Hey, dear listeners, I really don't have the right words to describe today's guest, funny, talented, brilliant, unique, maybe I just can't find enough words. Personally, I find Melissa McCarthy so inspiring. I've actually been trying to get her on the podcast for years, and I am so grateful that she was able to make this work.
Later in the episode, I'm joined by Dr. Jenn Guntur, who is an OBGYN pain medicine physician and advocate for women's health. Dr. Jenn is the author of The Vagina Bible, which I highly recommend, and the menopause manifesto, which I just preordered and might need soon after 40 years of not quite knowing how my body works, Dr. Jenn was able to solve a lot of mysteries in one conversation. As always, thank you for your comments, your questions and your stories.
It means a lot to hear from you. Please reach out through our website at unqualified dotcom.
And now here is Melissa. Ladies and gentlemen, you are listening to Unqualified with their host ionospheric. Melissa, hi. Oh, my heart has been pounding. I wanted to tell you that five years ago I started this podcast in the hopes that this day would happen. I cannot thank you enough for doing this. You're crazy.
I know that you have, like, very little time off and it's just so sweet that you're spending it with me. Oh, my God, this is so fun. You're in Australia right now. Yeah, we're in Byron Bay, Australia. That's beautiful.
I had never been here. It is incredibly beautiful. We feel I mean, every day we're like, I can't believe we're here. It's covid free. And we've been here for like five months and we're going to stay another six months until, you know, the US can kind of write itself. But we can work here because there's no covid. But also people are still really safe. They're very responsible for a place that has no covid at the moment.
Like it's still like you don't barge into a store. You wait, you don't have too many people in it. You sanitize your hands. It's social distancing. They also trace everyone. Like if you go to the grocery store, you click your phone and you log in. Wow, my kids are in school.
They've made friends. Amazing. And sometimes I feel guilty talking about it. We're so grateful. But yeah, it just feels like we're on a completely different planet.
Tell us to minor things that delight you about Australia and two minor things that annoy you.
Oh, I like how hardy Australians are like men and women. If there's a bug or a spider or a snake like someone's just like, oh, it's just a python. It's all right. It's like it's perfectly fine to like there's an eight foot python hanging over our head and they're like so they're so kind of hardy in that way. And I love the weird saying, how are you going? They're like really chatty. So it's always like when they say, how are you going?
It's actually like this could go into a ten minute conversation and I'm just buying like a newspaper. They actually want to sit and talk and chat. And I find that super endearing. I love that. And then I could do without the everything here can kill you. Like the spiders are the size of my face. There's snakes everywhere. There's some kind of horned toad or something that they're like, oh God, don't touch it. Like it's outer skin will kill you like the cane toad.
Is that right? Yeah. Yeah, that's what it is. The cane toad. Yeah. Huntsman spiders. They can get to like a dinner plate size. It's just everything. What about the box jellyfish? Have you heard about those. No, no. Apparently they're like these invisible eight foot long.
Oh Jesus. Lender box jellyfish that give you a heart attack.
You like happiness. Well, what I told my dad I was coming here and he's still every time I talk to him, he's like, you stay away from those saltwater crocs. And I'm like, Dad, I thought he was like making it up. And I'm like, there's no saltwater crocs. And he's like, I've seen documentaries on it. Stay away from the saltwater crocs. He's like, check your pool, check the ocean. He goes, don't go in the ocean.
Don't let the kids in the ocean. And then it turns out it is totally a real thing here. And I did know, but I don't think it's anywhere around us. But like every day when I talk to my dad, that's the main morning. He's like, just stay away from those saltwater crocs as if they're everywhere. I'm like, they're not inside the house, Dad. He's like, don't. No, you don't know. I love that he's protective.
You know, he's sweet. Maybe he's projecting his own personal worst or favorite.
Maybe that's the way he should go. Maybe.
Melissa, what words would you use to describe Plainfield, Illinois?
I can give a good word about, I would say limited and charming at the same time. It's bigger than it was when I grew up. When I grew up, it was such a rural, small farm town that I felt trapped and limited. But when I look back on what it was, I feel like I did appreciate the charm of it. Were you in high school itching to leave? Yes. All I talked about, we went out in downtown Chicago much to my parents who were there, like we moved out to a farm to keep you out of the city.
And you were like, we're a magnet for it. So we'd go to clubs and dance. And all I wanted to do is go to New York.
So tell us about your first living situation on your own. Then I went to school at Southern Illinois University. I didn't want to go there only because I wanted to go to New York. I wanted to go to City. I wasn't great with even figuring out, like, well, have you applied and have you done anything that would make you be able to afford it? I wasn't together. I'm such a nerdy preparer now, but at eighteen I was just like a jumble of, like loose wires.
I was creative and I wasn't great with, like, steps, which now I'm like super nerdy and I'm like, here's the way to get there. The first place I live was in a dorm and I was really kind of super punk rock. And I walked in and my roommate was in like a Ramones t shirt and black converse and her hair was like Soozie the Banshees. And I was like, Oh, what are the odds? Because I was so afraid I was going to get like a sorority girl that would hate me.
And then she's like, oh, no, I'm not going to school here. It's my sister. Oh, no. And I can't remember her last name, but she walked out of the bathroom with a white snake T-shirt like huge metal hair and acid wash jeans and white like cowboy boots. It was like, oh, Christ, look at you, and I was like, oh, no, no, I said also your sister looks kind of just like me, but you've just made fun of me.
So by extension, you're making fun of your sister, too. It wasn't a great relationship. She would never lock the door. And I kept walking in on her and a gentleman caller, let's say. And finally I was like, you don't even lock the door. It's also a twin bed and you have a roommate. It's weird on so many levels.
My first roommate in the dorms, her name was Alison, and she felt like everything I wasn't. She worked at Nordstrom. She was like grew up in a wealthier area of Seattle. She was together. It felt like she as a freshman in college, she already had things kind of figured out. I remember her wearing suits.
I don't know if that's accurate. And one morning I was taking a shower in the communal showers and she ripped the shower curtain back and she threw this shampoo bottle at me. And she was like, You didn't fucking wake me up. I'm late for my test. And meanwhile, like, she had this pack of friends on the same floor and I was always on the outs anyway.
Did you have a prearranged thing that you were her alarm clock for some reason? No, no. You know what? It felt like I didn't grow up with a sister and I had a hard time adjusting. Like the next year I lived with two girls in an apartment, and that was the year I sold my used Honda and backpacked around Australia.
Oh, you did? Oh, my God. Yeah. And we went through Byron Bay. I just did one of those touristy things, you know, where you take a bus to different hostels, which is so great that that what were you like, 18, 19?
Yeah, it was great. Yeah. It was lonely, though.
I was really alone and I had so much trouble making friends. It was my first time being out of the country. Really. Yeah. And so I felt as an outsider, unable to fit in and then angry because I couldn't navigate those waters very well. But like in terms of having sisters, my other roommates were pretty adjusted to, like, borrowing my clothes. And all of that was like a new world to me.
I became really close to one of them and she was the one I called after I got Scary Movie. I called her and I said, I got this movie and it's a comedy. And she said, Oh, Ana, you are not funny. And I said, I know what, I didn't take it as an insult. How did you not know you were funny? You didn't know you're funny and your friend didn't I find that crazy? Melissa, I don't think I am that funny.
I think I can make an ass out of myself really well. But I've never done standup after, like, twenty years. It still surprises me that I'm in comedy.
I am shocked by that. But I get maybe that's good. You know, I've talked to people that have never seen like Bill Hader. I remember I can't remember how it came up, but he was like, oh no, I've never seen anything on SNL. I've done I've never seen anything I've done. And I was like, you're crazy. I said, you should really watch yourself. You're so good. He's like, I could never I couldn't stand it.
It would probably make me quit the business. But I think there's something about that when someone's really good at something, maybe because I mean, it's creepier if everybody was like, boy, am I amazing, then you'd probably be really bad. So maybe it's a good thing you don't know. Well, thank you. Like, I have a hard time watching playback because I'm very suddenly aware of the weird things. It's hard for me to do this.
Zoome I have to really focus on you.
I just always realized I do very strange things with my hands and I think it's better in character, which is why I like all of it so much. But when it's left to my own, like in any kind of photo shoot where I just couldn't be creepier and I end up doing very bizarre like I do bear claws sometimes where I just end up in tension and they're like, we don't know what's happening with your hands or if you're arthritic, I'm like, oh, no, I just I didn't know what else to do.
So I've coiled up.
You just worked with Regina Hall. Oh, my God. Like, she's one of the greatest, funniest people I've ever met in my life. Like, every single day I was like, oh, my God, I'm just crazy about her.
I love her so much. Not only is she so brilliant, but she is just an incredible person to be around. Yeah, she's like a dream. And I love that she after each take she was always like, OK, where to begin? Michael Shannon. I didn't buy any of it. Not a bit. Yeah. And then she starts backtracking. She goes, let's go through all of your things. And so she's constantly giving notes, but it's like the bit that never is it funny.
And so every take we're like Rejean and she's like, oh boy, it was pretty bad guys. Makes me laugh.
I these crazy. You know how when you're a part of a movie that's, you know, feels a little rocky. Yes.
Yes, I do like all of that. She was my pillar. Oh I can see that you know. Yeah. Yeah. Oh Christ. We went through the journey together. Melissa, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be.
