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Tuesday, March 28

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Literary Sun Jul 04 2010

Interview With Kate Flannery

After seeing Kate Flannery perform with her faux lounge act The Lampshades at the Mayne Stage last weekend, it was clear that the actress who plays Meredith on "The Office" has an abundance of comedic talent that has yet to be fully tapped into on the show. Not only does Flannery have spot-on comedic timing and delivery, but she also can sing and has some killer fashion sense. While she was in town with The Lampshades, Kate Flannery took some time for a phone interview with Gapers Block.

How long had you been in Chicago doing comedy and theatre?

I lived here for five years.

When you're in town, what are your favorite hot-spots and old haunts you like to go back to visit?

I drive past my old apartment that was torn down; it's not there anymore, but I used to live on Oakdale between Broadway and Pine Grove, so there's always a few little spots around that neighborhood. It's changed a lot though, but I just lived above Diversey and Broadway and I feel like it's just great to get back into the neighborhood- there are so many places that haven't changed, I should say. There are a few restaurants that I like to hit, even Stella's Diner, which used to be called The Lakefront back when I lived in that neighborhood. I like to get back there for kind of the neighborhood flavor. When I was here last I made it up to Ann Sather, which was really fun. I used to go there all the time, takes me longer to burn off those cinnamon rolls now that I'm older. I took a walk up Clark Street and hit those great little shops. It's amazing, it's changed but it hasn't changed.

Did you hit up Cafe BaBaReeba? (Where she used to wait tables.)

I haven't been there in a while, it's been a while. It's so funny because they catered the Second City 50th Anniversary when I was here, and it was interesting seeing some of the menu items that I used to have to explain back in 1989, it was so bizarre.

Did you have one of those "I've arrived!" moments?

It's funny, I was talking to Amy Sedaris about that, because she worked there right before I did, and we were talking about waitressing and how much we kind of missed it. It's an interesting learning experience, you learn a lot about the people you're waiting on and it's an interesting character study. You kind of become a fly on the wall because you kind of become invisible.

It seems like working at Cafe BaBaReeba might be the natural stepping stone to comedic acclaim...

Maybe (laughs), don't tell the employees that!

When you were in Chicago, you were part of the Second City Touring Company and were in lot of Annoyance productions, and worked with folks such as Jane Lynch and Scot Robinson (her partner in The Lampshades)- are there other performers you encounter out in LA now that worked in Chicago at the same time you did?

Oh all the time, on "The Office" we had Scott Adsit, who's now on "30 Rock," I toured with Scott in 1990 with Second City; Dave Koechner has done "The Office," and we did "The (Real Live) Brady Bunch," well I did ImprovOlympic (now iO) with him here, then we did "The Brady Bunch" together in New York for a little bit, he took Andy Richter's place; of course I remembered Steve (Carrell), we didn't really work together when we were both at Second City because he was in a different company than I was, but I certainly knew him when I was in town, so that's kind of cool to get to work with him again. I feel like there's no end to the full circle moments- I actually do a live stage show as The Lampshades in a group show called "The Rudi Casoni Show" in Hollywood, and Renee Albert, who worked at Second City, she does her act in the same show, so I see her at least once a month which is kind of nice.

There's like a Chicago comedy fraternity out in L.A.

There is... well, we do "The Lampshades" at the iO West, which is the Los Angeles version of ImprovOlympic out here, and I was just there for the festival and Jay Legget was there and Brian Blondell, they're all former Chicago improv guys, and they've been doing a live webcast which they do down the street from ImprovOlympic. There's no end to the Chicago connection, it's kind of great. Jane Lynch and I got to sing together last year for a benefit, got to do a couple of songs together and we ended up recording something for Adam McKay's wife's company, so it's always fun. Jane's great, we used to sing together years ago when we did "Brady Bunch," now we get to do it on a bigger scale. I mean, now she's the Queen of Glee, so I'm so happy for her, she's so awesome.

