TV Land's Teachers is an irreverent ensemble comedy about six elementary school teachers based on a web series created by The Katydids and Matthew Miller. The Katydids, a comedic troupe of six women from Chicago whose names are all derived from Katherine, wrote, executive produced, and star in the show (C&C fave Alison Brie is an executive producer), which is entering its third season.
We were able to grab the attention of 2/6, which is an F by school standards, but def an A in content.
Kate Lambert & Kathryn Renée Thomas chat with us on everything from the writing process to being scared to audition to superpowers.
On the writing process:
What does the writing process look like for the six of you?
Kathryn Renée Thomas: We generally spend the first 10 to 15 minutes talking about garbage. We have to get it out. We all arrive in the morning and have to gossip about what horrible things Trump tweeted last night or whatever Real Housewives did-- we cover all the really important things. Then we just dive right in.
KRT: It depends on where we are in the process with the script to be honest. Sundays we come in and there are times where we’ll have to brainstorm a plot for an episode. But sometimes we just jump right in and start throwing out ideas. In the beginning we have a couple weeks of brainstorming. Sometimes a plot gets thrown out by the network and we’ll have to come up with something new to plug into a current script. There’s one script that we’re going to table read together for the first time. There’s another script that already has been table read that we’ve gotten notes on. Everyone has written their punch-ups and we bring them in and we sit around a monitor with our writers' assistants and we all pitch for different lines.
Kate Lambert: Going into Season 3 we’re looking to explore our characters on a deeper level. So that’s something we’ve been doing as well.
On having tough convos with the team:
You work together on so many levels and have known each other for a long time. Is it hard to be honest or tell someone you don't like their idea?
KRT: We’re pretty open and honest with each other. It was a hard transition at first. We’ve been together for over 9 years. It started with improv and it started as a joke. This group started as, “Hey we all have the same name. Isn’t that funny? Let’s do a show.” 9 years later we’re executive producing and writing our own show. The transition happened slowly, but we started treating the improv as a business early on and getting pretty serious. Then when we were actually getting paid for what we were doing as a business, we had to shift gears. At first, it was hard for me a to hear a “No” or have my pitches rejected in the room. Especially from people who were my friends and my sisters. We had to learn pretty quickly that that is just part of the process and part of the writer's room process. Any writer's room you go into, you’re going to have to pitch one thousand ideas and maybe none of them get chosen that day. I had to separate friends from business and say “You know, these are just my business partners,” for a while. Then once I got comfortable enough to understand,we’re doing what’s best for the show, I was able to go, “Oh yeah these are my friends!"
On the turning point for the business:
You mention a turning point-- when it all changed. When was that?
KL: It originally started as a one-off show. It was a lot of fun. Then it ran at a small black box theater in Chicago and that was so much fun and so exciting. I think it was the highlight of everyone’s week, and we had a great time and there was such an interesting chemistry between everyone that we thought we should explore. We ended up hiring a coach and getting a run on IO which was a huge deal. From there, we decided to make videos. It's such a great way to get your comedy out there. We made a video promoting the run and we thought that if people didn’t know our name or names of people in the group, they could watch these videos and that would entice them to come to the show. From there it turned into more of a business. We got a website, a Facebook fan page, we took professional photos, and we had a friend design a logo for us. We decided that we wanted to pursue this together, put our best foot forward and try to get to the next step.
KT: I wanna give a shoutout to Kate Lambert because she was really awesome about leading the charge with a lot of that stuff. I think it was Lambert's idea to create a press release for our show and some of the videos we started to make. Which, at the time, I didn’t know a lot of people in the improv community that were doing press releases about their show runs. I think that was a step above what other people were doing.
KL: Aww, thanks!
KT: It’s true! You really lead the charge on some of that stuff and I think it was incredibly helpful and lucrative for us.
On relationships and culture shock in Hollywood:
You've obviously got your tribe and support each other. What was in like moving from Chicago to Hollywood?