I don't know if I have a place. I don't mean that as a cop out. I think anywhere as long as I had my family in my. Logs and access to everybody. I think I've become adaptable because we're like carnival people anyway, so it's like I kind of feel like my home's what I bring with me and the people I bring with me because we work with so many of our friends that even if we have friends coming here now that like help produce with us and all the stuff.
So I'm like I think I've become like officially transue.
I agree. I think a lot about the idea of home and how Los Angeles has never felt like a home and what does. And it is family and my fiancee and son and his kids. But I heard Bob Odenkirk. He came on the podcast a while back and he said that when he went to Ireland, I think about this a lot, how he was overcome for the first time in his life with this sense of home really like flooded his body.
And I think about that. And I know how transient we all are and we have to be and how Los Angeles is a place of shift. So I envy that idea.
I have to say, like, I love being in L.A. I didn't transition to it very well. It took me like two years to stop just berating it constantly. And finally, someone I was friends with said, if you can't stop shitting on L.A., will you just leave? And I was like, oh, I was like, do I do it that much in there? Like every sentence, if we want to order coffee, you compare it to New York.
If we want to go to dinner, you're like, I don't know, I'm going to dinner at six o'clock. I've never had dinner before. Nine thirty in my life, every single thing. And finally, so I feel that's a part of our home and I feel very at ease in Atlanta. I love Paris, but I don't know. Now I'm in Byron Bay and I have to say I'm just like I'm staring out at these, like rolling green hills and looking at cows.
And I'm like, I'm OK here completely OK.
What was the best advice you've ever been given?
You know, it's funny, my mom and Ben's mom, they're both like amazing, amazing women. When I started having kids, I remember with the new thing of like Food Network, and it's like all these things that I was like, I guess if I'm a good mom, I'm supposed to not work and I have to grow my own organic apples and make their applesauce. And I'm like, I'm just I know I'm guilty about working in Burma, but I think I was trying so hard to not destroy my new child in both of them separately, which it's interesting because they're very different women, both in great ways.
They both were just like, what is the big deal about working? And I was like, well, you know, it's like I work a lot. And both of them were like, yes, so did I, so did I, because we had to pay for food and send you to school. What's with the guilt? They're like this guilt about raising your family and what it takes to do so. She's like they both said at different times within like probably the first three months of me having Vivian, they were like, yeah, I said, did you ever feel bad about working?
And they're like, no, we had to put food on the table. Like my dad and my mom worked. And Ben's mom and dad both work. And they were like, this is this new construct that they didn't even get it. They just thought it was the weirdest thing. And they're like, let that go in. Like, how great you get to work at something you love doing. Who cares? Great. And I was like, oh yeah.
Like get rid of the guilt. That was a biggie. I loved it.
It came from your mom and your mother in law. That's incredible. Yeah. I felt so guilty returning to work and feeling like I wasn't spending enough time, you know, the whole thing.
Everything, everything I know. Yeah. That pressure kind of blindsided me. I wasn't expecting it like those first couple of years. I think I was putting it on myself. I don't remember a ton of people, you know, influencing me, but I don't know where we absorbed this along the way.
I think it's like and this isn't anything against but watching people on certain shows, it's like I somehow forgot, especially being part of this business. I was like, well, wait, even making that dinner, somebody else cuts everything for her and they're cleaning for her like everything or him or whatever it is. It's like just seems so easy that they whip up some amazing dinner and I cook a lot. But I was like, finally I started realizing there's a whole crew and a staff and that's different.
And that person probably doesn't go home every night and cook for their family either. And like and I cook a lot and I was like, just everyone's home. When I feel guilty, I think of them saying that and I'm just like, wait, I'm doing fine. And I also was like I remember saying to my mom, you and dad were always there. Like, I had that feeling of you were always there. And she's like, I worked every day of your life and your dad worked downtown Chicago and would leave before you were up and got home at like seven thirty at night.
She was like, we weren't always there. And I'm like, but I guess I felt that she goes, Well, then so were your kids.
That might be the best answer that I've had to that question. Do you have a favorite movie that you watch over and over?
I love planes, trains and automobiles. There's such an incredible balance of it's so heartbreaking and then it's so funny at the same time. And I think that's exactly the mess that life is. And one, I just love it. And I think John Candy and Steve Martin, too. But John Kennedy was perfect in it. There was such a gentleness to him. These I'm the jackass. I'm making fun of me to make you feel better or making fun of me not to, like, rip yourself apart, but he had the perfect and I think it takes a real technician to be that funny and still be like, no, I'm taking the hit even in Splash when he was like, oh, I'm going out with babes.
He was saying stuff that you could take. It is like, what an asshole, what a pig. And somehow you were just like he did the kind of Archie Bunker of it where even when he says crazy stuff, his kindness in his heart lets you know that like, no, he's taken the fall, he's taken the fall. You get to look at him and laugh. And then when he would have his sincere moments, I think that same vulnerability and willingness to be like, I'm going to show you what it is.
There's a beauty to him and his work that I loved.
I love how you describe him. I'm trying to think of some other examples of people who convey that same sentiment. I think you do, Melissa. But you're right. You know, he evokes some like a degree of empathy.
It's a hard quality to find. It is.
And also like to be silly is sometimes I think so lovely because you don't have to think I'm cool. Like, it's not trying for anything more than what it is. There's something pure about it. There's certain people that just have like Sam Richardson is a great one. He's such a funny actor. Yeah. You could give him a list of things that another person saying it would make you cry and yet somehow he can deliver it and he turns the joke back on himself.
And as he's making fun of someone else, he's essentially saying, I'm the idiot because I think this it's a real magical skill set.
You have to fully embrace the idea that with full sincerity, you are kind of a doofus in life.
Yes. And then I think we went through this whole thing, you know, making comedies. And you try so hard to just make something to have someone connect with and make them laugh or just hear a little story. And for such a long time, I felt like they were like, if you're making a comedy, it has to be like a joke after joke after joke after joke. I just don't agree with that. I think you have to tell a story within the story.
You can be funny and you can break someone's heart and you can be challenging. It's just such a pillar of what it can be. And no one looks back on that movie goes, how dare they bring up his deceased wife and make me cry? And so it was like, what a lovely moment. But I think Ben and I have had a lot of that. You know, you win and you lose to tell a good story about real people.
And I always think within that is highs and lows. But I think we're starting to get back away from them. But I remember when we made Tammy, I had like a she's a critic or just a reporter, but he actually, like, yelled at me what it was very strange. She was like it looked like a big, you know, studio comedy. And I was like, it was a little movie. It was first movie we got to do.
And then it was like there was a parts that were upsetting. And I was like, I'm not sure what the problem is. They said, I'm sorry you didn't like the movie because I loved it. He goes, but you sold it wrong. And I was like, I don't know what's happening. Are you mad at me? Because you felt for her? He's like, Oh, I went in wanting to see a comedy. I'm like, oh, we have different values of what comedy is, but it's hard.
Like people are so against comedies now I worry sometimes we need them so much. That meaning for me being from the world because we're in a shitstorm of a pandemic. And I do think people are just beating them up. And I don't exactly know why. Even when Bridesmaids came out, it's a big thing that people are like, this is going to be awful, Mike, but it's not out yet. You're just going after I don't know if it's that it was a women or everybody thinks they can do it better, so they just go against it.
But I think if we stop making them, everything can't be dark. And I love dark stuff, but it can't all be dark. We're living in a tricky, tricky world. And if everything is murderers, killers, war crime, we're sliding down a slippery slope.
But, Melissa, I'm really hesitant to bring up a gender idea. Do you think that that's also part of it?
I think it's a lot of it, yeah. It's like I think we've taken some steps forward, but I think for the most part, there's a lot of male reviewers and, you know, statistically they don't seem to enjoy when a woman isn't being kind of like pleasant and attractive and pleasant to be around. I like characters that are really challenging and walked to their own beat. I mean, those are the people that fascinate me so completely.
Sometimes I think about how Blockbuster did as a fundamental disservice by categorizing. So, you know, our expectation levels are like a menu at McDonald's. Yeah. You have your drama section, your action section.
But I've never thought about that. The pre assuming what it is like, you have to fit in this box and it has to be like this. And I'm like, what? I think most people love the story where they're like, I didn't even know that was coming. Like I had no idea. Comedies are subjective because, I mean, you can tell the same joke or a funny moment, 14 people won't get it. Twenty will think it's great.
Thirteen will be offended. Twenty weren't listening. It's not the same as like I walked across the room and I had to pour coffee because I was mad at my husband. I'm not saying it's easy, I'm just saying it's clean cut if you do that and don't do anything bizarre. People buy it, if you try to have a weird, funny moment, it's so subjective, it's so much more heightened for critics who work so hard on them, I just think no one's ever making them in the hopes of like God.
I hope this really screws up some people. You just never, ever what's going on in anybody's head. And sometimes that the response is so crazy. But I do think it's, you know, for a long time, like every female character was. So, you know, the bullshit of female leads in comedies don't work. I'm always like, no, it just seemed like there was a 10 year time limit where everybody was like, they were perfect.
