Paula Pell

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Paula Pell

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Bullseye
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Paula Pell

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Paula Pell on 'Wine Country' and working at 'SNL' for almost two decades

So many of the sketches Paula Pell has written for Saturday Night Live are stone-cold classics. There's the Culps, Ana Gasteyer and Will Ferrell's bizarre pop music duo. The Spartan Cheerleaders. The Tony Bennett Show. Remember when Justin Timberlake brought us on down to Omeletteville? We have Paula Pell to thank for a lot of wonderful and hilarious work on SNL.

Pell spent 18 years behind the scenes as a writer on the show. She's truly an SNL MVP. After her time on SNL she wrote for 30 Rock, the Oscars, and the Golden Globes. She's had roles on Parks and Recreation, Big Mouth, and, most recently, the NBC show AP Bio. She plays Helen, the goofy high school administrator who eats tomato sauce and hair.

Pell joins us to talk about her latest project: Wine Country. She co-stars alongside SNL alums Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, and Rachel Dratch. It’s a story about a group of women reconnecting over a birthday weekend in Napa. The group became life-long friends during their stint working at a Chicago pizzeria. People moved. Got married. Grew apart. This movie deals with preserving those friendships despite life getting in the way. It's based in part from a real wine trip the stars took for Dratch's 50th birthday.

Pell also pulls back the curtain and discusses some of her more controversial work on SNL. Plus: why, when she was a writer on SNL, she was so much more comfortable as a writer than a performer.

Sincerely, one of the funniest people we've ever had on the show. Don't sleep on this one!

A quick warning about this interview you're about to hear: there's some talk about sex in it. Nothing super graphic or descriptive, but we wanted to give you a heads up.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Mike O'Brien

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Show: 
Bullseye
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Mike O'Brien

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.


Photo: Ben Gabbe / Getty Images

Mike O'Brien on the latest season of NBC's 'A.P. Bio'

Mike O'Brien was a staff writer on Saturday Night Live for seven seasons. He worked on the show around the same time as some stellar alum: Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig. In 2014, Mike was a featured player on SNL alongside Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Colin Jost, Kyle Mooney, Bobby Moynihan and Cecily Strong.

His latest work can be seen on NBC's A.P. Bio. Mike is creator, writer and showrunner of the series. The show stars Glenn Howerton, Patton Oswalt and legendary SNL writer Paula Pell.

If you haven't seen the show, here's the premise: Jack portrayed by Glenn Howerton used to teach philosophy at Harvard. Now he doesn't. To make ends meet he gets a job teaching A.P. Biology at a high school in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio. He's a grumpy guy who thinks if the world were a fair place, he'd be getting a MacArthur Genius Grant or whatever. He's a jerk. He knows it. He doesn't care.

Maybe you're thinking you've seen this kind of show before. The teacher returns home. Then he grows as a person, becomes lovable and relatable. But A.P. Bio isn't that show. If our scrooge protagonist learns and grows, well, there isn't a show. And that's what makes it so funny – it takes a sitcom trope you're familiar with, but refuses to play by the rules.

Mike joins us to talk about the latest season of A.P. Bio. He grew up in Toledo, and explains some of the baffling questions the writers room had about his hometown. Plus, working with Paula Pell – and why sometimes it's better to leave the camera rolling on her improvising than spending hours perfecting jokes in the writers room.

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