As great as Chicago is, what was the impetus when you knew you had to pick up and get out to LA and give that a shot?

I initially left when "The Brady Bunch" took off. I actually ended up doing a whole tour for a year, we were in New York first and then Los Angeles, but then we did an actual tour, and I went on tour and then got an agent in LA from that. I think it's more about...I mean, if I could do what I do in Hollywood in Chicago, I would still be in Chicago, that's for sure. Unfortunately, not a lot of actors in Chicago actually make a living. That's the only reason why I'm not here.

The "birth" of The Lampshades came from seeing an act at The Green Mill where the singers took themselves too seriously, and has since spawned many years of fun for The Lampshades. Over the years of performing as Kassie (one of The Lampshades), what have become your favorite things about that character?

It's always fun to sing- I don't usually sing without a wig on, but I like to sing. She's kind of like my alter ego, she's that super annoying, way too ingratiating, falsely grateful, just ridiculous, pandering to the audience...I think our musical arrangements are so interesting, and Dave Adler does our music, we don't get to work with him much in person anymore but he has worked in Chicago, he's from Madison, Wisconsin. It's just nice to do interesting music in front of people. It's been really fun, we sing "Mandy" and "Brandy" at the same time, we have a medley called "PBS" that we end the show with that's a "Mister Roger's" song with Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing," it's pretty twisted. It's nice to get to do your own material. As fun as it is to work in LA, it's a rare treat to not get your stuff edited or whatever. Occasionally I get to improvise on "The Office," you don't know if it's going to make it on the air or not. It does sometimes, but sometimes it doesn't and it's nice to get to do a stage show where you're completely in charge.

Compared to earlier shows (The Lampshades have been performing together for almost 20 years, having spent the past nine years performing regularly in Los Angeles.) are there ways that the show is distinctly different now, or was it a natural evolution?

It's evolved quite a bit. We first started the show in 1992...'92, like middle of '93, it was just different. We didn't really know...I think there was a lot of things that weren't fleshed out, we were musically on target but I think the characters themselves were a little underdeveloped. And then we didn't live in the same city together for a long time, and then nine years ago we started doing it and I think we really kind of focused on a little bit of tension, and I think things get revealed about their relationship, and the way it gets revealed through the whole show, you definitely get a sense that the characters have a huge history. I think the evolution has been slow and a little more interesting, and when we started doing the show nine years ago we really focused more on the character relationship than just music, and also just the pacing of the show is a lot faster paced than when we did it back in 1992.

Have you started shooting the next season of "The Office" yet?

No, not yet, we'll go back in about a month.

Is there anything you hope Meredith will get to do next season?

I don't know, I feel like I don't want to limit it by my thinking, the writers are so terrific. I feel like, where can we go, I'm not sure. The sky's the limit, I've just been having such a great time. I don't know if it's time for her to actually be in love. A makeover might be in mind, but that could be disastrous!

Any upcoming projects that you're working on?

Actually, my partner from The Lampshades and I shot an episode of "Wizards of Waverly Place" that's going to air at the end of July. We're playing Harper's parents, Harper is the best friend of Selena Gomez's character, and we're a lounge act couple, which is kind of funny. The producers knew about The Lampshades so we're actually going to do it for Disney. It's kind of funny that "The Office" drunk is playing a Disney mom. It's kind of my juicy little secret. It was really fun to shoot. They're great kids, they really are on that show. Great cast. I also have a Funny or Die video up with Eric McCormack from "Will and Grace," it's called "Finger Babies." The Lampshades also still perform pretty regularly in Hollywood, and hopefully we'll be touring a little more. We sold out in Philadelphia and New York and we played New Brunswick, New Jersey- we did pretty well considering it was game seven of the NBA finals. We also open for The Dan Band in LA down at Club Nokia, from time to time, and that's a really fun gig. I guess that's about it...for now.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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