Over the past five years, Sara Schaefer has become a rising force in the world of comedy. After snagging two Emmys for her work on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the time she spent behind-the-scenes — which also included writing for Who Wants to be a Millionaire — gave way to co-hosting duties on You Had to be There, the hugely popular podcast she created in 2011 with comedian Nikki Glaser.
And while the two close friends still host the podcast, it’s been on hiatus since the middle of May, but for great reasons. First, much needed vacations were in order. And second, Schaefer and Glaser are gearing up for the sophomore season of Nikki & Sara Live, MTV’s late-night chat show born from the podcast. Schaefer also has no fewer than two other projects in the works: She created and executive produced an MTV pilot for a fashion-themed game show. And, she’s working on her own radio show for WNYC, New York’s public radio station. She’ll also make her stand-up comedy television debut later this year on John Oliver’s New York Stand Up Show on Comedy Central.
So, with the second season of Nikki & Sara Live set to premiere on July 30 at 11 pm ET on MTV, we thought it was time to check in with both hosts– comedians Glaser and Schaefer. In the first of two interviews, I chatted with Sara about what viewers could expect in the coming weeks, the challenges she faced in season one (and will face in the future), how her personal life as changed and much more. Check it out below!
What’s in store for season two of Nikki & Sara Live?
One of the things we’re focusing on is the guests. We’ve been talking about how to expand beyond just like random celebrities– not that who we had on during the first season were random or not good. But we’re just trying to get guests who are really interesting and different— maybe someone who’s famous on YouTube. Or someone you’ve never seen on a late night show before.
We’re also trying to figure out where we should use other comedians. Where should we use me and Nikki’s talent? Season two’s main goal is to be a sharper, funnier, better show. And we’ve been strategizing on how we can raise the profile of the show and do more and more interactive stuff with the fans. I think we’re just kind of going in the same direction we were in season one, but we’ll mix up some of the structure of the show. Only a little bit, though. I think we liked mainly what’s been happening and we’ll evolve as we go.
I think that’s a great idea, bringing on Internet-famous people as guests. It speaks to the MTV demographic and no one on television is really doing that consistently.
Yeah, it’s something we’ve been talking about. Another challenge with season one, was like, there’s a very narrow group of celebrities [everybody knows] and that we can make fun of. So in season two, we’re going to face the dilemma of how to write jokes about the same group of celebrities and not go to that mean, snarky territory that we’ve been trying to avoid. There’s a little bit of an edge in what we do but, for instance, we would never call a female celebrity fat. That’s just something we agreed on from the beginning. That’s just not the type of show we are.
What celebrity guest really stood out to you in season one?
I really liked Max Irons (video below). He’s Jeremy Iron’s son, and he’s an actor, and I can’t even remember what movie he was in that he was promoting – that could get me in trouble – but he was just such a delightful guy. I just liked him a lot as a person. There’s certain guests that you’re thinking, ‘Oh we could be friends, do you want to be friends?’ I was so thinking, ‘Would it be weird to ask for his phone number afterwards?’ Not in a dating kind of way, but in a friendship kind of way. Like, I want this to continue, I don’t want to say bye now. I also think our final guest Olly Murs was adorable and really fun.
Yeah, that was a great interview.
Yeah it was really fun. I think anyone that sort of seems very real and is just excited to be there and not acting like they’re too cool for us, that’s the best.
Nikki mentioned to me you got invited to go to a Taylor Swift concert.
Yeah! Taylor Swift invited us to her concert. She wasn’t on our show, but I guess she heard about us or something, or saw something that we did and invited us and we got to meet her backstage, which is insane because she’s probably like one of the biggest celebrities I’ve ever met. She’s gigantic. So we’re hoping that with season two we can, along with the Internet type of guests, get bigger names like that. That would be a nice balance.
So you guys talked to her backstage and she was cool?
Yeah, we met her backstage and she was super nice and just very, very normal. And I was thinking, ‘Wow, this person is so rich and so young,’ She made, I don’t know, like $54 million dollars or something last year. She’s a really interesting girl. She’s kind of gotten some shit for her dating life and stuff but I think she’s such a good role model. She’s not like a Britney Spears; her life is not in shambles, she kind of plays it smart which is good.
