in her shoes podcast

Jen Statsky Is Honoring the Funny Women Who Came Before Her

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Andrew Law

On this episode of the Cut’s In Her Shoes podcast, editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples speaks with Hacks co-creator and showrunner Jen Statsky. A comedian and TV writer-producer, Statsky is also known for her work on The Good Place, Parks and Recreation, and Broad City. She talks about working in television, dealing with imposter syndrome, and getting discovered on Twitter back before it was what it is today (read: a cesspool).

From being the only female monologue writer on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to co-creating her acclaimed HBO series about the lives of two female comedians, Statsky has a lot to say about the changing landscape for women in comedy. Hacks, she notes, is meant to pay tribute to women like Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller, who paved the way for her career. It also honors those whose comedy careers were cut short because of discrimination, harassment, and other barriers. Statsky holds this sad truth at the core of her comedy show.

To hear more about Statsky’s writing process, creating authentic female characters, and the Me Too movement’s impact on bringing better stories to TV, listen and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. You can also read the full transcript, below.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Lindsay Peoples: Jen Statsky has been writing her way through the industry punchline by punchline. The comedy writer, producer and showrunner got her start writing on the late night scene and soon went to write for shows like Parks and Rec, Broad City and The Good Place. Most recently, she co-created the show Hacks on HBO Max with a few of her friends, which is about a relationship between a legendary standup comedian and a young comedy writer who pushes her outside of her comfort zone. The show snagged a few Emmys and a slew of awards this season, and I’m personally very excited because it’s been renewed for season three. We talked to Jen about her start in the industry, how she went on to create Hacks and how women are portrayed in media. Thank you so much for joining us, Jen.

Jen Statsky: Of course, thanks for having me.

Lindsay: So this show is actually called In Her Shoes, so I have to ask because I’m curious, what kind of shoes you have on now, or what are your favorite shoes and any story behind your favorite pair?

Jen: Oh, well, it’s a great question because I’m a huge sneakerhead, so I…

Lindsay: Me too.

Jen: … which I know isn’t necessarily what maybe you meant by shoes?

Lindsay: Oh no, I love sneakers. We’re good.

Jen: Okay, cool. What I’m wearing right now, what I’ve been really into are my white Adidas Continental 80s. Do you know those? They’re good-

Lindsay: I’m going to google these.

Jen: Yeah, they’re good, really basic everyday kind of shoe that goes with a ton, but-

Lindsay: Oh, yes, I do know these. Yeah.

Jen: … still look pretty good. So that’s what I’m into right now.

Lindsay: Tell us about your start in the industry. What was that like and what was the moment that you knew that you wanted to really pursue comedy?

Jen: Yeah, I think that growing up, I didn’t know really that comedy writing was the thing I wanted to do. I didn’t even really know that was a job, but looking back now, I realize that I did know at a very young age. I watched a lot of TV growing up and I became obsessed with the old sitcoms, like watching Nick at Nite, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, is a massive influence on me. I loved shows like that. I didn’t realize there were people writing those lines for them, but then as I grew up, I was into writing more than anything else. I wrote for my school newspaper and then kind of just merged together. I came to NYU in 2004 and they had a really good film and TV program, and then that kind of led to my first job in the industry, which I was a freelance headline writer for The Onion, which was a satirical newspaper in New York. And then The Onion was doing web videos at the time as well, and I was an intern there and then they got offered to do shows for Comedy Central and IFC, two shows and I became an assistant there. And so being an assistant on those two shows were kind of my first industry job.

Lindsay: I know that Twitter kind of played an influential role also in your start though, so what was that like as being a writer and as someone reached out to you, from Late Night and tell me about that interaction.

Jen: Yeah, so basically I was an assistant and as I was working doing that, Twitter at the time was popular for people were just writing one-liner jokes and that was something that I had always kind of had an inclination towards. I was doing it with writing headlines for the onion, so I just started on Twitter in… I think I joined in 2009. 2009, 2010, just writing stupid little jokes. Twitter was a different place than it is now.

Lindsay: That was going to be my next question.

Jen: Yeah. It wasn’t fully the hellscape that it is now, so it was still a place where you could go and write dumb little jokes and it was cool. I think for a little while it became a little bit more of a democratized process in that anyone could be writing jokes from anywhere, that you didn’t have to have any connection to the industry and someone could see it and be like, “Hey, this person’s really funny. We should ask them for a sample.” But as for me, what happened was I was working as an assistant. I was also writing, yeah, just the silly little Twitter jokes at the same time. And then when my job as an assistant ended, I said, okay—this was all in New York—And I said, “I want to be a TV writer. I feel like I got to go to LA. That’s where it’s happening if you want to write television. I’m going to pack up all of my stuff.”

