Idiotsitter premiered last month and introduced the world to Gene (Jillian Bell), a privileged socialite under house arrest, and Billie (Charlotte Newhouse), the tutor hired to babysit her. Gene’s parents advertised for a babysitter but threw enough money at Billie to make her stay once she met Gene.
We already saw Gene and Billie throw a party while her parents were away, so we can only imagine what they’ll get up to in the following weeks on Idiotsitter. I got to speak with Newhouse by phone to discuss her collaboration with Bell. Idiotsitter airs Thursdays at 9:30 on Comedy Central.
Nerd Report: When did you and Jillian meet?
Charlotte Newhouse: We met four or five years ago at Groundlings. I think as soon as we met, we call each other husbands. We know each other that well. As soon as we met, we immediately started writing together. I think our first pitch was for a holiday show. I pitched some crazy idea and she pitched something to make it even crazier and we both looked at each other like, “This is it. You get it. I get it.”
Nerd Report: Did you do that holiday show at Groundlings?
Charlotte Newhouse: We did. It was our first tour together. Every time we did a Groundlings show together, we did it once together and then Jillian would have solos or sketches with someone else and I’d have solos or sketches with someone else. It was one of things where people were like, “Oh, it’s a Jillian and Charlotte sketch. I love Jillian and Charlotte sketches.” We had this brain together that was very unique and specific to the two of us writing together.
Nerd Report: And you jumped right to husbands, not wives?
Charlotte Newhouse: No, just husbands. I don’t know why. [Laughs] It didn’t seem fair to make one the wife and one the husband so we’re both husbands..
Nerd Report: Or both wives, but husbands is funnier.
Charlotte Newhouse: We’re both husbands, yeah.
Nerd Report: Jillian said this was her first show she developed. Was it yours or did you have some TV experience before?
Charlotte Newhouse: No, this was it. I’d been cast on stuff that never even made it but this was definitely the first thing, and it was the firs thing we wrote together that wasn’t a sketch. We said, “Let’s write a script together. Let’s write a TV show.” We wrote it as a pilot and presented it as a pilot. They gave us the web series and then back to pilot.
Nerd Report: Were there any surprises you didn’t expect in the development business?
Charlotte Newhouse: I think it was definitely an adjustment. The writing of it is an adjustment when you’re used to writing with just one person and then you have a staff. That’s an adjustment. It’s almost like teaching someone a language. It’s filling your head and your mind with specifics of this world, and you have to teach everyone else before they can write about it. It’s not bad or good. It’s just something I don’t think I expected.
Nerd Report: So a writers room is different than even an improv troupe?
Charlotte Newhouse: Oh, for sure. In improv you’re just making it up on the spot or practicing together. Even when you’re writing sketches, it’s little one-offs you’re creating together. This is a world that me and this other person created and we have very specific ideas about it. Now you can come in and enter that world and write about it as well as we do, or the way we see it in our minds. You task the writer with a lot when you do that.
Nerd Report: When you and Jillian write together, are you physically in the same room?
Charlotte Newhouse: We do. We prefer to write physically together. If there are time constraints, like with this show we ended up actually divvying up a couple episodes. It’s to the point where it’s so mapped out, it’s so storied out, it’s the physical writing that we do separately. I think at this point, we’re very comfortable, we have each other in our heads. We can write as one without being physically present.
Nerd Report: Did you ever want to play Gene and have Jillian play Billie?
Charlotte Newhouse: When the came about, it wasn’t like you’ll obviously play Gene and I’ll obviously play Billie. It was more the idea came out of this two person thing. Then as we were developing it, that’s how we started talking. She was doing that part, I was doing the Billie part. I like my part.
Nerd Report: Oh, it’s great. I was just wondering if it was ever a decision. I just realized the names are Billie and Gene. Was that intentional?
Charlotte Newhouse: That’s right, it was.
Nerd Report: Jillian also told me that Dishdogz was your reference and you gave it to her.