They dress perfect. They look perfect. They were pleasant to be around. And I'm like, So what's wrong if you're not tripping and falling down or saying the wrong thing? It's not very funny. I know you've given no tools to be funny. And then I think what it kind of started to swing back into, like, yeah, you need to have a three dimensional character that's like you hate certain things, you love certain things. And then I think it through people that like, wait a minute, they're not adorable.
And I'm like, I never, ever have said what I want in a comedy is like an adorable girl. Like, I don't know who wants that, but somebody does.
Man, I used to hear when we were pitching something, I thought it was kind of a joke. But the idea of like, well, you know, we're looking for like what kind of girl the guys want to fuck and girls want to be their best friend or what. I couldn't believe that was actually said out loud.
It's insane. Nobody knows that person. Yeah, we hate that person. Yeah, we hate that person. I remember somebody when the foreign press kind of you get in that room and they ask and this guy stood up and said, why are you so grotesque? And I'm like, OK, wow, what do you mean by that? And he goes, you know what I mean, why are you so grotesque? And I said, Me personally, what are we?
Because then everybody was trying to get him to sit down. And I was like, no, no, no, we're going to go deep on this. I said, you stand right there and explain what you mean. Oh, my God. Was your heart pounding? No, because I was like, what the fuck? Like, what's what are we talking about? And I said, you need to explain what you meant because I had a feeling I knew, but I was going to make him say it.
I was going to like, explain it for him. I said, are you talking about myself? He's like, oh, these women you play, these women laugh. I said, are they aggressive? And he's like, yeah, they're all they're so aggressive and you don't wear makeup and your hair looks crazy. And I was like, OK, keep going. And people were like, sit down. I was like, no, no, no, let them keep going.
I was like, so because I wasn't made up to be pretty. You're asking me why I'm grotesque. And I said, if you ever asked a male actor and I said, my character is not together, my character is falling apart. And she's not thinking about her hair and her makeup and she swears and she tells people to fuck off. I said, that's the character. I said, would you go to John C. Reilly? Would you go to any actor that didn't happen to look dashing and wasn't charming?
And would you say they're grotesque? And he goes, fine, fine, aggressive, overly confident. And I said, so that's what it is. You find an overly confident character in a woman grotesque. And I said, first of all, they're not overly confident. The reason they're so boisterous is because they're insecure. I said that's the whole point of the character. And I mean to say it in front of and he was just be a reviewer.
Was he humbled, Melissa? Like, did he absorb it? No. Oh, no. He was just like, oh, my God, fine. What do you want me to say? Aggressive. And I'm like, no, I just want to make sure I knew what you were saying, that you find non complacent women grotesque. So thank you for that. And then later he stood next to me, was like, can I have a picture when you hold the magazine I work for.
Oh, my God. I said, you bet.
Yeah. No, I love it. That's the best use of you.
But I kind of held you.
I kind of held him a little too long and he started to go and I was like, yeah, it's a great topic today that is so delicious.
It was really something. You betcha. You betcha. Oh, I love it.
OK, what is a dream you've let go of getting taller? I think I've let that one go. I don't know. I'm kind of unreasonable in that way. I like that. I guess I always think even with silly things, it's like I think I don't know. I think Ben and I are going to be pretty fun in our eighties. Like, I can't say what anything I won't do. I think I'm so much more like at this age.
I don't worry about stuff. So I'm it's not like I want to let go of anything. I'm always like, I don't know, maybe it's kind of like moved to Paris and certain chain smoking or something.
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I imagine I like to imagine because I'm not a part of it, that it's totally hellacious, like you're getting fitted for shit and you have to schmooze the people. Remember dames? I don't know.
The workload that goes with it is very surprising, is very surprising because there's a certain point you're just like if you know the twenty five well, the thirty five year old version of myself would have been like shut up and take it. But there is kind of a pack mentality that you're going to so many things and you're seeing the same group of people. But by the end you're just like, how is your American has a God? I like the fact and seeing everybody as they're all done for these things, I love that everybody gets more and more grizzled as it goes and not later, not ruder, but just like wave to somebody and then they're like, I can't.
The inside version of that really tickles me because I just always think people are so much more. You know, you just see somebody walk past you and they're like, I remember meeting Angelina Jolie and I could barely concentrate. I was just like, I'll never have that. Whatever. She was just talking and being so nice. And I was like, oh, my God, did you have to repeat yourself? I said I was so visually distracted that I don't know what you said to me.
And I'm so sorry. I don't mean to, like, objectify you. I just upclose. Holy shit, look at you. And she laughed. But it's like I like getting to see people that I think are so kind of beguiling be just like anyone else. I think that's something I found really fun and not in a negative way, just like, oh my God, OK, we're all doing this weird job. It's nice to know that for the most part, everybody just a big weirdo.
Yeah. And everybody's tired and their feet hurt. And everybody for the most part gets along like I've always like, you know, what's behind the curtain as opposed to what's in front of it. So it's a thing I remember Amy Poehler told me she was nominated, I think eight times. Oh, my gosh, an Emmy. She said that every time she would tell herself she's not going to win, she's not going to win. But as the names are being called, she felt the hope like rise up every time, like she just couldn't physically help it.
And that has stuck with me because I know I would fall into the same trap. As much as you know, I can be very dismissive of the awards because I haven't won or been nominated for shit. So of course they can. But I know that I would be seduced.
I know I would. There's human nature to that, though. Of course you have in that second, you're like, oh my God, we worked so hard on that. Wouldn't it be great if I remember the first time I was like, Octavia is going to win? And then she did. It was I don't know. I mean, we've been friends for twenty five years. I was so happy for her. But I mean, I have the same thing, but in different things, like even though I know if let's say I'm supposed to run across a field with six other actors and at the top I'm a fifty year old woman, I know exactly where I'm going to fall on that foot race.
And yet I'm like, what if out of nowhere I can kill it? And like, maybe I've got a shot at this and then, you know, three steps into it. I'm like, oh wow. Oh wow. Like I'm the last one by far. But in, like two seconds ago, I was looking at people like, man, when they see something, if I beat them, I don't know if that means we're all delusional or maybe we're optimists.
Maybe that's it. Melissa, I look back on hosting Saturday Night Live with kind of only this thought that it took ten years off of my life. I'm convinced. Do you have similar feeling? Did you hate it? No. Or it was just it's so intense, so intense and surreal. And I did not feel prepared in any way for any like even riding in the elevator, like all of it was.
It was just I don't think you can be prepared for that show. OK, good. I think for doing like so much stage stuff, it felt like preview week at the Groundlings, which is know improv group where I started and I've been there. It's just like nobody knows their lines. You've just written it that afternoon and there's an audience out there and you have half your costume on. Best of luck. Yes. Some things are going to suck.
Some things are going to be OK. I couldn't get over the speed of things like I've done things at SNL and they're so unfazed by it. I remember there was something where I was like at a pie in the face. I was a contestant on a game show. Yes, yes.
I love that sketch and know brilliant. But they're like, oh, the whipped cream isn't holding up, so we're getting you shaving cream. And I'm like, cool, great. And ended the scene. I've ingested about a cup and a half of shaving cream. I have three minutes to get fully out of this wig, this costume, into something else that had some prosthetics. You're also so exposed, you're standing in the hallway as four different people ripped clothes off of you.
Take a wig off and I start throwing up because I've eaten all of this shaving cream. So I'm literally like, oh, I'm sorry, but. Because I feel terrible out of nowhere, somebody shoves a cup under my mouth and they're just like, just go ahead and throw up, nobody cares. Just keep your arms up so they could keep pressing me. So I'd throw up and I'd apologize. And they're like, we don't care. And the thing is, they really didn't.
They were like, we've seen much worse. And I was like in my life, I never thought I would be in a room full of people fully vertical, throwing up shaving cream and just having a perfect stranger catch it. And it's like it's no big deal over. So we can get your wig on.
And I'm like, oh, I'm gripped with anxiety, as you're telling that story. Oh, my God.
Having said that, I remember standing behind that door and being one of the loneliest moments in my life.
It's very surreal because I watched it. Did you watch it religiously growing up?
I was familiar with the older stuff, but then when I hosted, I felt guilty because I hadn't been watching it for a few years, like I wasn't up to speed. It goes in cycles that show more than anything else, has such cycles to it. I mean, I watched way, way back through the 70s and 80s, and I just couldn't believe when I first walked onto that stage. Also, when you realized the stage is like the size of a small bathroom, almost, you think it's going to be this.
But I'm like, oh, it's New York. You know, everything small when we first were cutting through, we like came from the hallway cutting through to something else. And I saw all of a sudden I was like, oh, this is it. Like nobody said anything. And also I just realized we were standing there on, like, day one. And I'm like, oh, my God, that's the stage. And I burst out crying.
And Lindsey Cercas, who runs it, was like, sorry, I should introduce it more. I just I'm so used to walking through here. I just froze. I was like, I can't believe I'm standing here. It was just terrifying.
OK, Melissa, do you believe in ghosts or aliens? I do. I believe in both. I don't know if I was supposed to pick one, but I felt a ghost before. And I just don't think that we can be alone. I really don't I don't know what exactly that means, but I just don't think in the entire universe it's just us. I agree to say that we're like the top of it all. Mike, have you seen Florida?
I mean, it's just like I always think clearly, there's so many people that know so much more.
