Comedians Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer are about to unleash a second season of their late-night show Nikki & Sara Live—in fact, it’s going down tonight at 11 pm ET on MTV. Glaser and Schaefer created their podcast You Had to be There in 2011 and ever since the comedians’ popularity have grown exponentially. MTV brass obviously saw the potential to create a show around the pair and audiences agreed.
But well before MTV, Glaser established herself as a seasoned comic (even if she’s only 29), criss-crossing the country as a headliner, playing the country’s finer comedy festivals and earning spots on Conan and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She even scored her her own half-hour special, which debuted this past May on Comedy Central.
During Nikki & Sara Live’s hiatus, I caught up with both Glaser and Schaefer to find out what we could expect this season as well as what other projects the two friends are working on. I posted the Schaefer interview a few weeks ago and today, I’m finally posting my chat with Glaser. I say “finally,” because – to be perfectly transparent – I did this interview many weeks ago. I think it was worth the wait— and, anyway, it coincides with the season two premiere. So, enjoy!
What would you say was the biggest learning curve you had to endure during the first season?
We’re constantly striving to get better at celebrity interviews. We’ve done a lot of comedian interviews on our podcast and we’ve formed a foundation there but it’s harder when you’re not dealing with a comedian— and maybe they’re not always ready on-hand with a joke for everything. So, you kind of have to get that out of them. It can be difficult and it’s something I want to definitely to get better at. I’ve been watching a lot of late night shows to see how they’re doing interviews to see if I can get any tips.
But really, it’s very similar to stand-up– you kind of have to just go with the flow. You can’t do another take. So the show really does feel like stand-up to me, especially since we’re telling jokes during the first act. And it’s like the first time we’re telling them, so there is that excitement and that anxiety you feel when you do stand-up. And then when you’re done it’s done, there’s no editing— you’re just like, ‘Oh well, that’s just what happened.’ It’s a thrill.
That’s great that you’re able to use your stand-up skills for what I’d assume would’ve felt totally foreign to you.
Yeah, it’s very similar to stand-up. I didn’t know I was going to enjoy it so much. Stand-up is what I’ve been doing now for 10 years and I’ll always do it, so I just didn’t know that I was going to be able to collaborate with other people, and relinquish some control. I have all the control in my stand-up act — that’s all me — and then suddenly I’m having to rely on writers because I can’t do it all for the show. It’s kind of scary to be like, ‘Okay, you go do this,’ and have to trust other people.
But, I’ve found that I’m not always right, my instincts are not always right. And that was a hard thing for me to face. There will be things in the script where it’s like, ‘I’m not saying that, that’s not funny.’ But then Sara’s like, ‘I think it’s funny’ and I’m like, ‘Well I don’t’ and she’s like, ‘Well then I’ll say it’ and I’m like ‘great,’ and then she does it on the show and it’s her best joke.
There are a lot of moments on camera where I was certain something wasn’t funny or I was certain something was funny and I was totally off. I learned a lot from the other writers in terms of what works on TV and what doesn’t. It’s different than doing it in front of a live stand-up crowd. So that threw my game off at first. It was a challenge, but it’s so fun. I love having a staff, I love having an office to go to every day, I like the structure that stand-up has never afforded me. I didn’t know I could work well with others but I’ve learned that it’s way better.
Has the show affected your stand-up at all?
It sucked being on hiatus from the show. I was like, ‘What do I do now?’ Getting back to stand-up every night was hard. I took some time off from stand-up during the show and I had to then figure out how to talk about myself again, as opposed to celebrities on the show. It was actually really rewarding to not talk about myself for a while.
Since you’re so used to performing all your own material onstage, was reading off a teleprompter a problem for you?
That actually never even occurred to me. I’m not really a storyteller on stage. It’s not like the jokes come out totally different every time. So I feel like I kind of thrive in that structure. With the teleprompter, I know where everything is going. Plus it’s great because you don’t have to remember anything and if you mess up you can just blame the teleprompter. But sometimes I feel like my brain goes dyslexic. You become very dependent on it and that’s scary. That’s the scariest part.
Does doing the show, where you have to play with others, make you enjoy stand-up any more?
It does make me enjoy it more. It’s a different part of my brain working to come up with jokes for the stage than it is on the show. After the first season, I had to retrain my brain for stand-up like, ‘What do I talk about again? What’s my life?’ Because your life becomes work and no one wants to hear you talk about work. I’ll tell you this, it’s nice to not sit in hair and make up for two hours. It’s nice to have that control back and be able to be filthy onstage and not having the network be like, ‘Don’t say that!’
I would think MTV is pretty loose with their rules.
Yeah, and its late night so you could get away with more. I’m actually surprised at what they’ve let us get away with. We work more with innuendos than anything but we know the boundaries so we work within them. It’s rare that MTV says, ‘You cant do that.’ There was one time where we had made a joke about Glee, about it becoming a musical on Broadway—and at the end of the story a gay man exploded. And our thought was that he was so excited about the news that he just like blew up, but then the network was like. ‘No you’re making an ejaculation joke.’ We had to change the wording. Sometimes the network reads into things more than we do.
Was there one celebrity you interviewed during the first season you were most excited about?
I think the most exciting thing was for sure when we did interviews at the MTV Movie Awards. We were on the red carpet and we were doing a bit where we were trying to touch as many celebrities as possible. That was our last episode and it really felt fitting because we finally found the type of thing we always want to be doing on the show. That last episode felt like such a great mix of everything we want to do– it was all over the place but it was really fun. We were doing this bit but we didn’t tell anyone we were doing it and we were touching all these people. But then Steve Carell came up and we only had a few seconds with him so we had to tell him what we were doing. We said, ‘We’re doing this bit and we just want you to freak out, like do something weird.’ And he was like great! He agreed to do the bit, so it was amazing and hilarious. It was a dream come true to do a bit with Steve Carell.
How has your your personal life changed since you’ve been on the show?
Not at all.
It’s so funny– people are like, ‘Are you getting recognized?’ I literally have been recognized zero times.
Well once Sara and I went a Taylor Swift concert. Taylor Swift is a fan of our show and so she invited us to her concert, which was just the most awesome thing that’s maybe ever happened to me. So backstage we were just swimming in our demo so we got recognized there, but that was like the best. If you could pick any place to be recognized that would be it, and we were together. But I love that my life hasn’t changed.
And you’re still doing the podcast with Sara?
Yeah, and we’re possibly working on a book and we’ve got other projects in the works. The book idea is in the very early stages but we’re hoping its something that we can do within the year. We think there’s a market for it; we want to tell teens some things. It might be advice, it might be celebrity based, it could be more like our show; we have stuff to say. I love working with Sara; she’s someone who keeps me motivated and we just chill and bounce off each other really well. I just never thought I could find someone like her that I trust and who I think is so hilarious.