By Juliet Izon | January 12, 2016 | People
Writing partners Jillian Bell and Charlotte Newhouse’s Comedy Central show Idiotsitter debuts on January 14. We chat with the comediennes to find out what inspired the show and how they reacted when they found out they were picked up for broadcast.
Jillian Bell (LEFT) and Charlotte Newhouse (RIGHT) have joined forces for Comedy Central's Idiotsitter.
Friends since writing improv sketches together for LA’s famed troupe The Groundlings, actresses and writers Jillian Bell and Charlotte Newhouse bring their critically-acclaimed web series Idiotsitter to broadcast this month. The comedy centers around Gene (Bell), a spoiled yet fun-loving ne’er-do-well and her “nanny,” the whip-smart and rule-abiding Billie (played by Newhouse). As you can imagine, hijinks and hilarity ensue when the two are forced to cohabitate.
We caught up with the duo in advance of the show’s premiere to chat about creating their characters, bringing the series to TV, and what they’re working on next.
You met at Groundlings in LA—how did you know you’d be compatible writing partners?
CHARLOTTE NEWHOUSE: I got into the main company at Groundlings a little before Jillian did, so I would watch her perform [in the Sunday company]. I remember the first time I saw her, she did a skit where she was a Southern news reporter. I just thought she was amazing. And we’d only talked like once and we talked about how we both liked Annie Lennox. Then she got into the main company and we had our first meeting; it was for the holiday show. I pitched this crazy idea of, we’re two women, our families hate us, we hate the holidays, and we’re all singing Christmas carols on a karaoke machine. So then, we accidentally put in the wrong code and “Walking on Broken Glass” comes on. And these women get up and they really want to sing and they find themselves breaking all the glasses. And they start getting enraged. And then Jillian goes, “At the end, they take all the glass shards and they put them in a line and they walk over them.” And it was like, not only did she get my crazy idea but she made it 100 times better.
JILLIAN BELL: I just got teary eyed! Wow! We just sort of realized that our brains are pretty similar when it comes to writing comedy. So, after writing one sketch together we were like, “Oh, you’re my writing partner.” So, congratulations … or I’m sorry.
When did the idea for Idiotsitter come about?
JB: That was the first thing that we decided to write together. And the fact that it worked out to be a television show is blowing our minds. We got together and were trying to make something for a pretty cheap budget. You know, film it in one location. We created the characters and that’s sort of how it started.
CN: How we came up with the story was really budgetary. Ultimately, we had to shoot it ourselves and have it be in one location.
JB: A really unsexy story… and then Charlotte and I started sleeping with the same man! [laughs]
Was it based on anyone you had met in real life?
JB: Not really. I think they’re clearly characters, but they’re also heightened versions of where we could be. But Charlotte’s pretty darn smart!
CN: And Jillian’s so immature [laughs]. Gene is not like you, except that she’s adorable. And my parents are pretty affluent. They’re not like Gene’s parents, but we get a peek into that role, Jillian and I, when we hang out with my folks and their ilk. It definitely helps. I sort of based it on my parents’ crowd.
JB: No one is like [Gene’s stepmother] Tanzy, really. Although, that is my mom’s actual name. She’s thrilled by the fact that her name is on a TV show, but it’s also the ditzy woman who spends all of her husband’s money.
Did you know which characters you wanted to play from the start?
CN: I think we didn’t. We would be writing it and we’d talk out the scenes. We’d just automatically take the voices. I’d be Billie and she’d be Gene. So it kind of naturally developed.
Was it intentional that you picked two masculine first names?
CN: I think it was “Billie Jean,” the Michael Jackson song. We thought it was funny. The Gene name came first. We wanted this very proper name like Genevieve that you could shorten to something really masculine like Gene. That fit her character; what her parents call her and what she calls herself. And then Billie came because we thought that would be cute.
JB: And her full name is Wilhelmina and no one calls her that. I don’t think anyone ever calls Gene, Genevieve. That’s just a little thing for us to know. And anyone who reads this interview.
This series was originally webisodes that then got picked up for broadcast. How did you feel when you found out?
JB and CN: We jumped into a pool with our clothes on.
JB: We were hanging out with her parents [at their]—I feel like I should call it a summer home?
CN: You can say their Hamptons house.
JB: Okay, they have a Hamptons house. So, we got the call and we were like, “You guys aren’t serious, right? You’re really making this into a TV show?” And they were like, “Yeah, we’re going to.” So we said, “Thank you so very much,” and hung up the phone. And then we screamed, ran around the yard, and jumped into the pool with all our clothes on. And then after swimming for two minutes, we—
CN: Freaked out.
JB: We had to write a show!
CN: We were happy for about two minutes and then were like, “Oh my God!”
JB: Reality sunk in.
You’re finished with the first season, so what are you working on now?
CN: I’m working on a couple of scripts.
JB: We’re working on a movie for MGM called Let’s Get Married. We’re on our third draft of that. And then we’re going to start writing this other movie that we’re super excited about. And we’re keeping that one under wraps.
CN: It’s an alien movie! [laughs] It’s not. But now we have to write an alien movie.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RACHEL MURRAY/GETTY IMAGES FOR COMEDY CENTRAL (BELL); JOHN SCIULLI/GETTY IMAGES FOR COMEDY CENTRAL (NEWHOUSE)