And I don't know if it's because they think people would freak out with aliens, but I just think there's too many stories of like there are people that now and I would just be so fascinated. I think everyone would feel better, not more scared. And also, at this point in time, maybe if we knew there was other people, we'd be a little more embarrassed of how we're acting and we would kind of buck up.
I love the idea that it would be an exercise in humility that would be incredible.
We need a higher being to just shame us into acting better. I think it's a sad truth.
Well, I did want to ask you about your relationship with the idea of patriotism. Well, that's a tricky one, isn't it? I know. You know, it's an interesting thing now because, you know, I am a liberal. I think what that means has been morphed and taken away from us, just like I think the word Republican or feminists or feminists, which is like feminist, doesn't mean you hate men. Republicans should mean that you're a fascist and a Democrat shouldn't mean that like anything goes and we're out to kill the country.
I love the United States. I think it's riddled with anger and fear. And I think we're ripping each other apart for it. And I hope we can get on the other side of that because I want to go back to being proud of who we are. And it's been weird these last four years, like, you know, traveling. It was always like I wouldn't even bring up where I was from. I've never had that happen. I don't hate the U.S. right now, though.
I think we're in such dire straits of losing our humanity that it worries me. So I'm hopeful to be able to be proud of it. I think there's a lot of amazing people in our country and I think there's a lot of really lost people that are so angry. And I don't even know if they know what they're angry about. But when you become so unhappy in your own life, you have to blame someone. And I think we're watching the dawn of the disintegration of the middle class that so many people are losing the ability to hope for.
Hey, maybe I could get a better job. Maybe I could be happier. Maybe I could find a different life. And I think instead of kind of looking at the mirror and saying, how can I do that? How can I work harder and achieve whatever the goal is they're going, it's that person's fault or it's that country's fault or it's the wall. It's the this. And I'm like, I don't think we can get back on track until everybody's like, yeah, the problem's most likely in the mirror and I root for those people.
Yeah, it's been a perfect storm in terms of social isolation, not just with covid, but the years before. Then with our social media and the idea of relative anonymity. My dad always thought that people would be much better drivers if you had to have your name plastered all over your car. I totally agree.
I think so too. And the same I. DIA could be expanded, I think, with the idea of social media, even if your identity is known, it's still easier, I think, to nurture what you may believe is a little bit irrational on some level or to cultivate that idea when you have this collective of kind of unknown.
Do I make sense, Melissa? You totally make sense because somebody who's like, I hope you die in your sleep, c30 from wherever Columbus, Ohio, or who knows, that's a different thing than if you had to walk up to someone and say something so hateful and be like, why are you OK? Why are you so hateful towards us? It's too easy now for people to, like, throw something hateful and take no responsibility. And I'm like, you can say whatever you want to whoever.
But I wish that there was a thing with social media that even if it didn't have to go publicly, if somehow like with Facebook's like, well, there's no way to track, I'm like, that's bullshit. You listen to what we're saying, you can track everybody. And if somebody is saying something threatening or on the verge of kind of a violent threat, the fact that we can't go find them, make sure that they're not going to hurt themselves or somebody else, it's a crazy thing because you wouldn't I mean, some people would.
But I think most people, the false bravery in hiding has become commonplace. And that scares me.
I completely agree. I want to ask you what a trait you dislike in others, but I also feel like we're piggybacking it on like. Yeah, yeah. Probably everybody.
I just said I strongly, strongly dislike. I'll see it in a gentler way. The lack of kindness sounds maybe too simple, but I think it's so easy to be kind and so many people are not sharing any of it and they're just digging in with being like mean and hateful and scary. I feel bad for those people and I also wish they would knock it off or they were somehow held accountable.
I know. OK, on what occasion do you lie?
I can't say specifics. There are sometimes certain gifts from certain people. It's usually always the one when it's like I saw this and I thought, I know exactly this is for and I remember I had I think I was like twenty one living in New York City with a bunch of credit cards. I had somewhere between nine and eleven dollars to my name, but I had discovered like, oh, you can just going to get credit cards like I was an idiot.
And so I was like very much living. I like looked like I lived in New York. I was really like like the girl from the farm suddenly New York City. And I was like, I do. I just put myself into intense debt. And I came home. And somehow at this point in my life, I was like, guys, I living in Manhattan and I had a very sweet and give me like a really oversized shirt with, like a knockoff Tweety Bird on it.
So it was like a Tweety Bird adjacent character that was just different enough for him to look very strange and clearly off brand. And I just remember her being like, I saw this and I just thought, this is Missy. And I was like, what the fuck?
Up on and off brand? Tweety Bird said me like once. So every time somebody does that is usually that's the premise when it's like, is it that's OK then I always am.
Like, I never would have gotten it for myself. I'm so glad you did. I worked with an actress. I sort of walked on eggshells around her a little bit, just like tentative. She may be tentative.
And one day she said, you and I are the exact same person, had no idea what to make of that.
It's an extension of that sentiment, though, of like I know you and you have this feeling of like I'm not sure you do and you try to have her explain, like, in what way were you?
Like, cool. Know, the tentativeness did not bleed into curiosity in any way. It was like, just have to be wary of this person. Melissa, does it annoy you when journalists say things like what makes you and Ben laugh?
And I guess, does it annoy you that I brought that up?
No, it does not annoy me. I think I'm just glad that they've stopped trying to get us to talk about how much we can't stand each other.
Like, what do you mean? Like, what did you guys fight about? Oh, my God. When we first did, Tami, every single question was like, oh my God, how terrible was it living together and then working together and being together? Twenty four hours a day we're like is the greatest thing we've ever done. It was a blast. And they're like, OK, so who's the more aggressive? And I'm like, no, like this is how we met.
We met writing and performing. So this is like a fever dream. It's great. They're like, OK, so who gets more angry?
Oh, now this has gone on for years. So like literally like six years in bed. And I'm like, I don't hate them. I just don't I'm sorry. I don't hate them.
And finally they've stopped asking, that's like who wears the pants? And like we both were pants. We both wear pants. I can't say it any more. So I'll take that over. How much do. We hate each other, and then I always felt bad, I'm like, do you hate your partner? I guess that's kind of what it's leading into.
And Melissa, this is probably well-worn territory for you. But can you tell us a bit about bridesmaids? Everything you do is so fucking brilliant. God. But probably like most Americans, bridesmaids was when I became aware of how brilliant you are. Will you tell me a little bit about the level of improv or even being a part of that movie?
You know what that was? We knew how much fun we were having. And I just remember thinking, well, Kristen and Annie wrote it and they're two of the funniest humans I knew. We all knew each other forever from the Groundlings. Rose was new, but everybody else, like we had all been around each other. So it kind of felt like we were doing another, like, you know, we'll put on a show and we're like, I don't know if anyone's going to see this thing, but I just don't know how you can watch Maya do anything and not be like she's just the funniest creature I've ever met in my life and doing it and having like Paul Feig and every single step of the way, you were so encouraged to like do and say whatever you think your character would say.
Paul would just be like, do more, say more stuff. I'm like, I haven't said any of the lines yet. And he's like, just keep talking. Like he was such a cheerleader. And I mean, in Christian Annie being the writers of that, they're such good people and they're so funny. The real kick was everybody was always if we were goofing around and doing like stupid bits on set, the main thing during scenes where people were just trying to, like, tee up somebody to go into one of the bits we were just doing, nobody was like, I need my time or this is my moment.
Everyone was literally trying to be like, can we get Maya to do the weird thing she was just doing while we were waiting? How generous.
I'm so envious. It was one of the most incredibly fun, supportive, happy, loving. I mean, I can't say enough about it. It's so funny to me that even if nobody sees it, who cares? We all get to make a movie together as friends and like, look what we did. And then there was the weirdest thing the weekend it was coming out. You know, how they do all those projections and stuff that I never understand.
They were like, oh, everybody should be prepared. It's not going to do very well. It's not going to do well. And I was like, I don't think that's true and it's not going to do well. There's a form that we follow. It's not going to do well. Mike, do you think people will see it and maybe say like, oh, my God, there's some really funny things in it? They just kept saying, brace yourself.
And then of course, it did so well, which was shocking, but it was like, I have nothing but oh God, I have so many stupid pictures of, like us behind. I was like the last one to kind of figure out, like the aging app because I'm so technologically challenged. And there was this like when we're all out on the water at the ending scene, when Wilson Phillips comes out, it's so great. We were all in those pods.
So we really were in water. You couldn't get off. And we were laughing so hard that I realized I was like, we're all going to want our pants. Like, people kept crying because we're laughing so hard that people were like, I can't get you to do your makeup, stop crying, stop making each other laugh.
And we're like, but then you're standing there with Maya and Rose and Kristen and Wendy and then Wilson Phillips.
It's like you could tell they were just like we wrote it. We didn't think that we'd actually be shooting it. And like most of them, like, holy shit, it's all happening.
Oh, my God. OK, what talent or ability would you most like to have?
Something musical? Like what? I'd love to play the cello. Really?
I bought one back in April. Oh, you did?
I'm going to learn an instrument. So I bought a cello on Amazon. It's in the bathroom. I don't do anything with it. Have you played it at all? I mean, I stuck it between my legs once and, you know, sawed away at it. But I love the idea of a cello right in the bass. I mean, there's the sound of it. And I'm like, yeah, when people sit down and they're just like, you know, just start playing away and you don't know that they have that.
