Interview: Kristen Schaal, part of Outside Lands’ spotlight on comedy
August 9, 2012
Written by Roman Gokhman
On-screen, comedian Kristen Schaal is best known for the off-beat, menacing yet lovable roles of band-stalker Mel on the HBO series Flight of the Conchords and, now, the Kenneth-abusing Hazel Wassername on NBC’s 30 Rock.
Since first making waves in 2005, she’s had appearances as a “women’s issues correspondent” on The Daily Show with John Stewart, on The Simpsons, and in movies like Dinner for Schmucks, Get Him to the Greek, Toy Story 3 and Shrek Forever After.
Schaal also co-hosted, with partner Kurt Braunohler, a weekly improv, sketch and stand-up show Hot Tub at a comedy club in New York. The two created a sensation of sorts with an act that includes a bit involving nothing other than Braunohler singing about Schaal being a horse, and Schaal dancing in circles – over and over again. Hot Tub will make several appearances at the fifth annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival this weekend.
In real life the 34-year-old actress, stand-up comic and writer is an every-gal, who didn’t like the rising rent rates in New York. So she packed up her things and moved out to Los Angeles.
A few days following the move, Schaal chatted with The Bay Bridged about performing at Outside Lands and her cross-country move.
The Bay Bridged: I heard you just moved to L.A. last week.
Yeah, on Wednesday.
Did you have to move your own furniture, or just get yourself from one end of the country to the other?
I had to get someone to take my furniture. We were going to drive it but we realized that it was driving and the trek across the country is really hard. We had a professional do it.
What made you want to take the plunge and move to LA?
The biggest thing that pushed it was the landlord raised the rent. He basically pushed us out of our apartment. It happens in New York. We were about to move anyway, and then all of a sudden things started lining up and there were more writing opportunities in Los Angeles.
Do you have any projects lined up?
Well, I still have lots going on in New York. I’ll be shooting sort of a pilot for the BBC with Kurt Braunohler. After that I’ll be shooting some more 30 Rock in New York.
I’m a 30 Rock fan. Any plot twists you’d like to share about the final season?
No; they haven’t told me anything. I know just as much as you. I think I get to do a table read next week for the first episode.
The one question I never imagined myself asking a person who I did not already know — how long do you intend on being a horse?
[Laughs] I guess it’s something that, unless they find a cure, it’s something I’ll have to deal with my whole life.
It’s a condition?
It is. It’s a joyful condition.
Your record is about 10, 11 minutes, right?
Yeah, in Australia. Australia pushes everybody to their extreme, I think.
Are you familiar with the Outside Lands lineup?
I’m not, actually. I was going to research that.
There’s Metallica, there’s the Foo Fighters, Neil Young, Jack White. Out of those, who would Mel most like to stalk?
[laughs] None of them. I mean, she’s really, really fierce about the Flight of the Conchords.
You’ve performed at Bonnaroo a few years ago. Do you have a philosophy about performing at music festivals? Do you treat these sorts of shows differently?
Yeah. Because there are so many distractions for an audience member. They’re here to see everyone and not just you. The Foo Fighters could be next. Most likely you’re going to hear Metallica piped over from far away during your set. I do all that I can to make sure the set and the show is timely, so that they can get in and then go to the next event. We like to keep it moving. Most people are there to see everything. They’re not just there to see you.
Any favorite memories of San Francisco?
Oh yeah; most of them are food, though. Once I rode a bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge and eating ice cream at Bi-Rite. Eating clam chowder out of a bowl of bread. Every show I have done in San Francisco has been great, pretty much. San Francisco audiences embrace you with your whole heart.
Will you be making time for any activities this time around?
I have to fly in and fly out. I’m waiting for my furniture. It could come when I’m in San Francisco.