If you’re a fan of Chelsea Handler, you’ve probably heard of another hilarious—and equally as unfiltered—comedian, former Chelsea Lately panelist Natasha Leggero. She’s totally snarky, pretty crass and def doesn’t hold back how she really feels (if you haven’t seen her on Comedy Central’s Roast of Justin Bieber, stop what you’re doing and watch it immeds.)
And now, the 43-year-old comedian is basically everywhere. In 2005, her show Another Period—a raunchy spoof of Keeping Up With the Kardashians with a Downton Abbey vibe—aired on Comedy Central. And we’re pretty sure she’s the only comic whose web series—Tubbin’ with Tash—features celeb interviews, like Sarah Silverman and Jeff Ross, in a hot tub. But her rise to fame came from modest beginnings, which she says informed her go-to shtick: a woman who desperately wants to be part of the wealthy elite. And she plays the persona well, decking herself out every stand-up performance in trophy wife-esque outfits while delivering her snarky one-liners with a forced uppity drawl.
On July 28, you can catch her when she hosts the Just For Laugh’s All Access Live show in Montréal. To tide you over ’til then, FLARE chatted with Leggero about the first joke she ever wrote, being a regular on Handler’s talk show Chelsea Lately and how being a woman has helped her career.
Were you a funny kid growing up or did your love for comedy come as a surprise?
I’d say I was more obnoxious growing up. I was the person who would always get in trouble in class. I would often say things and people would laugh, and I was never really sure why. That’s a little different than being the class clown, but I was definitely very obnoxious. I find that comedians in general were the people who got Ds and Fs in conduct [at school].
How did you come up with the idea for your Comedy Central show Another Period, which you’ve described as “Keeping Up with the Kardashians meets Downton Abbey?”
[Comedian] Riki Lindhome and I got together and we really wanted to create something. I had come to her with these two ideas that I had. One was about this brothel in 1902. It was kind of more dramatic and the whole thing took place in the Gilded Age. The other idea was this fake reality show with these two girls who are so stupid. They were kind of based on the Olsen twins; they would be starring in movies based on a cereal. Then Riki was like, “Why don’t we combine those two ideas together, and have these really stupid girls but in the Gilded Age?”
The actual set of the show has a lot of interesting history, too. How did you decide where to film it?
We went Newport, Rhode Island and did some research. I’d heard that 90 percent of the wealth in America at the turn of the century was all in Newport in this tiny enclave. We went there and learned you can still tour through all these homes because they’ve been donated to the historical society. Obviously no one can live with, like, 30 indoor servants and 45 outdoor servants. These people had amazing staff and they were living in these palaces, but a lot of them are reopened and refurbished or preserved. You can go on tours and listen to the crazy stories of these rich people. [The stories] were just insane.
What’s your experience been like as a woman in the comedy world?
It’s all very individual. My experience is that being a woman helps me because it’s a way to set myself apart and stand out. It was really hard when I would do open mic when I first started because there was a lot of misogyny. Men would say rude things or try to intimidate me. I remember one of the first jokes I wrote: I was at an open mic and this guy was like, “Aren’t you a little pretty to be doing comedy?” and I was like “Aren’t you a little ugly to be talking to me?” I didn’t say that to him, but after I wrote it as a joke. In general, I think anything you can do in comedy to set yourself apart is a good thing.
How would you say you personally set yourself apart from other comedians?
A comedian really has to figure out a way to be themselves. I always wanted to be in a higher class than I was, and I was dissatisfied with having to be poor and wanting grander things. Just finding the persona and being able to articulate that, I started to find that if I dressed up on stage, I could say these things and get away with it a little easier (laughs). It kind of finds you if you keep working at it. There was this really great quote at The Comedy Store when you signed in, there was a sign that says ‘You don’t have to be funny for three minutes, you just have to be yourself.’
Have your stand-up routines changed at all since marrying comedian Moshe Kasher?
I was always in monogamous relationships so I feel like I was always kind of married. I wasn’t talking about my sex life really on stage. That’s just not what I ever did. There has been a transition of course because I had this very ineffectual persona that never wanted to feel emotion or have a child. As I’m married and trying to have a child, that stuff does change and you have to change. Nobody wants to be seeing a comedian that’s doing a persona that doesn’t change and grow with them.
You were a regular panel member on Chelsea Handler’s talk show Chelsea Lately. What was that experience like?
It was a great experience, and I was able to start doing stand-up and travelling. I think she was responsible for having [the panelists] start to be known enough to headline on our own. On top of that, the type of audiences that Chelsea was attracting weren’t typical comedy club audiences. They were people who were used to her kind of humour. They would be open to dark and snarky stuff, and you could be mean and people wouldn’t care.