Like, I just finished something here. Jonathan Levine was our lovely director who's a great guy. And we were up in a random room and he just sat down and just started playing the piano. And I'm like, for me, it doesn't play any instruments. I'm like, it's like I suddenly realized that you're a wizard. Like, it just doesn't compute. And I'm like, Why did you tell me? So when would I have mentioned, by the way, I play the piano and I'm like, I would it's someone speak a different language.
I always feel like, God, I'm this age and I can still just like butcher through some Spanish. I'm like so lame.
I feel the same way and my brain is disintegrating. OK, I wanted to ask you where when are you happiest?
I think at the end of the day when like all the stuff is done and it's just Ben and me and like a scotch and the kids and it's mayhem and there's weird bits happening. And I know where everybody is. I know where the kids and the dogs and. Yeah, I know where everybody is, and it's just like there's nothing productive to do. I just feel like, oh my God, is this everything? Yeah, whatever. You're funny.
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You'll find practically new items, add up to 70 percent off your stuff. Might be exactly what someone else is looking for. So turn your Gabbi into their hello Amirkhani. Start buying and selling when you download today from the App Store or at Mercouri Dotcom. That's me. Are seei r.i Mercouri your marketplace. Do you have collections of anything? What do you collect? Oh, God, I collect portraits, which Ben has a lot of trouble with.
He doesn't like them.
Melissa, wait. I don't know what you mean when you say portraits like oil paintings of people that I've never met. If I'm in any kind of like a vintage or antique store or thrift store and there's a portrait, I feel compelled because I'm like, that's someone's family member. Why does no one in the family have it? I guess I have to take them. And I also think maybe it's because why I love characters so much, because I'm like, who's this guy?
Like, look at him all dressed up in like nineteen fifty two and I'm so fascinated with them. Benzo is like they creep me out and I'm like I can't stop buying them. That's amazing.
What do you collect. Do you collect anything weird.
I have some skeletons. I have a lot of dead bugs and insects around the house. I have sure. That kind of like faux hipster thing I guess. But I like to think that it gives me like a comfortable cushion with my sense of mortality. Sure, sure. If I'm surrounded by it and it's inevitable, I don't know that I'll be fine with it. Yeah, yeah. I go down a lot of weird wormholes. It's like usually etsi related.
It's usually like 2:00 in the morning, but I'll sudden I'll be like oh my God. Like look at these weird like sculptures of heads. Like all of a sudden they'll be like fifteen in my car. You'll buy them. Yeah. And then Benzi hey it's the third random bus that showed up. I'm like, aren't they great? And he's like, it's a lot of money, it's a lot.
And I tend to do collections. Like they start to get one thing. I'm like, well, we should do like six on a wall. And he's like, or one or one.
I'm with you though. I love miniature things. I love a diorama. I love a diorama. Yeah. I like strangely. I love a diorama.
Melissa, when you and Ben are developing a project, you start with a character you want to play.
It depends. It always kind of morphs into it. It's like it's never quite the same way in like Michelle Darnell I'd done it Groundlings and I just loved her. I was like, I'd love to like, tell a bigger story for her. A lot of times, like sometimes I'll think of it together sometimes Ben. I mean, for Tami, he just came down in the morning. I was sitting there having coffee. So I had a dream where you go on a road trip with your alcoholic grandmother.
So I think it's a movie. And I was like, OK, you I have coffee, you want to go write it? And then like he did, he just sat down and like, wrote it all. And then as we go through it and he'll give me pages to read, I start to like put in her dialogue. And usually they kind of know who she is pretty quickly, but it comes all different ways. I always start with a wig though.
Once I have the script, I go to Willshire wig and just really spend a couple hours trying on wigs that usually keeps it all off and then like we'll have a better wig made. But I'm like I have to kind of find her visually. This will sound stupid, but I know what she's like. I know her attitude. I don't usually know how she sounds like literally until I see her on my head does there's something about like a tight curly wig.
You're going to sound different from like a mullet. Yeah, I've done this with Paul Feig. I do it with Ben. There's always just lots of pictures of me at that little tiny Willshire wig, like in the Valley. And every time I do a movie, it's just a bunch of weird pictures of me in different wigs. And then I'm like, I think I just met her.
I love that idea so much. I get a little obsessive with shoes for a character. Oh, really? That makes sense though. Does this person feel taller in life or shorter or, you know, like the posturing idea I guess. Yeah.
It's funny how there's always a different way. And I love to hear how other people like we were talking about this with Octavia Spencer. She's like, oh, I write their memories. And I was like, what? What does it mean? She goes, well, to know who they are. It helps if I know where they've come from. So I write the characters memories in a book. They'll never come up. But if I know this happened when she was six, if this happened when she was twelve, it colors how she interprets life now.
And I was like, well, that sounds a lot more interesting than I go to a wig shop and try and wigs. And she just laughed. But I was like, I thought that was so fascinating.
I love that. I now I remember Keenan Wayans had us do these big character biographies first scary movie, which it was awesome. I love doing that kind of stuff. But it also felt like Cindy Campbell is so one dimensional, she has no back story. She gets fucking hit in the head. Do you still have it? No, I wish I did. That was a scary experience. It was my first big movie and I was convinced I was going to get fired.
I always feel like I'm going to get fired first day. I'm always like, guys, you're going to love the woman who comes in and replaces me. So bear with me. I just I'm always like, I'm sure I'm out of here in like four hours that first day feeling when it's like, yeah, it's like you're at a new school and you don't know anybody and you're like, the hand thing always comes the first day. I'm like, everybody is making fun of me because I, I was so excited to work with Michael Shannon, but I was so nervous because I think he's so great.
I'm just awkward at first, and he came up and we were talking and I've never done this in my life. I literally was like all my energy was going to, like, just pay attention to what he's saying. And I literally didn't know where to put my hands. And so at one point I just very awkwardly put them on top of my head, something I would never do. I couldn't pull it off. I just sat there and it wasn't even like casual.
Like I was just awkwardly, like hands flexed.
And like all the people that are always with me and know me literally were laughing so hard. And they were like, what was with your stance? I'm like, I just got real distracted and I didn't know what to do with my hands. So I had to place them somewhere. And I didn't have pockets, which is like if you want to just completely melt my brain down, don't allow me to have pockets because I don't know where to put my hands.
And so I guess just awkwardly resting them, flexed on my head was what I came up with. I wish our listeners could see the pose because it does feel reminiscent of like a school play.
It's not natural.
There's nothing conversational about it is really fucking funny in a super sad way. Oh yeah. Do you have a favorite book or author? I really, really love the memory of running. I loved it. I don't know that book. It's beautiful. It's a beautiful story of God. Why am I forgetting his name? He's an incredible character actor who's just passed away last year, wrote it. And it's just beautiful. The memory of running, the memory of running.
It's a beautiful story. We wanted to make it into a movie and it just never it's a big one to kind of show a responsible budget.
So maybe that's the dream. I still want to make that movie. Ron McLardy. Yes, Ron. Yeah, it was a great actor and a beautiful writer. I'm ordering it right now.
Do you enjoy solitude? I do. I like solitude. If everybody's like two rooms over when I know the chaos is still close and like, nobody knows I'm in here, am I going to get to read for like a half an hour or like Troll Etsi, which is more likely. But if everybody's gone, I kind of pace around and wonder when they're getting back. So it's a false solitude that I like.
When I was talking to Regina and told her how excited I was to be talking to you, she was singing your praises. She loves you so much. And she also said at least three times what an amazing mother you are. And I guess what surprised me about motherhood maybe is how much I've enjoyed it.
I can't imagine having kids and ever being the same person you were in a billion different ways. You're instantly incredibly important to someone in completely inconsequential because your kids don't really give a shit about you. At the same time, you're everything to them. So right away, it's a head twister. Maybe it's age too, but for me, I think it's having kids. What I worried about before, kids like the things that I was like, oh, what am I going to wear tonight?
Like, what if so-and-so is that, like, the stupid things I thought of. And now it's just like I know where they both are. They're doing great. They're completely weird, funny, independent. Like these young creature ladies that I live with are constantly surprising me. It's a constant fear of like like when you're 30 you'll be like, oh well, I'm still dealing with that because my mom was I don't know, I think we're all narcissists.
We start out, you know, is kids are they only can want what they want. Even in your twenties. You're not just self-serving. And I think you should be, but you're not responsible for anything. So you can just be like the most important thing is like where are we going? What are we going out? What am I going to wear? It's all like fluff and very fun. And then you have kids and you just kind of it made me feel like I reassessed my entire life in a good way.
I just can't get over how funny and strange my kids are. That's amazing.
Melissa, what was your first boss like? My first official job was my mom worked for these two women that ran like a world book encyclopedia company out of their apartment in Plainfield, Illinois. They had apartments, but they had a cool thing on, like there's a little two block Main Street. And they lived in an apartment above the shop, which was like I thought that felt like a big city, even though it was like a hundred year old building.
And Norm and Betty, oh, my God, they had one of their aunts with her Aunt Hilda. And I was probably in fourth grade. And every day after school I would come and I would be a caretaker for an HILDA who is like ninety eight and I would be her companion.
