Emmy Roundtable: TV's Funny Ladies on Farts, Fame and Twitter Fury
THR: When do you recall realizing you were funny?
Dern: In intimate relationships. (Laughter.) That was when I first heard, "You're funny."
Deschanel: My parents say I tried to make them laugh when I was a baby, which I don't really trust. I was always awkward and a little chubby. The only way I could get through the day was to make somebody laugh, make fun of myself first so others couldn't.
Applegate: There was a moment in my 20s where I just let go of everything and could then be more funny in real life. The second I went, "Who gives a f-- about any of this?" is when I became what my personality is today. And I am hilarious. (Laughter.) I don't know if you knew that, but if you get in a room with me …
Lynch: We are in a room with you.
Applegate: I'm usually quite hilarious, but it's too hot in here!
Lynch: Comedy was definitely a diversionary tactic, a very conscious one for me in high school. Keep people from looking too closely. There's stuff going on inside of you that's just so dark and ugly, you don't want people to see it. I hung out with the powerful people -- the cheerleaders, the jocks. I was the funny person to have around, and it made me feel safe, like I was under the radar from being mocked.
THR: Did you always know you wanted to work in comedy?
Lynch: I knew from the get-go. I loved The Carol Burnett Show and Saturday Night Live. They were both on at the same time for two years, and I was in heaven. I also wanted to live in The Brady Bunch household. Alice was hilarious.
THR: Julia, you had a stint on SNL during the early 1980s. What war stories do you have?
Louis-Dreyfus: It is just like war. (Laughter.) I did that show when I was 21. I hadn't even finished college and was unbelievably naive about the business. I came from doing ensemble shows and theater on campus in Chicago -- "We work as a team and support each other!" -- and I brought that to SNL, and it had no place there. I couldn't have been greener. It also wasn't female-friendly at the time. It was hard to figure out how to stay alive in that place. I will say it was really fun when I went back to host; it was like stepping into a time capsule.
Bowen: So maybe it wasn't as bad then as you thought?
Louis-Dreyfus: Well, it was definitely different with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig there. It was run better; Lorne Michaels was back. And I knew what I was doing. (Laughter.)
THR: Zooey, you hosted SNL this season. What was that experience like?
Applegate: You were so good.
Deschanel: Thanks! It was a dream of mine. I always wanted to have a variety show; I love to sing and dance. But it was so tiring. On my show, we work really long hours and I get tired, but it was like, there's something about …
Applegate: … the adrenaline.
Deschanel: And all the weird traditions. Like, you go in, everybody has these tiny little pieces of paper, and they pitch you the ideas. You're like, "Great -- perfect!" Then they do a day of writing, and none of the ideas are there. (Laughter.) The next day you do a table read with 50 sketches, and you have to learn 10 songs. It felt like the fantasy of doing summer stock.
Lynch: Where your back is up against the wall.
Deschanel: It goes by so fast. They pull you offstage, put wigs on you.
Lynch: Just stand there, and they tear your clothes off. (Laughter.)
Louis-Dreyfus: "Don't you move. We will move you!" The cue cards are also really something.
Deschanel: That was the most challenging. You don't have to memorize lines, but you have to …
Louis-Dreyfus: Be familiar.
Deschanel: Right, and then act like you're not looking at them. Which is a skill I didn't even think about.
Louis-Dreyfus: It's very old-fashioned.
THR: You mentioned Tina Fey, and in her book Bossypants, she wrote about her days at SNL and going up against the men on the show. Recently there were some comments by Two and a Half Men showrunner Lee Aronsohn that Martha responded to on Twitter …
Plimpton: He said we have reached a point of labial saturation on television.
Louis-Dreyfus: What, like we need more dicks and balls? (Laughter.)
Applegate: I think we've lived in the land of dicks and balls long enough.
THR: He's no longer the showrunner on Two and a Half Men, for unrelated reasons.
Deschanel: He stepped down after Martha gave it to him.
Plimpton: There were a lot of us who said something. [Actress] Sarah Thyre, [comedy writer and blogger] Lizz Winstead -- a lot of much funnier women than me, who nailed him in a way that was charming and hilarious and totally emasculating, which I enjoyed tremendously. I just wanted to remind him that 52 percent of the people watching those [TV] commercials are women, and advertisers care about that kind of thing. I tend to get a little pissed off about stuff like that.
Lynch: I'm with you.
Plimpton: I come from a dramatic acting background, so there is a lot more powerful rage and hostility toward the world.
Applegate: You're saying that as you're wearing this cute pink dress, too.
THR: Why do you think there was such a reaction to Aronsohn's comment?
Applegate: Why wouldn't there be?
Bowen: "Labial saturation" could be the opening of a book.
Deschanel: It's like kicking somebody while they're down. We're just getting to the point where people aren't making "female comedies." We've had like hundreds and hundreds of years of men dominating everything. I mean, I'm going way back.
Bowen: Five hundred years of television.
Deschanel: Jesus Christ had his own show.
Louis-Dreyfus: We can edit this, right?
Bowen: What makes it maddening is that the conversation shouldn't even be a conversation at this point.
Plimpton: What I love and loathe about Twitter is that you can say something in response to something like that and mean it off the cuff, which it is.
Deschanel: And then regret it.
Plimpton: Right. And it creates phony controversy. There is no controversy to me about this. Women are talented, smart, half the population. Some women are not talented and stupid.
Bowen: We're also slutty. (Laughter.)
Plimpton: We're great cooks; we're terrible cooks!
Louis-Dreyfus: Next topic!