On Thursday, you can see comic, writer and actor Natasha Leggero in the new CBS sitcom Broke. She plays Elizabeth, who grew up in working-class Reseda, California, but married a billionaire. Aside from being clothed in tailored Gucci attire and spending money at a rate that would make Imelda Marcos blush, she and her husband buy a pyramid, among other splurges. But things change when her father-in-law cuts off their money, forcing the now broke couple and their manservant Luis to move in with Leggero's sister Jackie, played by NCIS star Pauley Perrette. (Disclosure: CBS and CNET are both part of ViacomCBS.)
Leggero is no stranger to portraying affluent women. In fact, her stand-up act is based on it.
"I wasn't born rich. But as my stand-up persona I always try to remain glamorous no matter what my situation was even if I was having to eat at Taco Bell," the upbeat Leggero said in a phone interview. "The projects I've created are always about class."
I talked with Leggero on March 13, right after she had a number of shows and jobs canceled because of thepandemic. We talked about topics from Broke and her Netflix special to a podcast she does with her husband and fellow comic Moshe Kasher that's equal parts couples therapy, call-in advice and comedy roast.
Here's an edited transcript of our conversation.
Q: Obviously, the thing that's on most people's minds is coronavirus. How are you coping?
Leggero: It all feels very unfortunate, and I'm trying to stay home until I can figure out a little bit more about what's going on and there's more testing. Right now, I'm trying to live small and stay healthy, and that's more important than anything really.
I'm also making my husband share the duties of watching the baby every day. Let's just say the baby's watching a lot of television.
Anything in particular?
Daniel Tiger. And actually I just went down there, and they were watching UFC. She runs the gamut: Daniel Tiger to UFC.
I love the special you and your husband did for Netflix, The Honeymoon Stand Up Special. Now that you are a parent, how has your outlook changed?
I thought I was going to be this really chill parent. I thought the baby eats porridge and just hangs out. But it's very demanding. You can't really do anything else. I have a 2-year-old, so if I'm watching the baby, we're not just chilling. You're actively trying to get them to not hurt themselves for like, the whole time you're hanging out with them. Obviously that is stressful. Not to mention, you have this thing that you love more than anything else and it's constantly trying to like, hurt itself. Or they're irrational. She just fell on the floor dramatically and screamed because I wouldn't let her just eat syrup. It's stuff like that all day.
Are there plans to do a follow-up special now that you're both parents?
Maybe. Unfortunately our tours are canceled right now, but I'm hoping things resume in the next few months. We have a podcast called The Endless Honeymoon podcast on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts. Moshe and I are a married couple so we do a "Fight of the Week" where we check in with our own relationship. We have people call in and they tell us their relationship problems and we roast them/help them. And we have another segment where people call in and leave their deepest, darkest secrets and we make fun of them. We have comedy couples as guests and try to help them out with their problems. We just had Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller Rogen on. We're going to be taping twice a week now from the bunker that is my house. The podcast is the only thing I'm doing right now because it's the one thing I can do without traveling.
Tell me more about the Fight of the Week part.
Sometimes I'll use that as an opportunity to tell Moshe what I'm mad about. Like the other day, I told him, without warning, that I think your phone use is out of control. And so we had a fight like that and we came up with a pretty good solution, which is in the mornings, we set an alarm for 15 minutes, and we put our phones away. And at least for that moment, we have a conversation or just sit there and stare off into space. But whatever we do, we're not looking at our phone.
It's a comedy podcast, but there are also some fun tips. We address a lot that's going on in the world and with relationships, and if you're single, call in. We'll help you figure out what your problem is.
On Broke, you star with Pauley Perrette. Is she as badass in real life as she was on NCIS?
She's a very special person and she has so much energy and, honestly, love in her heart. She's always helping animals and helping people who are homeless. She'll see someone on the news who needs a new wheelchair and buy it for them. And she talks to everybody. She knows every single background artist working on the show, every single crew member. She's chatting with the electrician. She's checking in on things that are happening in their lives.
How do you think people will react to the rich go poor premise of Broke?
People are getting poorer and the rich people are getting richer and trying to hoard a bigger portion of the money. There hasn't been a disparity this large since the Gilded Age where people didn't pay income tax and lived at the turn of the century. And it's very hard for people to even make a living. Teachers have to have another job and then they have no time to do anything else in their life. So it's just going to get worse and worse. People like to see rich people lose their money.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I pretty much wanted to be an actor since I was 10. When I was young, my mom wouldn't let me watch MTV because there was that whole backlash with Tipper Gore, who was telling parents that their kids would get poisoned by MTV. So my mom got a padlock and put it on the TV, so we couldn't access these channels. So I would just watch Nick At Nite all day long after school. I watched Mary Tyler Moore, Green Acres and All in the Family. So I was obsessed with all of these sitcoms which were 20 or 30 years before my childhood in the '80s.
I got inspired by all the sitcoms and then I was a child actor in the theater in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois. It was called a regional theater which means that it's half professional actors from Chicago, and then half just townspeople. And I was the child in every play and I got to skip school. We would do 30 performances a month. It was kind of a cool childhood.
When you're doing stand-up, are you the kind of comic who writes your jokes or ideas out or are you just trying things out on stage?
I definitely like to write things out and have a plan. My husband just did a whole album and a whole tour of crowd work and he's so good at that. And that's just where he writes and where he has fun. Every comic has different skills and different ways of coming up with the material. And he's someone who on the spot can say something so funny and start incorporating it into the act. I feel like I need to experience something awful and then write a joke about it.