Like Rebecca. You were a paid companion? Yes, I was a paid companion and I just loved it because I lived with my great grandma or she lived with us and I just loved it. I mean I thought the stories is a fourth grader. I was like, just keep them company, maybe I'll make you ham sandwiches all day. And I just hung out with her. And then my first official job at sixteen, I worked in a nursing home.
So there's like a pattern of I worked in a nursing home as well. You did? Yes. I was part of the dinner staff. They had like. A restaurant with two options. Yes, that's what I did to you, did ya? Yes, I got five twenty five an hour. There was a Christmas bonus, but I didn't hang in there for that long.
That's why I had my first. There was a woman named Helen, I'd say she was probably 89. I was a sophomore, a junior in high school, and it was a nursing home next to the high school I went to. And it was half for nuns and half for lay people that I was in the Labe restaurant or the dining room. And Helen, I was fascinated with her because she would dress for dinner every night and she would talk to me just as another.
She treated me like an adult. She just never acknowledged that I was like 16.
We became friends, that she was the first person that was like, would you like to have a cocktail with me before dinner one night? And I was like, Yeah, Helen, I sure should do. She was talked about. She had a martini every night before dinner. And I was like, my parents don't really drink. Like I was like a martini, like Manhattan. Here I come. It felt very like for being in this like rural little town I got there and she very sweetly was like, I know you kids like your beer.
And I was like, oh, oh no, I know. I was like, I wanted a martini. I never had one. You know, she had a martini and I had a beer and we just had, like, a lovely conversation and I loved it. At eighty nine, she was like, you know, perfectly fine. Would you like a cocktail like I am 16. Helen Yes. And then I went and worked in the dining room that night and she came in, but I kind of cherished that.
We had this like it was my first like grown up like cocktail with someone.
I love that. I love that. Melissa, did you admire it that she dressed up every night or did you find it a little bit. I liked it because I could tell she enjoyed it. And it wasn't an overly fuzzy way. I mean, if she put, like, a dot of lipstick on, but she always came in and she kind of shuffled and she'd have like a little matching, like jacket and skirt and the blouse. And, you know, I was like, oh, it's you know what?
I comment on it. And you could just tell that she enjoyed it. It wasn't to be flashy. It was really because she's like, I put it on because I wanted to. Huh. So it made me think she was like, pretty cool. Yeah. Yeah.
I love her style. Yeah. OK, here are two questions that have the same theme. What would your younger self not believe about your life today and what advice would you give your younger self?
I think my younger self would be shocked that I'm doing the job I'm doing. Do you think? I think so, because I don't think I thought I was going into, like, the acting world of it. I think I thought I want to be able to generate it. I remember the first time I saw Carol Burnett. I remember being very aware that she was not only on it seemed very different to me. The same with, like all the great women on SNL.
I was like, they're not just actors. They're generating it like Burnett is generating her show. Somehow that, like, took a hold of me. And so I knew whatever I wanted to do, I was like, I want to be the one who generates it because I like the process of the creation, not just the final result. I got to think if I could give myself advice, I would try desperately to not worry about all the bullshit, the worrying about how I looked or which is really funny.
I think I was hardest on myself when I was in great shape in my twenties. I remember always being like, this is really funny because they worried about my weight. Then, you know, it was like, wait for it. You're really going to have something to worry about later. But I worried about it so much when there was nothing to worry about, which just goes to show you as women, especially young women, we have such completely distorted ability to view ourselves.
I spent so much time and I didn't think I was a crazier than anyone else. But I just think about it now. And I'm like, I could have been doing so many other things every hour. I spent worrying about that kind of bullshit. If I strung them all out, like, how much time did I waste? And now I'm just like, I'm up.
I'm able to take myself across a room. I'm doing great. I could give two shits. If somebody is like, I wish you looked more like this, I'd be like, well, wonderful for you. I don't care at all.
The twenties were like a time of. Yeah. Fun and misery. Yeah. And I was consumed by jealousy that I couldn't suppress very well and competitiveness. But I imagine the Groundlings was joyful but intense. Did you have those times when you were second guessing? I dropped out of my drama program at the college I went to because I didn't think I was going to happen for me and I didn't want my heart to be broken. In Los Angeles. It worked out.
Yeah. You know, I'd started doing production out here in New York. It was like our gang. It was always like, I'm putting out a play. I'm going to get three other people. If we all invite 15 people, then we've got this and we're always in like the cheapest place. But I was always doing it. And then when I started doing production, there was a pay was my first time really doing anything on set. And I remember thinking I was getting closer and closer to thirty.
I came down to a real decision where I was like because I just didn't I wasn't making any money. I was getting in the acting work at all. But I spent, you know, sixty hours a week working on. Things for the Groundlings and I had told myself, I don't know if I would have gone through with it, but I was pretty close to meaning it. I said, if 30 comes and I still have not had a regular acting job, I'm going to switch to production and switch to the producing side of it, because I had been the production manager for someone who I really liked and she was like, why don't you come work for me?
And I was like, I have to give it to the rest of the year because I was twenty nine at the time and I was like, I'm not quite there yet, but if I hit 30, can I come back and see you. And she said yes. And then like two weeks before my 30th birthday I got Gilmor. That's incredible.
OK, before I let you go, I wanted to talk to you about superintelligence. I loved the movie. Oh, thanks. I love you. And Bobby Cannavale. He's the greatest. I imagine. I've never met him. He's one of the funniest people on the planet.
And he's also just like the greatest guy.
He's just a tremendous fella, it seems like in this scene in the grocery store. I love your flirtation and your relationship and the way you both play it. There's that wonderful moment where he sort of refuses your invitation to dinner without explanation. It was just so beautifully done. It's really satisfying how the movie plays out. I thought it was just so beautifully romantic and the two of you together was just beautiful. Thank you for watching it. I'm glad you liked it.
We have a funny thing. We've done four things together now. We fought each other like literally fisticuffs and spy and then in superintelligence were an item and then thunder force coming out. We fight again like we're both superheroes. We fight each other. And then I just finish something here. Nine perfect strangers with him where we fall in love again. So we just keep fighting and falling in love, fictitiously. That's our pattern.
On the scale of one to ten of characters you've enjoyed playing, where would Carroll Peters lie in enjoyment or is that unfair? Is that like picking children? It's like picking children for me.
I mean, luckily, good luck will knock on something. There's a couple that I wouldn't be like, oh, I'd do anything to go back. But there's certain women that I feel like I really fell in love with and I could never rank them. I just kind of collect them and love them all. But it's the joy of getting to play interesting. People like you get to take them with you. I love that.
Do you have a favorite joke, Melissa? I do. Oh, great. What do you call a pile of kittens? I don't know. I mean, I love it. I just never good the jokes, but that one truly like stupidly the first time I heard it, like I laughed and someone's like, oh, you're actually laughing. I'm like, yeah, it slayed me. They were like, God, you're an idiot. Oh, I love it.
Melissa, what do you think is the meaning of life?
Oh, God, I wish I knew. I think to get to the end of it and not have regrets, I think it all just matters. And how you treat people and all of that stuff just stays with you and other people. And no matter what you kind of accomplish at the end, I don't think means anything. But I think at the end of your life, if you don't have any regrets about how you've treated people kind of an integrity with yourself, I think that's it to go to wherever we go, whatever that is, I think to progress as a spirit or soul or whatever.
I think you can only do that if you can look back and be OK with what you leave behind. I love that.
And I love you. You're so sweet and I cannot thank you enough. Truly, Melissa, you have been my dream guest for this whole time.
Oh, my God. And I keep looking back at myself. It's like I get to get close enough to you.
So this is so fun. Thank you so much. Thank you, Melissa. I look back at you. Bye bye. Bye. Hey, everyone, I'm excited to welcome Dr. Jen Guntur to the podcast. Dr Jen is an OBGYN pain medicine physician and advocate for women's health. She has been called Twitter's resident gynecologist and the vagina whisperer. OK, maybe I came up with The Vagina Whisperer, but you'll see why. I do need to emphasize that while we hope our conversation is educational and helpful, nothing should be taken as medical advice.
If you're experiencing a medical issue or have a question about a medical issue. Please talk to your doctor, OK? And now Dr. Jen Guntur. Hi, Dr. Jenn, thank you so much for doing this today. I want to thank you so much for having me. All right.
Let's call this. Hello. Hi, Liz, how are you? It's on a high honor. I'm so excited. I'm doing great.
Well, I can't thank you enough for submitting your email and for talking with us. I'm here with Dr. Jenn Guntur. She is an OBGYN and she has also been called Twitter's resident gynecologist, the Internet's OBGYN. And she's wonderful. I love that. Liz, will you tell us what's happening? Yeah.
So I've been noticing over the last year or so that I've been having trouble self lubricating or getting wet. I'm not entirely sure what the exact terminology is for it. I've been with my partner for about five years now and we have a really healthy sex life and she's a very generous partner. But I've been finding that this is getting in the way a lot more often to the point where we just stop having sex. What I find confusing is like we'll be doing for playing.
It feels good, but I'm not having this physical response with my body and that's clearly getting in the way of what goes on beyond foreplay.
Do you mind my asking how old you are? No, not at all. I'm twenty seven years old.
