If you haven’t seen Chelsea Peretti’s stand-up, her work on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or her Twitter account, it’s time for you to catch up. Her observations are honest, sometimes dark, yet her laugh makes you feel like you’ve been taking life way too seriously. I chatted with Peretti about her new comedy special on Netflix One of the Greats (premiering Nov. 14), her Khal Drogo fantasies and much more.
Leading up to One of the Greats, did you binge watch any other specials in preparation?
I don’t really binge watch tons of comedy, but I looked at openings of comedy specials. I knew I wanted to make fun of some of the cookie cutter aspects of comedy specials and in particular like how grandiose a lot of the openings are in comedy specials. A lot of times, it really feels like someone’s about to take a rocket to the moon or something. The intros can be so overblown.
One of my favorite things about your special was that you had dogs in the audience, like actual dogs. What was the reason for that?
What always drove me crazy about older stand-up productions is that the cutaway to the audience is always like a woman looking confused after a joke. It’s like you’re actually degrading the material of the comedian by showing an audience member who’s sort of laughing, or looks confused, or someone’s who’s not even looking at the stage. What’s running through someone’s mind when they insert that clip into the middle of someone’s special? There’s just something sort of bizarre about it.
Those cutaways are in there for a reason. You want to be able to edit between two different shows that you tape and then you choose your favorites from those shows. If I have to use that device for technical reasons, I want to have fun with it and have it be something I have creative control over. I want to say something with it. In my half hour special, I had a joke about how fun it would be to be in room full of puppies, so for me it was really satisfying to be able to actually implement that and have dogs in the audience.
No, I’m not really as excited creatively by cats.
I love the bit in One of the Greats where you make fun of guys who use the stool and microphone onstage to reenact sex they’ve had with women.
At stand-up shows there have been a lot of times where I’ve been waiting to go onstage and I’m watching a comic performing a lot of the same trickery over and over. Using the mic as a dick, using a stool, making loud sound effects into the mic while you cup your hands over the entire mic making helicopter sounds or whatever it is. It’s almost like being a snake charmer. There are a lot of comedians that do these different things to kind of pacify the audience. I’ve never been a) good at that or b) interested in doing that.
Can a stool and a mic be used in a more interesting way onstage, other than for telling dick jokes?
There are no hard rules in comedy. As soon as you start making rules, there’s going to be an exception to it. If you want to use the stool, I’m on board, it’s just when you see the same joke over and over, that’s when it becomes a problem. It’s really about being original.
Who are some of your comedic influences?
I started in New York, so there was a whole group of Comedy Cellar comedians that I looked up to. There were a lot of these tough New York guys that really mentored me like Greg Giraldo, Mike DeStefano, and Bill Burr. Sarah Silverman hired me for my first writing job in LA. I also love Todd Glass and Todd Barry. I got to see Joan Rivers a bunch of times live in New York. I was really blown away by her stand-up. She was always so edgy and sharp, especially for an older person but even for a younger person I was really impressed with her.
A lot of my influences didn’t do stand-up. When I was younger, I loved Gilda Radner, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, Roseanne, Larry David…there’s just so many influences. I really enjoyed Monty Python and the Holy Grail, all of the Christopher Guest movies, and Rushmore. I also liked Jim Carey and Martin. I liked a whole range of comics.
I think you give off a very relaxed vibe when you’re doing stand-up. How do you think you come off onstage?
I don’t know. It’s so interesting getting external feedback because I always feel like I’m scared and angry. For this special I really wanted to find that more relaxed place of silliness because I have anger and I have things that irritate me. Part of the thing that I like in myself is silliness and I wanted to have that be a part of the special. During my first five years of stand-up, I felt like I was trying to prove that I was tough, that I could command an audience.
I felt like there was pressure to prove that I was tough. That also may have to do with starting in New York. The New York tough guys who were so sweet, kind, and supportive. They encouraged me so much in just a few words. It was so meaningful to me where as some people seem really nice, but I don’t find them as warm on a deeper level. I kind of just wanted to have more of a range and not be as guarded onstage.
Who do you wish had Twitter back in the day? Who would you have followed?
Marry/Fuck/Kill: The Brooklyn Nine Nine edition. Jake Peralta, Terry Jeffords, or Captain Ray Holt. Yes, I am aware that the Captain Holt is gay, but still.
This puts me in a very awkward position because I’d have to kill the gay guy. Let’s leave it at that.
Who would you like to see as a guest star on Brooklyn Nine Nine?
Who would his character be?
He would play Khal Drogo. It would be a time travel episode. What if it was just Gina’s daydream at work? She’s just thinking about Khal Drogo. But seriously, it would be the same kind of people I listed as my heroes. Larry David, Amy Poehler, Danny McBride…
Danny McBride would make a great fake detective.
Yeah. That would be so funny.
Is acting, writing, or stand-up closest to your heart?
They’re all pretty close to my heart. I try not to do anything that I don’t feel really passionate about. I don’t have that good of a poker face.
What’s your favorite city to do stand-up in?
I love Washington D.C. I have a lot of fun there. I thought they were great. They’re kind of known for being a great comedy crowd. I think that’s probably where I would want to shoot my next special.
Have you done any international touring?
No I haven’t, aside from comedy festivals in Montreal and Vancouver.
Do you think there’s a country your stand-up material would be well received in?
I think England. I would like to go there. A lot of people also tell me I should go to Toronto, so I’d like to go there as well.
There’s an all female Ghostbusters reboot coming out. Can you think of any classic films that might be awesome to reboot with an all female cast?
Isn’t it more interesting to think about if Golden Girls was all male?
You just blew my mind.
Or just Steel Magnolias, but you do a gay guy reboot. That would actually be interesting to do gay guy remakes of guy movies. You could do butch, masculine, straight guy movies and then you put gay characters into those situations. What’s cool about it is I think that people write such colorful characters for men and frequently it’s just engrained in all of us to write female characters way less adventuresome and varied. I think it’s changing a lot right now, which is good. I think doing the entire cast that way, you could just flip a couple parts and that would be cool too.
So who would be in the all male reboot of the Golden Girls? Maybe they’d be called the Golden Boys.
The Golden Boys. I just like old people a lot. Let’s see, how about Larry David? Larry David, Christopher Guest, and Danny McBride as the young one (laughs). Also, Gerard Depardieu. Kelsey Grammer would be good. Fred Willard is always a classic too. Maybe we should put in like a serious actor too. This is all getting so hard. I need to get a pen and paper and start getting to work.