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NYTVF: Ladies Night at Fox Comedy Panel

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By Craig Hubert | Based on a quick scan of the audience last Friday at the 92Y Tribeca, Fox is doing something right. The crowd at the panel heralding the network’s new Tuesday night, female-centric, comedy lineup, held in conjunction with the New York Television Festival, was filled with young girls who looked like they raided Zooey Deschanel’s wardrobe closet. Participating in the conversation were Liz Meriwether and Hannah Simone (showrunner and co-star, respectively, of “New Girl”), Dakota Johnson and Lucy Punch (co-stars of “Ben and Kate”), and Shannon Woodward (co-star of “Raising Hope”). Oddly, nobody was there to represent “The Mindy Project,” the most critically well-received show of the comedy block, but the conversation was packed as it was. Some highlights from the conversation:

The dreaded “female comedy” question:

Liz Meriwether: “I feel like, yeah, it’s a great time for female comedy, and as soon as those words leave your mouth you do start cringing. You want to just think of yourself as a person who is a comedy writer – not a female comedy writer – but I am a female and I am a comedy writer. It took a long time for people to think, a.) Women are funny, and b.) Funny women could make them money. So those things seem to happening in Hollywood right now which is good for us, I guess.”

Shannon Woodward: “For a while people didn’t really think young women were funny. There were a lot of role for older women who were mothers; it was almost like you were laughing at their being out of place, or something. I really feel it is different now, there’s so many funny young woman on television now, which is exciting.”

LM: “I’ve been hired in film, a couple times, to come in and they just say, ‘We didn’t write the women.’ It’s a film that’s about to be shot in two weeks, and they’re just like, ‘Can you write the women?’ It can be a really weird world out there.”

On the genesis of “New Girl”:

LM: “I did have a friend who was a guy and we actually, it’s kind of a funny story. We were both dating other people and they both dumped us and then they started dating each other. We became friends and felt like we could never have sex because it would validate the choice of our shitty exes. That friendship in the show was inspired by my life, it was the first time in my life that I had this friend who was a total player and asshole, and was just telling me things from the guy’s side of the equation. It inspired me to write the show.”

On guest stars:

LM: “My mom does this thing called Little Women Defense when we’re playing basketball where she, basically, distracts me by going through all the characters from “Little Women.” So I had to get on the phone with Jamie Lee Curtis about doing it, and I was really nervous, and she said, ‘So, what’s the character?’ And the first thing out of my mouth was, ‘She does this thing called Little Women Defense,’ and she immediately went into perfect imitations of each character. I guess she had done the book on tape. From that moment on, it was like a match made in heaven.”

On being recognized by fans:

Hannah Simone: I’ve learned to respond to Cece. I turn around when people yell it. People come up to me and either tell me I should get my act together and get back together with Schmidt, which then I have to explain: one, he broke up with my character; two, I have zero control over that happening. Or they want to tell they’re sleeping with someone they’re embarrassed about and how should they break it to their friends.”

On inspiration:

Lucy Punch: “I don’t watch a huge amount of television, but I’m completely obsessed with “Eastbound and Down.” Dakota’s dad is on that show; her whole family is just taking over the television. I love that show, Danny McBride is a genius. It’s so weird, and out there, and offensive, and dark, and brilliant.”

LM: “We write on the same floor as “Homeland,” so we’re constantly thinking of ways to break into their writers’ room and look at their white boards. I actually did a photo shoot with Alex Ganza and he was going through episode eleven of this season, and he was like, ‘I’m going to get some water, do you want to see the script?’ He just put it in my lap. I could have opened the script and read it, but I didn’t want to ruin it for myself.”

On improvisation:

LM: I think of it as free writing. Thank you. I don’t think you can make comedy that feels real with encouraging improvisation. The actors have to take over.”

SW: “We’re not allowed to improvise at all. Our show is very poppy, and it moves so fast. Greg [Garcia, showrunner] will say, ‘You want to pitch jokes? You want to write?’ In the best way possible, of course. A few times, he’s been like, ‘That’s a good idea, do that, do that.’ But other times, he says, ‘You can do it, but it’s not going to make the edit.’ Maybe once or twice something I’ve ad-libbed has made it into an episode.”

How is it playing a version of your boss?

Dakota Johnson: “It’s sort of an amalgam of her and this character we’ve created. I mean, it’s her, it’s a lot of her – the way Kate deals with things are pretty much the way Dana deals with things. But playing the person who gave me this job, and could ultimately un-give me this job, is incentive to do a good job, or at least try.”

On being the boss:

LM: “If I ever read another “Modern Family” spec I’m going to kill myself.”

Image: Liz Meriwether/Mark Davis/Wireimage

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  2. […] — Craig Hubert reported on the female-centric Fox comedy lineup featured on a 92Y Tribeca panel for the New York Telev…. […]

  3. […] NYTVF: Ladies Night at Fox Comedy Panel Participating in the conversation were Liz Meriwether & Hannah Simone (showrunner & co-star, respectively, of “New Girl”), Dakota Johnson & Lucy Punch (co-stars of “Ben & Kate”), & Shannon Woodward (co-star of “Raising Hope”). Oddly … Read more on ARTINFO (blog) […]

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