That seems young. Dr. Jenn, will you help us out? Because I assumed that age was related like menopause or, you know, and I'm forty four. So I keep waiting for those days too, when I'm not as Loopt.
So definitely lubrication can change with age. So that's certainly one factor. But there can actually be a lot of different things involved. So is it OK if I ask you a couple of questions, Liz? Oh yes, of course. OK, so are you taking any medications?
Yes. So I'm on birth control. I take the pill, OK.
And are you on a regular estrogen containing pill? It's a very low dose of estrogen. OK, and do you take any other medications, specifically anti-depressants, if you feel comfortable answering that, I do that. OK, so the other thing is when you say that you don't feel well enough, tell me what the symptom is like, how it actually feels again, if you feel comfortable with that. Yeah.
So we'll be like fooling around and, you know, I'll feel myself like producing something down there, but then we'll start having like full penetration sex. It'll be going on for a while and then it just starts to feel kind of like a little more painful, like, you know, before we even like my partner, he notices that, like I'm not really enjoying myself as much. And like, I don't want to say it's dry now. It's not dry, but it just definitely feels like there's more friction when we start to have penetration sex.
So obviously, you know, this isn't direct medical advice. And without an exam, you know, I'm missing some things, but so there's a couple of things that could be going on. So sometimes, for example, just lubrication can wax and wane for reasons that we don't understand. But that would be something that we would say would be the the diagnosis we would come to if we rule everything else out. Secondly, if you've been on the pill for a really long time, it's unlikely related to that because it sounds like this is a problem that sort of didn't develop within a month or two after starting the pill.
Is that correct? Yeah, that is correct.
OK, so the two things that can produce sort of that sensation of kind of like increased friction or discomfort. So one actually is the yeast can do that. So when people have an overgrowth of use in the vagina, they can actually feel dry during sex, even though when we look under the microscope or look vaginally, there actually is dryness. The other thing, people can also develop some muscle spasm in the muscles around the vagina and they get a little bit tight.
And then what happens is that leads to extra friction during sex that gets to be uncomfortable. And anything that's uncomfortable is going to also affect your ability to lubricate.
And because sometimes it can be hard for your brain to sort of sort out during sex, like what's friction, what's lubrication, because all of this stuff is going by the same nerves. And you're also sort of in the heat of the moment sometimes that can be perceived as dryness. So for someone with your your history, I would want to evaluate your pelvic floor to make sure those muscles that wrap around the vagina aren't a little bit tight. And that's why you're having that increased friction that's causing the discomfort and that would be treated with physical therapy.
I'd also want to get a used culture to make sure that you don't have a higher than expected amount of used in the vagina. And that's contributing to a sense of dryness and the friction problem. And I also want to have a look and make sure there's no skin condition in the vagina. But typically, when something comes and goes, a skin condition is going to cause problems all of the time. And if all of those things checked out completely normally, then I would say, you know, try a silicon based lubricant because lubricants that are water based sometimes can have what's called a high osmolarity, and that can lead to irritation of the tissues.
Dr. Jim, what would cause your pelvic floor muscles to suddenly get really tight? So for me, it's a very. And I probably diagnosed three or four people a day with it is sometimes it's one of these complex answers like why does anything start? Why did one day you have migraines? Why did one day you get low back pain? You know, sometimes it's just the straw that broke the camel's back, medically speaking. But sometimes it can also happen if someone had a run of bladder infections that can irritate those muscles.
If you had a yeast infection that made you itchy, you know, whenever anything hurts, it's natural for those muscles to actually clench and protect yourself. If you think about if you hurt your back, you know, you kind of tighten up to protect that area. And so often this trigger for this could even have been a yeast infection. You had about a yeast infection. You had some itching or just for one episode of sex. You did have a momentary period where you just weren't lubricating enough that was uncomfortable and that kind of triggered that cycle of spasm.
How do you do physical therapy on your pelvic floor?
So we actually have amazing specialized physical therapists all around the world that are pelvic health physical therapists and they work vaginally. What they do is they assess the tightness of those muscles. You know, those are the muscles that you squeeze. If you do a kegl, you know, if you're kind of contracting your pelvic floor, you know, they're the muscles that also contract when you have an orgasm. So that's kind of like that pumping sensation. That's the levator Anei muscles contracting.
So physical therapists work on those muscles. Strengthening those muscles can be really important for people who have incontinence. And when those muscles get too tight, they can cause pain. And so working on them to make sure that they're relaxing appropriately can be therapy for pain with sex and pelvic pain.
So a lot of the times my partner will actually make sure I come to orgasm before we do penetration sex. Is that does that have any correlation with any of the pain that I'm feeling?
It's actually unlikely. So usually and that means that you've got a wonderfully responsive partner, because we always like to say, you know, ladies first. And so definitely that can actually relax the pelvic floor for a lot of women. Some women have pain with sex because they don't get adequate foreplay. So that sounds like it's not an issue for you. And whenever we're talking about sexual difficulties, we also want to make sure our technique is right. But, you know, this can just happen.
And sometimes it's the friction that triggers the muscles to have the spasm. So getting your pelvic floor checked out would be something to think about, you know, getting checked for used and and also maybe trying a silicon based lubricant.
I was under the impression that silicone based loops also can trap bacteria pretty easily.
No, that's a myth. I lubes don't track bacteria, you know, so silicone is generally the least irritating. And so because it doesn't have to have a preservative in it, you know, and there's no, like, organic silicone, you don't have to know your silicone farmer. So, you know, whatever you you know, just a plain silicone lubricant is great. But, you know, some people don't like the feel of it. You know, different lubes have different slip factors and we're all tactile in different ways.
That's why some people prefer the water based lubricants. But you do have to be really careful with those, because, as I mentioned, if you have a high osmolarity lubricant, what that does is it actually pulls water out of the tissues and that can lead your tissues to actually feel irritated. And so people can mistake that for thinking that they're getting a vaginal infection from sex, where it's actually a side effect of the lubricant. And when the osmolarity is really high, that can actually damage the vaginal bacteria in a way that can increase your risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection if exposed.
Dr. John, I feel like you just cured me because I was under the impression that Philippon was worse. So we've been trying water based and it gave me the most God awful you to the point where I was too scared to even use lubricant. So it seems like we almost need to go back to try the silicone and maybe that would help us both out in the long run.
Yeah, I mean, especially so if you had a bad reaction to a water based lubricant, you tried that out. So maybe you had a little bit of dryness because, you know, like life happens. It's not like anybody's stressed right now. Right. And so, you know, something happens. You have a sort of a momentary episode of pain because maybe you're not lubricating. Well, it triggers a little bit of that muscle spasms. So then you try to compensate you like, oh, let me get a water based lubricant.
And then it's like you get all that irritation and then it just makes it worse. And then you're thinking every time you have sex, oh my gosh, what if I use that lubricant? I might make it worse. And, you know, all those things can have an impact. So, you know, silicone is the easiest one to use because almost no lubricants published there, Osmolarity or there. So it's really hard for me to say, you know, use brand X or use brand Y because they could also change their recipes.
So if you use a silicone lube, you kind of take all that out of the mix. And the irritation from a water based lubricant can feel like a bladder infection or yeast infection or, you know, if you had pain with sex, that could have also, you know, led to a sequence of events that might have increased your risk for a bladder infection.
Dr. Jin, for a while I used coconut oil, but it made my balance off. So what do you mean by made your balance off?
It didn't smell bad, but I smell different. And then when I stopped, it stopped.
OK, we don't have a lot of data on just using sort of straight oils. There is a small study looking at olive oil, which didn't find any difference, and that was for women after menopause. In general, coconut oil seems pretty well tolerated. I have a lot of people who use it, but the way we smell everywhere head to toe is generally related to the bacteria in our bodies and our vaginal bacteria is no different. And so we have colonies of bacteria that are typically lactobacilli, but some people have other ones that produce things that keep our vagina healthy, that also produces how we smell.
And so it's possible if you introduce something different for you, for your bacteria, that might cause a change. And if that changes bothersome to you, then go back to what you were doing before.
My body reacts to natural, healthy things.
Well, you know, look at nothing. Everything natural is eventually bad for you. If you have too much oxygen, it can be bad for you. If you have too much water, it can be bad for you. So you know, I love you, Dr. Judd.
So say we have intercourse and we use lubricant. How would you recommend that I cleanse myself after we finish having sex? Like, is it safe for that to still be within me or should I do some sort of deeper cleanse afterwards?
So you should never clean inside your vagina ever, because that will cause problems. So after sex, you don't need to do any kind of special cleaning. I mean, you know, you can have the traditional sex towel on the bedside table if you like, to kind of mop up between your legs, you know, or if your partner is caring, they'll they'll grab the sex towel for you.
Yes. Maybe know we can have one. We could have a little house. Yes. I love it. So so.
Yeah. So, you know, you don't have to do anything at all medically if you want to clean between your legs with a towel, that's fine. But there's no washing that's required and you definitely don't want to clean inside the vagina. Even cleaning internally with water damages the good bacteria. You don't want to reach in and scoop out and try to mechanically remove anything either because that can damage the ecosystem.
What are good cleansers to use for the outside the for the like the vulva and.
