But eliciting laughs live from New York eight months of the year, then bopping to Portland to shoot the bittersweet “Shrill” in the off-season, makes for a lot of pressure, so Bryant unwinds by mostly avoiding the highbrow. “I absolutely turn my brain off,” she said. “I always make time for garbage.”
While getting ready for the Season 2 premiere of “Shrill,” Bryant tracked her cultural diary, from a music-filled train ride on Jan. 12 through some reality-TV stress relief the next night.
These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
I took Amtrak from Philly back home to New York after a wedding, and I listened to my “vchill” playlist on Spotify — songs like “Omaha” by Toro y Moi, “Fan the Flames” by Sheer Mag, “Jeannie Becomes a Mom” by Caroline Rose and “Orange Color Queen” by Ty Segall. I’ve had the playlist for years, and every month and a half I’ll be like, O.K., it’s time to rotate in some new stuff. It’s like I’ve loved things so hard that I’ve loved them to death. I can’t reveal the full playlist — it’s too private, of course — but it’s my steady heartbeat through life.
Before I found comedy, I found music, and it’s become a little love of mine. Now I have this really cool job with “Shrill” where I get to work closely with our music supervisor, Maggie Phillips. To me, half of the writing is the music because it fills out the sound of the moment.
Then I looked at Instagram, which led me to Man Repeller and to “Larry David Has a ‘Fashion Theory’ and I’m Still Thinking About It.” I love a quote that he gave about wearing one nice thing at a time, because if you wear too many nice things, it’s like you’re overdoing it and you only want to be half-dressed. I love that philosophy. And I love Larry David. I also read “How Will We Remember 2010s Fashion?” I was fascinated by it because sometimes when I’m working on productions I’ll have to communicate with costume designers about clothes and I find myself being like, “It should be a shirt that’s very 2004.”
I walked home from Penn Station and when I got in the door I was like, “I deserve a reward for suffering through that.” So I watched “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” I’ve been watching the show pretty much since it started, so I feel deeply invested in all the women and its extremely compelling story lines. It’s like brain candy.
I discovered Las Culturistas last year when I was doing press for “Shrill” and on a ton of flights and looking for something fun. I knew Bowen Yang because he was already a writer on the show, and I’m close with his friend Sudi Green, who’s a writer on “Shrill” and “S.N.L.” Bowen and Matt Rogers ask their guests what piece of culture they discovered when they were a child that let them know that culture was for them. And it’s just the best. People talk about really niche stuff, but also really huge stuff — Catwoman or Pee-wee Herman or Mariah Carey. This one was with Annie Donley, and I don’t know that what they discussed was printable, honestly. It’s pretty wild. Although I will say it was an older episode from 2018 and they were talking a lot about how wonderful Michael Jackson was, and I don’t think that would stand up to the test of time.
My friend Lolly [Adefope, who plays Fran on “Shrill”] is here visiting from London, and I thought it would be fun to go to a highly New York kind of old-school place. So we had drinks at the Russian Tea Room. It’s just so beautiful in there, like from another time. The first opening credits that I shot for “S.N.L.” we did in the Russian Tea Room, so I have a soft spot for it. I had the Cosmonaut and Lolly got the Rasputin. We really went all in on the Russian flavor.
I actually went to visit Lolly in London over New Year’s, and we talked about how we wanted to see “Slave Play.” I knew it was closing, so I didn’t want to miss it. And so we were like, O.K., 100 percent. When you come to town, let’s go. I’ve got to say we both loved it. And it’s so funny because I was just with her this morning, and we were both talking about how, as the days pass, we’re loving it even more. Sometimes when you go to see a play, they can really serve you the moral of the story on a silver platter. And this sort of just hands you a bunch of ideas in a messy, messy bag. I mean that as the highest compliment.
My morning routine is, I wake up and I roll over and I turn on the radio, and it’s always on WNYC. Pretty much any weekday I start with BBC and then I listen to Brian Lehrer. Brian is a master broadcaster, and the show is so brilliant. I love to have a little bit of a news foundation to my day and know what’s going on, both in the world and in my city. Working on “S.N.L.,” you have to be plugged in to current events. We wrote a sketch called “Welcome to Hell” when all the #MeToo stuff was going on. And when I was playing Sarah Huckabee Sanders, I wanted to make sure I had an understanding of the issues so that if I had to say something in her voice, I could stand behind it.
I was in a car on the way to a photo shoot, sitting silently as this music was absolutely blasting. Panic! at the Disco, Taking Back Sunday — like when I was in college at art school parties in downtown Chicago. It’s not music I currently listen to, but it certainly was emblematic of a time when I was aggressively trying to prove, “Oh, I don’t live in the suburbs. I’m a city girl who is artistic and alternative and tough.” Let’s just say I had a septum nose-piercing at the time. I’m happy to reveal that to you.
The thing I love about living in the city is that you can, on your way home, hit all your spots. So I managed to go to the dermatologist and to therapy and also to get my glasses repaired. I rode the train and walked a couple blocks and bought a loaf of bread, but I kept my headphones on through the whole thing and listened to “vchill.” Once I was home, I was cleaning my apartment and packing up my bag for the next day, and I listened to Snail Mail’s “Lush.” I love that album and listened to it a lot when I was shooting the first season of “Shrill” in Portland.
I went to get a pedicure and I played Spelling Bee. Kate McKinnon got me addicted to it. She plays it every single day, and now in the office we both do it. I am so bad at it, it makes me sad. But every now and then there will be a day where I absolutely crush, and that keeps me going. Kate’s really good. She’s much smarter than me.
The nail salon had local NBC4 news on mute, and they were playing these chimey, whimsical versions of Michael Jackson songs that sounded like elevator Muzak. And the whole time I’m looking around at everyone like, “This is problematic — we’ve got to turn this off.” But it seemed like everyone was enjoying it, so I felt like I had to back off.
While that was going on, I was revisiting Alison Roman’s labneh dip recipe because I tried it last week and it went horribly wrong. I’m probably America’s worst cook but my 2020 resolution is to get a couple of very simple recipes under my belt. Then I looked at Maya Bookbinder on Instagram and badtaste.biz. They’re food stylists I started following in the past couple of months, and they’re my favorites right now. What I like is, they’re leaning into the grotesque at times, but then at other times it’s monochromatic and beautiful.
I’m not proud that I watch “Love Island” as much as I do. But I definitely think it’s because I have a lot of pressure in my job and a lot of people asking me questions, or I have to make decisions or I have to write something. And in “Love Island,” I’m not in the driver’s seat. I’m just a passenger in a life that is nothing like my own where these absolutely jacked, hypertan models are having the horniest summer of their lives. And it’s exactly the level of stakes I can handle at that point in the day.