What was the most challenging thing about moving from behind the scenes as a television writer and onstage as a stand-up comedian to being in front of the camera and co-hosting a live television show?
I think for me it was probably being present in the moment and not over thinking what we we’re doing. Just trying to have fun with it not letting the nerves take over– because when I’m really in the moment and enjoying myself that’s when it’s good. When I watch the show back I can tell when I’m really having a good time and it’s a better show. So I needed to learn to let go of whatever stress I had– like, ‘Is that graphic going to work or am I going to do this joke right?’
The other thing I had to get used to was the process of getting notes from the network. There were a couple weeks in the middle of the season when I was really frustrated because I couldn’t figure out what it was they wanted. They kept changing their tune every week. ‘Oh, do this and now do this,’ and I kind of got really frustrated and I wanted to fight it. I wanted to fight and get an attitude but then I realized I needed to let go. I had a moment where I realized I don’t have nearly as much control over this as I thought I would. So whenever they wanted us to change direction, it was more like, ‘Fine, let’s change direction.’ So that was a big moment for me. And from that point on in the season I enjoyed the process a lot more. I thought to myself, ‘We might get cancelled and we might not. I might tell a joke that I don’t really believe in or a joke I really loved got cut.’ It was a little bit of a struggle. Figuring out our process took a while and we’re probably not really going to totally figure it out until season two starts. And I’m excited about that.
Did you find you were able to apply things you learned when you worked on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon?
Oh definitely! It taught me what it takes, in terms of energy and effort, because Fallon was every day and it was so much work. So I came into this show really having the capacity to work very hard and have it not affect me. And we would try a lot of different types of comedy on Fallon and I learned what types of jokes would work. Absorbing that for two-and-a-half years definitely helped me. And with my direct experience working on online stuff for Fallon I came into our show with a lot of knowledge on how that works. The digital departments at NBC and MTV are very different, so we had to figure all of that out.
And now when you have a television show it’s not just the television show you need to worry about. You need a huge presence online. And it seemed that Fallon really embraced social media and the Internet early on and better than a lot of late night hosts. Was it Fallon who did that or was it the staff who advised the show that way?
It’s what he wanted it. If he wasn’t interested in it, it wouldn’t have happened. There’s so much going on, on a show like that, and if the host isn’t making it a priority it’s not going to happen. So it really was him leading the charge. And then we all got to bring our own ideas to the table, which was awesome. It was a lot collaboration.
Has your personal life changed at all since Nikki & Sara Live premiered on MTV?
Pretty much, no.
Very little has changed. I didn’t really know going into it what it would be like. I didn’t have any real expectations. I don’t get recognized ever. Or, I think it’s happened once. It was when Nikki and I were at the Taylor Swift concert and some girls there recognized us. But, I’ve definitely noticed that on Twitter I’ve had fans that are different than the ones that I’ve had before. They’re fans of the TV show and they’re young. If I ‘favorite’ one of their tweets, they’ll screen grab it and then maybe put that on Instagram and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, a celebrity favorited my tweet!’ So, that’s never happened to me before.
But towards the end of the first season it happened a little more. Nikki and I covered the MTV Movie Awards and we hosted the MTV upfronts and there were fans outside of each of those and they knew who we were, and that was cool. But I think overall it’s been just a nice slow build, and I prefer that. I think had it been some kind of overnight crazy fame I don’t know if I would have been able to handle it as well. It’s good. And I’m beginning to realize, I don’t really care about fame. As long as I’m doing an awesome job that I love, I could live without that part of it.
I think people who aren’t in the industry can’t even imagine not caring if they’re famous or not.
I think I’m beginning to understand that what I really want is money, not fame. When you’re growing up you think, ‘Oh I want to be famous.’ But it’s not something I necessarily want now. If I’m riding on the subway and I look like shit, that would be a problem if I was famous right now. I think if I was really famous and I was just sitting here at Starbucks by myself killing time in Manhattan — and then that was taken away from me — if that became not possible, to not have any privacy, I would hate that. I was just thinking about that a little bit. But do I love flying first class, which I have done once now since the show started? Yes! Yes I do. So there are things like that I love— and that’s the money, that’s not fame. For me, it’s all about having a stable career, doing something that I love and the type of career that gives me the freedom to create other types of projects for me and my friends and just continue and have as many people as possible enjoy what I do.