunk. It’s always a warm reception. I haven’t had any angry mothers upset or mad at me. There’s been no disciplinary lectures of any kind for portraying a drunk character so I’m so relieved about that.
What would you like to see Meredith get into this season?
I feel like the nice thing about my character is that she has not worn her welcome. I would like to see some love interest I don’t think it was to be openly explored but it would be nice and interesting to see.
Is there anyone you would like to see her get with on the show?
I sort of feel like she’s kind of been there done that with whoever on the show. We’ve already established that she’s been with Creed. He doesn’t remember but she clearly does. And I don’t really see Gabe or even Darryl — I don’t know; it may have to be an outside source. I wouldn’t mind, actually, meeting Meredith’s ex-husband. I think that’s been hinted at. There are children involved, so of course there has to be an ex-husband. She’s been supposedly divorced twice so that’s what I’d like to see, an ex-husband, yeah.
We were talking earlier about how women not being funny is an old argument. Did you see Adam Carolla’s interview?
I did. I actually think it’s really weird that it made the news. Really? That’s what you’re running? It just feels like a slow news day to me. I’ve done Adam’s show many times. I think he’s really funny, I thought he thought I was funny but apparently, maybe he doesn’t realize I’m a woman. No, I’m just kidding. I also want to think that maybe Adam hasn’t gotten out to the clubs lately. It’s like, are you kidding me? Come on, dude. Really?
So you don’t feel like you need to prove yourself to him?
Check out Kate Flannery hosting Standup In Stilettos every Saturday at 10 pm ET on TV Guide Network. Season nine of The Office premieres Sept. 29 on NBC.