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Why ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s’ Chelsea Peretti Wanted to Do Stand-Up for Dogs on Netflix

Why 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine's' Chelsea Peretti Wanted to Do Stand-Up for Dogs on Netflix

“In my half-hour special
[on Comedy Central], I had talked about how I wished the whole audience was
puppies,” she told Indiewire, “and in this special, I was
able to actually make good on that fantasy and throw some actual dogs into the
audience.”

The
special, “Chelsea
Peretti: One Of The Greats
,” which debuts today on Netflix, has more
weirdness than just dogs in the audience. There’s a sad clown taunting her from
off-stage, cuts to people distractedly typing on their smartphones and other
unusual crowd shots. But it’s also a solid hour-plus of material that discusses
topics like how comedians talk about sex, her addiction to social media and her
penchant for staying home whenever she can.

It’s
been an eventful five years for Peretti, going from the writing staffs of
“The Sarah Silverman Show” and “Parks and Recreation” to
playing wise-ass precinct administrator Gina Linetti on “Brooklyn
Nine-Nine” (produced by her former “Parks” bosses Mike Schur and
Dan Goor). Peretti talked to Indiewire about the special, the fun vibe of the
“Brooklyn” set and why she loves watching documentaries on Netflix.

What made you want to sign with
Netflix for this special?

Well,
you know, I think the most obvious, simplest answer is that I’m a Netflix user,
and I just love the convenience of it, and the other answer is that, since I
started, basically, the advent of social media and my stand-up career have kind
of been parallel in many ways. So I’ve been able to use all these different
tools to have more of a direct connection with the people that like my comedy,
and so, to me, Netflix is perfect for that, because I can tweet something, and
then someone can immediately watch it.

Is the fact that you can find
the special and just watch it whenever you
want a reason why a
lot of comedians are signing up with Netflix right now?

A
hundred percent, because if you have a podcast, which many comedians do now, if
you have a Twitter account — it’s a comedian’s medium, Twitter — then you can
basically promote it at any time of the day, 24 hours a day, and someone can watch
it right then and there.

What’s your favorite thing to
watch on Netflix, by the way?

God, I
mean, I just watched this documentary about a king, and I forget which king it
was, honestly, but I was watching it, and I’m just like… I like watching
random documentaries on there a lot, like that one. I think he was married six
different times, and then the funniest [thing] was he killed one of his wives.
He had her beheaded for cheating on him, and then the historians were trying to
make it relatable and pathetic saying, “Oh, then he went through a period
of depression. It’s like, oh, I’m sorry, does beheading people bum you out?”
But it was pretty amazing.

READ MORE: Watch: 12 Comedy Supporting Actors We’d Love to See Get Emmy Nominations

When you first started thinking
about material for this special, did you think that you wanted to do something
different than you’d done in the past?

Well, I
wanted to be as innovative as I am with social media, and I wanted to feel
excited about it and not feel that it was a cookie-cutter kind of meat and
potatoes stand-up special. But I still wanted the stand-up to be really strong
material and material that could be a stand-alone thing. It’s always driven me
nuts when I’m watching stand-up specials, the reaction shots that they insert
into them. It takes me out of it every single time. It’s just the weirdest
tradition in which you’re in the middle of a great joke, and then you cut to
some person looking confused, or staring into the distance, or high-fiving
their friend, whatever. It always just seems generally very odd, and so I
wanted to play with that.

Sometimes the reaction shot’s
not even to the joke that’s being said…

Yeah. I
mean, that’s the thing. It’s really something that was born out of necessity. I
mean, you tape two shows when you do a stand-up special, and then you pick your
favorite reception and your favorite delivery from each show as you edit together
the special. So those things are put there so you can switch from one show to
the other, go to a different angle or whatever. It just sometimes seems like
they’re completely picked at random now, or you’re like, at least someone could
be laughing in it, you know? So I just was excited when I started thinking
about… In my half-hour special, I had talked about how I wished the whole
audience was puppies, and in this special, I was able to actually make good on
that fantasy and throw some actual dogs into the audience. 

You have dogs. You have people
not paying attention. You have someone taking tea. You have people laughing
uncontrollably. At the end, you had everybody falling asleep. How did you
coordinate all that with just doing the special?