KL: Well, I think when you move to Los Angeles, like anything business and Hollywood related aside, the weirdest thing is that the weather never changes. And you lose all sense of time. I can't tell you whether I’ve lived here a hundred years or four. Living Chicago, you remember experiences according to weather and what people were wearing. I really can’t tell if something happened 3 years ago or two months ago.
KT: I’m so Midwestern and I think all the women in the group are really. My idea of LA was a very stereotypical -- douchey managers and fakey-fakey everything. Boob jobs and coke, you know? I was thinking, I’m this nice Midwestern girl, I’m not going to fit in there. But I love it out here. I think what helps with moving from the midwest to LA is the fact that we had a team of people whom we'd been working with and that support system was amazing. We were also really, really lucky to work with TV Land-- I'm not saying that because they’re our boss but they were really willing to take a risk with our voice and our vision. We anticipated that if we did sell this show, we would have to change it a lot to make it mainstream or that we’d be let go in creative aspects, and maybe just get creator credit. We truly found the love of our lives with TV Land because they let us keep all the same cast, all the same producers, all same writers, and they say yes to a lot of the crazy stuff we come up with. So my idea of this bad boss, people being douchey, was really squashed as soon as we started working with them. Not only that, but they’re just the nicest, warmest people so we felt like we were being brought into a family. That was such a great surprise.
KT: Also, on the business side, we came from a sketch background and all of our characters in the web series were different. But they were different by shades of gray and we tried to really blow them out for the show. We had to differentiate the characters and make their differences even more apparent. We also had to make them freer and move into their histories more. We weren’t just exploring them for two minutes anymore-- it was 22 minutes now. It was all a process of developing the characters to a further extent.
How did your backgrounds in sketch comedy prepare you for the successes you've seen?
KT: We failed a lot. Our success, in the end, came out of a lot failure. We’re 6 weird quirky girls from Chicago who were auditioning for a lot of things-- not all for weird quirky girls though. We weren't getting cast but instead of taking that as “Forget it, you’re worthless,” we collectively thought, “Forget it, we’ll do our own thing.” So being told no so many times, getting rejected, doing a show to an audience of one, or a hundred who aren’t laughing, we took all that and we learned from this and said how can we just keep going? And we managed to succeed anyway with our own trajectory and our own voices and we have more creative control than a lot of people do.
On dealing with uncomfortable moments:
What’s worse, doing a show with an audience of one who is laughing hysterically or audience of a hundred who are silent?
KL: I always think it’s more uncomfortable to perform for one person. I’d much rather be in front of a crowd of one hundred people. To be honest, sometimes it’s pretty hilarious when nobody laughs. You just have to focus on what you think is funny. If an audience feels like you’re trying to be funny, they get uncomfortable for you as a performer because they can feel your nervousness. You just have to be comfortable and pretend it’s a huge audience.
But you were scared of auditioning...and didn't do it for a long time...
KL: I was lucky. I was working at a department store and the people I worked with knew all about my dreams and what I wanted to do. They were incredibly encouraging and they honestly really pushed me and helped me get over my fear. It was when I was working there that I took my first improv class for actors and I was there when I got cast in my first sketch show. I think it was a combination of support from friends and family, my parents obviously. And also just realizing life's short and I need to do what I want to do. Working jobs like that was good for me in some ways because it made me realize just how bad I wanted the job that I have now.
KT: For me, it can go either way. You can definitely kind of get in your head like Lambert was saying. You can even let go a little more than you would with a crowd of a hundred people. If you’re in a crowd of four people in the audience, it’s kind of like “Well maybe I can take more risks this way. I’m not gonna blow it in front of one hundred people.” I might take a risk and let go a bit in an audience of 4 people and I might play more lightheartedly and have more fun, that often times happens. It just takes a minute to get out of your head to move from “Fuck this, no one came to my show,” to “Okay, well let’s make the best of it.”
On their superpowers:
KL: I can love any dog on sight. And anytime I see a dog I get extraordinarily excited. I think dogs are the best thing.
KT: Oversharing. Girl, I’m an open book. It’s gonna get me in trouble some day.
Teachers is on TV Land. Catch up with the series here.