Yeah, so the vulva, like where your clothes touch your skin, you don't want to use any feminine washes. Those are basically garbage, you know, and they're also sold with, you know, tropical smells and stuff. And I'm like, you know, it's a vulva, not a pina colada. Like it doesn't need to smell like a tropical breeze. It shouldn't smell like a tropical breeze. So, you know, I tell people that a gentle facial cleanser, you know, that's unscented because you want to use a cleanser because soap is irritating.
When soap interacts with your skin, it can also raise the beach and the vulva skin is more susceptible to drying out. That's actually one of the functions of pubic hair. It traps moisture there. So especially for people who remove their pubic hair, you're going to have to work a little bit harder to not dry out, you know, the area. So, I mean, if it's OK to mention products, I just use, you know, Serabee facial cleanser.
I use that on my body head to toe.
Oh, great. I'm loving this, by the way.
I guess just with the idea of, like, self-deprecating or getting, why would you say that? Just like everyone produces something different. Like every once in a while I'll feel a little shame. The fact that I couldn't produce more like show my partner that I was like more turned on than I actually was just because, like, I feel like especially with that party B so I'm coming out like I just can't relate to that idea.
You know, I think that's a real reflection and I hear that all the time. So, you know, I want to I want to endorse that. What you're feeling is something I hear from a lot of women.
So it's almost like sex has become a metric driven, you know, that if you you know, how fast did you come, how wet are you? You know, all these things. And it should be pleasure driven. It should be. Did you have a good time? You know, that's what matters. You shouldn't have to sort of give a display of that. And I think that, you know, things happen and life happens and sometimes you're more lubricated than others and you know.
Sixty five percent of women have reported that they've, you know, needed to use a lubricant and there's nothing wrong with that.
And so and sometimes people like to try it because why not try a different sensation? But, you know, and it's also sometimes your brain is ahead of your vagina and you're like you're raring to go and your vagina just hasn't caught up.
So why not use some lube to get you there? And you don't need to have some kind of sort of sexual performance metric to take off. It's about pleasure, not performance.
What happens during ovulating? I know that there's a more viscose discharge, which is such a gross word, isn't it? Discharge. It's beautiful, our body.
But discharge is an evolutionary marvel. I could talk for hours about how amazing discharge is, but yes, during ovulation you have this special kind of mucus that comes from the cervix and it's. About, you know, obviously helping with pregnancy, should it happen, and we call that Shopin Barkett, that was sort of the name that was given to it. And it's you can actually wait. I might I might be butchering the pronunciation. So let's just say that.
But I think it's just been Barkett So it's a German word. And if the mucus is so thick, like if you put it between your fingers you could pull it. Yeah. Like that's normal.
And I heard doctors and I think you've touched on this and I think this is the magical part is that that lub like sucks the sperm up and helps like escort it to the egg. Yeah.
I mean it's all about everything about the reproductive cycle is geared towards making fertilization more likely to happen. So it has absolutely has a role in that. And some people can produce so much Ivo's for a mucus and other people less, and sometimes some months it's more than others. And that's the way it is.
Lyz, before you got on, Doctor Jim was telling me something fascinating that the white Weiping thing that we've all like the mantra we've all like front to back Weiping is not as relevant as we think.
It's really I feel like that's so ingrained in our brain. I know age, especially once we get our period, we become a woman. I want to blow both of your minds here.
So you remember how cleanliness and purity have been linked with goodness for women, right? So a lot of these kind of cleaning rituals and things have come from that sort of a good woman is a clean and sort of prepped woman. You know, when on many of these recommendations came out, in addition to sort of purity culture, you know, there were very few women in in Ogwyn to sort of speak up about what actually happens when you go to the bathroom.
It's not like you're soiling yourself everywhere. And then, you know, then there's the other concept of we now we didn't know about the microbiome, what we know now. And so things are far more complex and we're learning that over cleaning is actually really bad. I see a lot of skin problems from wipes and over cleaning. You know, I unfortunately see a lot of women who are washing or cleansing their vulvas, you know, four or five, eight, 10 times a day.
And I don't think about it at all. And I'm an expert in the area. You know, I give a swipe in the shower and that's it.
What about urination after sex? Yeah, that's also a bit of an old wives tale. There's absolutely no data to support it. It's also been removed from the newest guidelines. So special attention to wiping and avoiding after sex. I've sort of been removed, you know, I mean, a lot of our bathroom purity stuff. This fastidiousness is probably also a remnant from, you know, Victorian era where, again, cleanliness was next to godliness and that is permeated so much of our culture.
You know, that's probably a big part of it. Those things don't seem to make a difference. I mean, they're not harmful. If you want to pee after sex, you certainly can. But, you know, if you like a little after play and you want to cuddle first, that's OK, too.
Yeah, I always thought that was a bladder infection correlation. Like if there was, you know, a lot of like rubbing or whatever, that peeing after sex was an important part of.
Yeah, no, it's just hasn't sort of borne out. And, you know, I think we're learning a lot more about bladder infections, that it's really far more complex. There's a urinary microbiome, you know, bacteria that cause infections often are more adhesive, but it doesn't mean you can flush them out with your pee. If you could flush them out with your pee, you'd be flushing them out all of the time. Right. So, you know, this idea that some critical window of five minutes that is somehow going to allow these bacteria to take hold hasn't been borne out.
And so this is incredible. In like fifteen minutes, you have completely reoriented my vagina.
I wish I could get all this time back from my life on the toilet and try to put myself to pee after me.
Do I know.
But, Dr. Jenn, is there anything concrete that we can do to avoid yeast infections or bladder infections, or is it kind of a little mysterious still?
Well, so I would separate those two completely because they're very different, even though, you know, they happen in close proximity. So we don't really have a good understanding why most women get yeast infections. So most women have used in their vagina at any given time. If I took one hundred women walking down the street and stopped them and did a culture, twenty would have yeast and don't have symptoms. So far, a lot of people, it's the overgrowth of the yeast that's normally there.
And the reason that happens, we don't know. But it's not related to eating sugar that I can tell you. So it's not related to eating bread or gluten. I can tell you those two things for one hundred percent. Sure. It's probably related to, you know, local issues with the microbiome that we just don't understand.
Certainly for some women, exposure to a penis can be a risk factor. And whether it's the friction of sex that can cause, you know, little micro abrasions that can allow. Yes, that's normally there to overgrow, whether, you know, exposure to a penis can introduce something called a biofilm, which is something that allows the yeast to kind of avoid your immune system. So there's a lot of complicated things that we just don't really quite understand about that.
And so those are kind of the main things. But what I would say is that if 100 women think that they have a yeast infection, usually the number that truly do, it's closer to about 30 to 35 percent. So what happens is many people mistake an external itch for a yeast infection and a yeast infection typically produces internal symptoms.
Oh, boy, this is kind of eye opening. I mean, I've definitely treated myself like with the over-the-counter products in the past. And sometimes I felt like it intensifies, especially like the one or three day treatment plans. And I just chalked it up for them being extra powerful. Liz, have you experienced any of that, too?
I have. I like routinely keep these like all natural use suppositories in my cupboard because I thought I was experiencing like, oh, wait a sec, Liz.
Wait a sec. Liz, we have a cause of your irritation with sex. Those suppositories are not good for you.
They're not good for me. No, no.
The natural suppositories that that claim to keep lik e away that have maybe tea tree oil or lavender, those kinds of things, they could definitely damage the ecosystem and cause irritation.
Oh, interesting. I never even thought about that. I don't use them super often, but I don't know. I feel like if I ever have like some sort of like itch or discomfort, those are usually what I turn to because I thought they say all natural. It tries to re balance my almost no that it can't do that at all.
In fact, those things are like cigarettes for your vagina. They're really not good. Yeah, they're just I mean, tobacco is all natural, right? That is true. Yeah. I mean, these companies are preying upon people. So we have these huge gaps in medicine where women are made to feel shame about their normal vaginas. We have doctors that aren't trained maybe in the way that specialists like I am are. And so people get misdiagnosed, they get pushed off.
And so I can totally understand how you turn to someone who's offering this kind of all natural product. But those things are definitely harmful for your vagina. And I would throw them away. I am planning on doing that the second I get home.
And Liz, do you have any more questions for Dr. Jenn? I feel like this has been hugely helpful for me. Liz, I'm so glad you wrote in.
Yeah, this is been incredibly helpful. I feel like you've opened my eyes to a lot of things. I mean, I'm definitely going to pick up some silicon based lubricant. I'm going to throw away any of my, like, all natural suppositories. And I just I feel really happy that I was able to talk about this because like you said, like there's this level of, like, shame that's put upon us when I can't respond in the way.
And I'm very thankful. I have a wonderful partner who's never made me feel shame. It's just very internalized. But I it seems like I have different things I can try out now. And hopefully things will turn around in the end.
And I cover all this stuff even in more detail in my book, The Vagina Bible, which I have upstairs.
It's awesome. Oh, I'm definitely getting one of that hate list.
Thank you so much. I so appreciate you talking with us and I truly do because I've learned a lot.
Thank you. This was wonderful.
Please be in touch and thank you for for being so open and talking about a problem that millions of women have. Thank you so much, Anna, and thank you, Dr. Jen.
Thanks, Liz. Have a wonderful rest of your day. All right. Thank you, Dr. Jen. Thank you again. Oh, thank you so much for having me. I cannot wait to talk to you again by Dr. Jenn by. Thank you.