Well,
most of it was shot on a separate day. So I really thought about this a lot in
advance of it and wrote out how I wanted the whole grandiose intro to be, and
wrote up all the different bits of what I wanted in the audience, and I had a
lot of fun doing it. So most of it was shot on a separate day, and then,
obviously, the stuff with the audience… In some ways, I somewhat sacrificed
one of the shows, because I got the audience to do a bunch of different stuff,
and it set sort of a weird tone, but I was also moved by how great they did.
Like the sleeping, I was like, oh my God, because I was watching it backstage
on a monitor, and I was like, they’re really going for it, and it was cool to
have, and so many things are interactive, which stand-up is, but I like the
idea of pushing that a little bit.

With the parts of the routine
where you’re staring at someone in the
audience or starting
at the picture of yourself as a kid, is the audience going “What the hell
is she doing?” or did you tell one of them beforehand, hey, there are
going to be times where I’m going to pause and look out in the audience?

Well,
I’m glad that you’re asking these questions because that seems like a good
sign. I wanted it all to feel seamless. Most of the time, those things were
shot on different days, but some of them were within the stand-up. I had a
great editor. This girl Brenda who just… We sat in there for hours. I mean, I
knew it was going to be edit-intensive because of what I was trying to pull
off, but she really… We just sat there and just poured over the entire thing
trying to make it as tight and seamless as possible.

Why do you think social media is
such great fodder for

comedians, and has it gotten to the
point now where there’s just as hacky jokes about social media as there was
about topics like flying and relationships?

Well, I think
there’s hacky jokes about anything under the sun. I mean, anything you can talk
about, there’s a hacky joke about. So I think that it’s just part of the fabric
of life. So, comedians are going to talk about whatever’s happening, whatever
is of the moment, and so that’s certainly going to be hard to avoid as a
stand-up.

I’m
fascinated by it because I have an addictive personality, and I think it’s
something where you get all these great things from it, but it’s kind of like a
lottery. You also lose a lot of time, and you also get a lot of crappy things
from it. So it’s like you keep refreshing things and pressing buttons, hoping
that you’re going to land on something awesome, and sometimes you do, and
that’s what keeps you coming back for more.

What’s the awesome thing that
you land on that gives you that positive
reinforcement to
come back?

I mean,
it could be anything from a single joke someone tweeted, to an entire link, to
an entire movie on the Internet, or an article that you read that changes how
you think about life. The tricky thing is, basically, life is social media now.
The word “social media” isn’t even quite accurate. I mean, most
things now are done in a completely different way than even when I was a
teenager or kid. It’s like, everything’s virtual. So it really is life now. I
think the word social media’s too small for what we’re talking about.

If you
want to buy groceries, you can buy them online. If you want to get some
supplies for your house, you get them online. I talk about being reclusive, and
there is a big part of me that that appeals to. I love just pressing buttons
and never leaving my house, but then there’s another part of me that’s like, oh
my God, I spent eight hours straight just starting into a four-square-inch
screen or whatever. I don’t know what size it is. Don’t quote me on the size. And
then the day is gone, and you think, God, I remember when I used to touch
actual objects.

Yeah, those days are long gone.

Well,
that’s hard to do in LA anyway, speak to real people.

How do you think your stand-up
has changed since you started? Now you’re in your 30s, what are you touching on
now that you didn’t touch on five years ago, ten years ago?

Well,
I’m not sure even how much of it has to do with my age. I think that, as I’ve
gotten more experienced as a stand-up, I’ve really wanted to be less guarded. I
feel like, early on, I had this feeling that I had to prove how tough I was,
and as I’ve gotten deeper into it, I want to show more of a range. I want to
show my silliness. I want to show my fears. I want to show my conversations. I
think the goal, really, with stand-up is to just become this living, breathing
person and this facsimile of who you are in real life, unless you have a
persona, which I don’t. You’re a heightened version of yourself, but for me, I
want to show as many layers as I can and use every aspect of myself that is
funny.

What’s an example from the
special of that?

