Lennon Parham is one of the funniest people I know. She’s producing and starring in ‘Playing House’: a new comedy premiering April 29th on the USA Network with her best friend Jessica St. Clair. If you haven’t seen her on funnieordie.com, the UCB Theatre, Parks and Rec (NBC) or a number of other shows and movies, you probably saw her on another show she co-wrote with St. Clair called ‘Best Friends Forever’ on NBC. She’s a brilliant improviser and a great example of how improv can be your springboard to success.
I had the opportunity to talk to Lennon this week and ask her about ‘Playing House’, show business and improv!
How did the two of you get the idea for the show?
We had one of our classic brainstorm sessions in my living room in our sweat pants and Oprah on the DVR in heavy rotation. Jessica said “This is the dumbest idea. I’d like to see us raise a baby together.” And I said, “That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard.” From there, everything was easy because we really tried to be truthful. We’d ask “Would this really happen? Would we respond this way even in heightened situations?”
We wanted to write about the stuff that resonates the most while being as specific as possible, not worrying about what anyone else would say.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
I think it comes in piecemeal. It’s about little steps; so many little steps. Every decision matters and every decision doesn’t matter, you know what I mean? You have to catalog every moment in your brain. When your show is cancelled or you don’t get the part, it’s important to have that.
Then there are moments when you say “Can you believe this is happening?” Like there we are backstage, Michael Jackson playing and Queen Latifah comes dancing in to say hello before we go before we go on her talk show.
It’s when we walk in and see our faces on a billboard.
Sometimes it comes in different forms like when a production assistant says “Thank you for being so efficient. I’ve been able to tuck my three old son into bed at night.”
How Did you Get your Start?
I first tried Improv in High School. When we won the Annual Comedy Sports competition in our town of Lilburn, GA, that it was a moment of enlightenment for me. I said “I am good at this.”
Then, of course, when you and I were at school together (University of Evansville), that was an amazing experience. That’s where I met Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) who eventually joined a team at Second City and Io in Chicago. I felt that same spark with him. We’d joke around in the costume shop during work study and my goal was to make him laugh.
Between my Junior and Senior year, I spent the summer in Chicago and watched Jack in every show he was in. He was doing long-form improv, the Harold and I was obsessed with it. At the end of the summer, he said “You’d be really good at this.”
When I moved to New York, I saw an ad for Second City and signed up for classes, which ultimately led me to UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) classes and Jessica. I eventually joined a team. Jessica was on a different team but we got obsessed with each other and began writing.
HBO bought a script from us but it was never picked up to be produced. Then BFF (Best Friends Forever) took off and now this.
Did you know you were going to “make it”?
I never had a back up plan. Any job I had was temporary and simply paid bills. That’s really important to my success. I always knew I was going to succeed. I think there are a lot of talented people that are pretty sure they’re never going to do it full time and that becomes their truth. You have to be really honest with yourself. All you can do is follow your path and make sure it’s 100% what you want.
Do you have advice for those of us trying to get there?
Just immerse yourself in classes and shows. Surround yourself with people better than you. Create your scene and do festivals.
The Sick Puppies certainly thank Lennon for giving some of her precious time us. We can’t wait to see the show and we’ll make sure the Improv scene in South Florida keeps it on the air!