Charlotte Newhouse: Dishdogz was her reference! She came up with that.
Nerd Report: She said that was your generous gift.
Charlotte Newhouse: No. See, this is what I’m talking about. We get so entrenched in each other, there will be a joke where I’ll be like, “Oh my God, you did that joke. It’s so funny.” She’s like, “You wrote that joke.” She totally came up with Dishdogz. I guarantee. I’d put money on it.
Nerd Report: Now I totally understand how you have one brain because I’ve witnessed it. What wacky shenanigans are coming up for Billie and Gene?
Charlotte Newhouse: I think you’ll be very happy. That’s all I’ll say. If you liked the first episode, you’ll like the rest. We have really fun guest stars, some surprise guest stars. It’ll be fun. And you’ll get to also see the Billie that is like Gene. You’ll get to see the Gene that’s like Billie. You’ll get to see all kinds of stuff. It’s fun.
Nerd Report: Is Billie ultimately a good influence on Gene?
Charlotte Newhouse: I’d say they’re good influences on each other in the ways that they think they are. If you look at this show as two characters that see each other as sheltered. I obviously see Gene as sheltered in that she’s not an adult. She hasn’t graduated high school. She sees me as sheltered as I haven’t lived life, I haven’t partied. They definitely influence each other. Maybe she wins.
Nerd Report: Is Gene a bad influence on Billie?
Charlotte Newhouse: I don’t think it’s bad or good. I honestly think they’re both good influences on each other. I think that they’re both really missing parts. Billie is just as much missing any sense of reality. She’s spent her whole life in a book. She doesn’t know how to talk to boys. She doesn’t know how to socialize. I think they really help each other grow, for better or worse.
Nerd Report: Growing up, who were your comedy role models?
Charlotte Newhouse: My comedy role models were like Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton. I happen to actually think Meryl Streep’s hilarious. She-Devil is like my favorite. I like subtle physical [comedy]. I think about Meryl Streep, this is so dumb, Meryl Streep in She-Devil and Diane Keaton in Baby Boom and just the body language of those women is amazing to me. Caddyshack, early SNL and Werner Herzog. No, I don’ know. I think a lot of funny women.
Nerd Report: Meryl Streep has gotten her due in comedy recently since Devil Wears Prada.
Charlotte Newhouse: But even in that isn’t as much as in Death Becomes Her or She-Devil, she’s actually more character-y. Devil Wears Prada she’s still sort of believable as a real person. It’s not as character, but in those other two she’s really funny. She really goes for it. She’s amazing.
Nerd Report: With a sketch background, was it always a natural for Idiotsitter to be a half hour series?
Charlotte Newhouse: Oh yeah. When we were writing sketch, we were like, “Let’s try this other thing. Let’s try writing a pilot.” We definitely thought of it as totally different animal. When it went from the web series to the TV series, people were always like, “God, how are you going to turn five pages into 22 pages.” Writing pages is impossible. When you’re honing it down to those five pages, that’s really hard. 22 pages is fun. You get to let things breathe. That format, 22 pages has actually been fun to write.
Nerd Report: Are any of the jokes in the Comedy Central series jokes you had to cut from the web series?
Charlotte Newhouse: No, not really, but from our writers room we have so much fun stuff that never made it. If we knock on wood got another series, there’s definitely some really funny stuff that never made it into the first season that we want in the second season.
Nerd Report: Are you funny casually or only on the job?
Charlotte Newhouse: I’m not as funny. I can be very serious. If there’s a light optimistic happy one of us, Jillian is. If there’s a darker, more serious one, it’s me. We’ll leave a meeting and I’ll be like, “God, that went really badly.” And she’ll be like, “I thought it went really well.” I’m more serious sometimes in real life.
Nerd Report: There’s nothing wrong with that. Does that help you in business?
Charlotte Newhouse: Yeah, I think so. I think we can both be serious when it comes to business, for sure. Don’t f*** with me. Just kidding, just kidding.