Photos Joel Griffith | Words Tamara Rappa
Television wordsmith Jeremy Beiler is a three-time Emmy nominee, a four-time Writer’s Guild Award winner, and two-time Peabody winner. Also an actor, the accomplished writer is best known for his award-winning work on Inside Amy Schumer and writing on SNL, Beiler has also written for HBO, Comedy Central, Netflix, Hulu, FX, NBC, and others. We had a chat with Jeremy about the latest feather in his cap: co-creating, writing, and executive-producing I Love That For You for Showtime, also co-created by and starring longtime pal Vanessa Bayer, and starring fellow SNL alum Molly Shannon. Set in the behind-the-scenes world of a home-shopping television network, each laugh-out-loud episode is packed with pop culture references, making the show a delicious and binge-worthy treat. We sat down with Jeremy ahead of the show's season finale scheduled to air on June 19th, to talk about what he describes as the 'strangely soothing' world of home shopping and its colorful personal shopper-buddies, Bayer's Joanna Gold, the common thread each distinctly quirky character shares, and more.
How did the idea for I Love This For You take shape? Vanessa and I used to write together a lot at SNL. We really found each other there, and we also left at the same time, in 2017. We were having brunch one day, and Vanessa shared with me that she had this idea for a show based on the world of QVC. Funnily enough, three years prior I had started writing down an idea that I had for a show set in the world of QVC. I had fifteen pages of a script written. None of it became quite what we did, but it was really clear, almost a no-brainer: we need to start working on this.
How did you prepare to create this show, based on the people, politics, and moving parts of a television home-shopping network? We got in my car and drove to Pennsylvania. Vanessa's reps had organized a private tour for us at QVC, which was so exciting. We got to sit down in a conference room and interview two hosts, Mary Beth Roe and Jane Treacy. They were Vanessa's idols growing up. They told us so many stories. We took in so much stuff from that visit...and then we went to the gift shop and bought QVC-branded things. The trip really informed the show, and we started writing it from there. We took the trip before we sold the show, so that tells you how fun it was for us, and how much we were interested in it, no matter what, and continue to be. The more we work on it, the more interested we get.
What does this group of characters have in common, from a personality perspective? To be honest, it's quite likely a reflection of the people who are making the show. But I think they're all in some way searching for who they are. They're searching for something to complete them and make them whole, to make them finished as people. For a lot of them, whether it's a person, whether it's a job, whether it's a bag that's very expensive, or whether it's a label---like Joanna being 'Cancer Girl' and leaning in on it, I think there is this aspect of, 'something outside of me will make me complete.' Which is quite universal. I share this affliction myself. The driving force of each character is in some way joyful, despite the show's dark turns. The engine of each person is this place of joy and love and connection, and curiosity and interest. That's another overlap and an energy...they're all really energetic. They all have energy.
Joanna Gold, played by Vanessa Bayer, has a kind of poignant relationship with her parents that we don't often get to see on the screen. We talked so much about them, and the two actors who play them are just so brilliant. They feel like such a real family, Matt Malloy and Bess Armstrong are so good. We talked about how families can sometimes be defined by a trauma they've experienced. A lot of this came from Vanessa, who's lent much more of a firsthand experience. Not that they're a copy of her family in any way, but she is a person who lived through something traumatic. As we started talking about it in the writer's room, it was like, oh, other people have things too. What does that do to a family, and how do you, in a strange way, hold onto that trauma? How does it begin to define the entire dynamic of the family in ways that are, in some ways, warm and fuzzy, and in other ways really not helpful?
How do you explain Joanna's awkwardness, yet her ability to be great on camera? I think sometimes when you don't quite know who you are in real life, there's something freeing about it. When you can hang yourself up on the wall, and go out and step in front of a camera, and be someone else and do something else. You get a little bit of a break from yourself. There's maybe some of that going on with Joanna, but I also do think it's one of those things that's so ingrained in her. If you grow up skipping rope, you can skip rope. It's like that for her. We had cut a scene at one point where it's a flashback, she's 13 years old or something, and she's selling products to herself in the mirror as a kid, pretending she's on QVC. There was another scene that we played with, where she calls in and she's just as good as the host at parroting all the bullet points of each product. Her ability to dive into QVC in some ways caused her to withdraw from regular life and create the awkwardness. There's almost a reciprocal component to the two paths.
How did you come up with the many pop culture references pointed out in the series? We really just shoot from the hip and figure out what makes us laugh. One of the things that Vanessa and I have the easiest time doing, is coming up with product names and parroting things we've observed and seen from moments in culture. But the other thing is, we have this really brilliant writer's room. When you get great comedians and great writers together, filling in the details of each thing, it's a really mysterious and exciting process. Everybody throws stuff in and you just know what works when you hear it. I think this show, in particular, really facilitates packing every little corner with some kind of detail. That's really fun for us as well, and it really does just make us laugh. Even down to being specific with the colors of the products, which is one of our favorite things to write on the show. It's not blue, it's sea foam. It's not red, it's crimson or coral.
Competition and people's comparison of one another is a theme in the series. It's a true mystery to me, why I can write insecure characters so well. I've never been insecure ever once in my life! [Laughs] Speaking from experience, I do think it's universal to a lot of workplaces. Who can get ahead? That lends itself very easily to comparing yourself to the others.
GROOMING: Rheanne White
+ shot on location in nyc at at 11 howard hotel
"I've been watching a ton of this British television show called Gardeners' World. It's hosted by a man named Monty Don. He wears crumpled work shirts and he has a dog. The pacing of the show is mind-numbingly slow. It's just pure, pure heaven. So relaxing and wonderful."
"Dress pants with drawstrings are genius. It's a pair of pants that look very crisp and upscale, but then have a sweat pant waistband. It's like your little secret."
"There's a clip of Latrice Royale, the drag queen, lip-syncing Natural Woman from season four of RuPaul's Drag Race. She's wearing a pregnant belly and it makes you feel so good. I watch it probably once a month."
"I'm obsessed with the comedian Yassir Lester. He's actually a good friend of mine and he'll probably be slightly creeped out that I'm obsessed with him. He's a true genius and an incredible bowler."
"I'm very obsessed with stick shift cars. They're a dying breed. I like a Volkswagen Golf --- just a classic stick shift car, something you can grind and make mistakes and jerk out of a stop sign."
"I'm really into having awful meals that taste good for one second, and then just ruin the rest of my day, putting me in a bad mood. I'm really obsessed with indigestion."