Let me
try to think. It’s hard because, largely, what I’m talking about is an energy
and an attitude, and I feel like I started stand-up in New York, and I did it
there, and there’s so many truly inspiring, incredible comedians in New York,
and a lot of them are very much like a “tough guy with a heart of gold,”
in my experience. Those are the people that encourage me, these comics who are
gruff and tough, but then they would say the kindest thing that would keep me
going when I want to give up. So, in some ways, I felt like I was trying to
emulate what they do, and I think I’ve just moved more towards doing what I do,
my own thing, and I just feel better when I can do that. I think most comedians
start out in some way or another trying to emulate someone they admire, and
then hopefully those layers fall off as you find yourself more.

How easy or tough is it for you
to transition from doing your own thing with stand-up, where you’re the one
who’s only responsible for what’s on the page, to a writer’s room, to filming a
sitcom, that collaborative atmosphere?

I
always think of it… I need to research wolves more, but I always think about
wolves, and I don’t even know if it’s accurate, but I think of them as loners
but also pack animals, and there’s a pack mentality in a writer’s room that
very much appeals to me. At “Parks and Rec,” we would have all these
debates about things. My first job that I got hired at to leave New York and
come here was to write for Sarah Silverman’s show, and it was crazy. You’re
like, “I’m getting paid, and we’re going on these crazy tangents, and
bizarre things are happening, and so, I love it.” There’s a way in which
being in a writer’s room feels like being in grad school or something, you
know? You’re surrounded by incredibly intelligent people, and you’re having
very heady conversations as well as completely ridiculous, absurd distractions
that come up. So I really loved it.

At the
same time, there’s the immediacy with stand-up where you don’t go through
anyone. You don’t have to debate anything. You just get straight on stage, and
you get to say whatever you want. Now, you still have the audience as a
collaborator in a sense, and I think that’s also what I was trying to highlight
in my special.

It’s a different comedy muscle,
I would imagine.

Well,
yeah, it’s different. I mean, it’s less heady I think. Being in a writer’s room
can be very heady because you’re raveling and unraveling stories, and you take
this piece out and try it again, and you put something else in. So it’s very…
Sometimes there can be logic problems where you’re strategic, and you’re
following something through a thread all the way to the end, and stand-up, you
can be a bit more impulsive I think. But again, it depends on the writer’s
room. I think there’s probably writer’s rooms where you can be less strategic
than that. 

Once you went on “Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” did you have any time to go back and write for “Parks and
Rec,” or is that part in the past now?

No,
that’s in the past. Yeah, I wrote there for two seasons, and then I really felt
like my stand-up was coming along, and I wanted to continue performing, and
that job is a dream job, obviously, for any comedy writer. I just feel like
it’s something you want to give your all to, and I was finding my performing
and the writing, [it was] a little bit challenging to do both. Then I got
re-hired back in to be on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” So it all worked out.

Obviously, your experience with
Mike Schur and Dan

Goor must’ve helped there, right?

Yeah. I
was lucky enough that they were very familiar with my voice and my personality,
and so when they were writing the show, I think they had me in mind on some
level. But I definitely auditioned, and tested, and went through the process. We
still had to convince everyone else that I would be a good part of the
ensemble.

Did they consider anyone else to
play Gina at all? The role seemed to match your personality from day one.

Yeah. I
mean, I think it was essentially written for me. Yeah. So I think it was mine
to lose kind of thing.

How are Mike and Dan fostering
an environment where everybody bonds as a group so quickly?

I don’t
know the exact alchemy of it, but I just know that, even at “Parks”
when guest actors would come in, they’d always be remarking on the vibe on set
and saying how friendly and nice it is. I’m like, what are other sets like?
Because I can only speak to what I’ve experienced, which is “Kroll Show”
and things where it’s really fun and warm. So I don’t know. I don’t know how
you set a bad vibe, but it sounds like, from the scarred people that I’ve
talked to, that it definitely happens.

But
yeah, I don’t know. I think that the truth is they’re nice guys. They have an
humility to them. They care about their actors, and they write with
sensitivity, and so they draw people to them that have those same attributes.

When I had Dan on my podcast,
he’d completely think I was jinxing him when I told him that something was
working well. Any time I complimented him, he’s like, “No, no, man. I
don’t want to hear it.”

[Laughs.] I know. I think it’s like when we got
the Golden Globe… Which, I mean, as you might’ve been able to tell, none of
us were expecting it. I mean, at least a fact is we weren’t expecting it. I
feel like that was the first time I was like, okay, maybe we’ll have a second
season. You know what I mean? Because I think you just are so used to seeing
things come and go, and things that have so much promise, and then they’re
gone. So I think no one feels like they can ever relax slowly in Hollywood or
things will just disappear.

For you, it’s good that you have
all these irons in the fire. You
can do stand-up. You
can go back to writing sitcoms. You can act. Is that something
that you planned on doing, or was that just
kind of accidental?

You
know, for better or for worse, I’ve always had varied interests, and stand-up
is a hybrid of writing and performing, and so I’ve always, from the very
beginning, loved both. I used to do theatre and improv when I was younger, and
then I moved towards stand-up after college. So, for me, all these things have
always been intertwined, and luckily, I’ve had people to look up to, like
Christopher Guest, and Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler, and Sarah Silverman, Larry
David. People who do everything, and so I never felt like I had to choose.

By the way, when did the writers
find out that you and Andy Samberg knew each other as kids?

Well,
even when we tested together for the show, we were making jokes about it. I
mean, Andy was being very generous when I was testing. He made me feel relaxed
and stuff by making jokes about it and stuff like that. We were very silly and
played around, and so I think that’s what also led to me being Gina rather than
a cop.

Did it surprise you at all that
they incorporated the fact that you guys had a past into your characters?

Yeah, I
mean, they seem to pepper in things from real life into the scripts, and you’ll
see someone doing this or that, and then you’ll see something very similar pop
up in a script, and you’re like, okay, so you’re watching us. They definitely
incorporate some real-life stuff.

Anything you can tell me about
what’s coming up on the show?

Well,
you know, the Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) and Gina thing has ended on a romantic
level, but then continues. They keep getting snared back in on other levels. So
that’s going on. My friendship with Amy (Melissa Fumero) is weirdly trucking
along. There’s a few episodes where you start to see us thrown together by
fate, and it’s pretty cute, and I don’t know. I love what they’re doing with
all the characters this season. Since you know them better now, they’re able to
play more. Holt (Andre Braugher), that monologue that he did [in the episode
“The Mole”], and some of the just silly things he has coming up are
amazing. Jake (Samberg) I feel is just a comedy machine now. Every line he says
makes me laugh. So I feel like they hit a groove.

Andre Braugher, one of the
funniest men on TV. Who knew?

I know.
I have to say, I obviously read that monologue in the table read, but the way
they shot it and the way he did it, I was just dying. I mean, it’s one of those
moments where you want to stand up and scream at your TV like, what am I
watching? This is amazing. It’s fun because you just don’t get to see it even while
you’re shooting. So there are still surprises for you as an actor.

Oh, and I was going to ask you
this too. Do people still come and say, hey, you’re
the girl who got in the helicopter in the “Louie” pilot?

Yeah,
it’s interesting. I’ve gone though airport security, and people are like, I
like you on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Kroll Show.” You
know, people notice you in a variety of places and stuff. So it’s cool to hear
what people have seen or not seen, but yeah, “Louie,” it’s definitely
like, if I say I was on “Louie” and people are like, you were? I’m
like, “Yeah, the helicopter.” I mean, it’s definitely an iconic
moment. I had just moved to LA, and then he basically was like, do you want to
do this part? So I flew right back.

And that was only, what, four
years ago?

Yeah. I
mean, basically, LA has been a very productive city to live in. Who knew?

So you’re just going to concentrate on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” for
now, or do you have anything
else in
the works?

Well, I
have some ideas kicking around. We’ll see what I do on this next hiatus, but
yeah, right now we’re halfway through the season. So we’ll shoot the rest of
them, and then we’ll take it from there. I know a bunch of us are planning to
go on a little trip together over New Year’s. So that’ll be exciting.

Anyplace interesting?

Have
you ever heard of “gay Paree?” [Laughs.]

Yeah. It’s a little town in
France, right? Yeah.

Yes.
Yes.  A little often overlooked
city, but yeah, these guys…Melissa motivated everyone, and so we’re going,
and so it should be fun.

READ MORE: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Cast and Producers Taunt Stenographer During TCA Panel (And It’s Hilarious)

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