I’d lived in New York since 2004, so it’d been seven years. I pack up my entire apartment, I’m going to move across the country to LA. This is January 2011. And then a month later I get a DM from A.D. Miles who was the head writer of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at the time, saying, “Hey, someone sent me your jokes on Twitter. They’re really funny. Do you want to submit a packet to be a writer on our show?” I said, “Sure.” Did it, long story short, got the job. Had to move back across the country back to New York about two and a half months later.

But yeah, so Twitter was a really big part of how I got that job and, honestly, how I got my next job because Mike Schur, creator of, of course, Parks and Recreation and The Good Place, he also had followed me on Twitter and saw just jokes I was writing and I guess thought I was funny and he kept me in mind for Parks and Rec. So that then happened a little while later that way too.

Lindsay: How do you feel like social media is different, though? Because I mean, I’ve looked, especially Twitter, but I don’t have a Twitter anymore because I feel like Twitter very quickly became just too ratchet for me. It just feels like there’s too many opinions. It’s too much.

Jen: Too ratchet is an excellent way to describe Twitter. That’s good.

Lindsay: It’s truly how I feel.

Jen: Yeah, yeah.

Lindsay: I mean, it’s obviously been formative in your life, but how do you find your relationship has shifted with social media over time?

Jen: Yeah, I agree. I don’t really enjoy Twitter anymore. I kind of use it for, honestly, now just to promote things about Hacks, but I’ve been trying to actually spend less and less time on it because it is, like you said, it’s tough. In some ways it’s good because I think the change in Twitter started happening when people became a little more aware about the world and became more active politically, and so it turned into a… I guess the Trump era kind of reoriented people to wanting to discuss that and use social media as a tool of activism that way. So in some ways I’m like, well maybe that’s good. Maybe the push towards being more aware of social issues on a platform is good rather than just jokes. But then also, kind of like you’re saying, it also became a tool of very intense contrarian takes and people trying to take each other down for their takes. It became a pretty not nuanced medium, I think. It’s just kind of someone says something and then someone attacks them for that. I don’t know. It doesn’t feel great anymore. I actually think I, in a perfect world, would not have a Twitter account anymore.

Lindsay: Do you at all find new talent on Twitter?

Jen: I do. Definitely. Definitely. I do. That’s the other reason I don’t want to get off now actually, as someone who now can hire people for the show or find younger writers to develop stuff with. I do follow people on Twitter and there are some people who make me laugh so much and I’m like, “Who is it? I don’t know who this is.” And it is a really good tool, I still think that way to find people, not just mindlessly scrolling it.

Lindsay: Right. I mean, when you were starting in the writer’s room, did you find a lot of support? What were the pros and cons and what was that experience like, to be heard and to find your way as a female comedy writer?

Jen: Iit was tough. I mean, tough, not in that anyone specifically went out of their way to make it tough, which I’m lucky, because that is many people’s stories. I don’t think that happened, but when I joined the staff of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, this is 2011, and it was still kind of the time when, I think I was one of two female writers in a staff of 17. Specifically I was a monologue writer so that was my team. And that’s, I think, five or six writers and I was the only woman on that. And eventually that changed. Some very smart, funny women got hired, but I look around now and I hope that we’re getting to a point where when I look at people’s writing staffs or certainly my own, you’re not coming to a thing where it’s like, oh, there’s 16 men and one woman. Hopefully we’re moving away from that.

But I think just the sheer fact that I was the only woman or was one of two, was scary, it was weird. You inherently feel a little bit siloed that way because there’s not someone you can turn to closer to your experience. So that was a hard piece of it, and then even just on top of that, regardless of gender, and who else was there, I think when you get hired to do your “dream job” or a creative thing, I was under the very foolish impression when I was 25 years old and got hired there, that the second I got hired to be a professional writer, all of my insecurities would flutter away and I’d be good for the rest of my life. And the truth is it was the opposite.

I’d never been more insecure about my own ability than when I got thrown into this kind of pressure cooker environment, because it was pretty competitive. Everybody was nice and pleasant, but it was very like you’re putting on a show five days a week and it was really intense. I was in Late Night two years basically, 2011 and 2013, and it was super challenging. It was a really hard two years. There was a big learning curve for me.

Lindsay: So in learning how to be a professional late night writer and then transitioning to writing for television shows and comedies and all of that, has your process changed? What has evolved over time?

Jen: I think what has been helpful and what continues to be the challenge of it is not having a little bit of separation from the work, not saying I am only my job. I am only this work, which is really hard because especially now. I co-created a show that’s incredibly personal and is very much so exactly the show I want to make along with Paul Downs and Lucia Aniello. I have this fantasy sometimes of a job that I don’t feel is so tied to my personal self worth. That’s really been the challenge, I think, of my career, just for me personally, is trying to find my own self worth and how I feel about myself independent of how the work is received or how the work is going, and I’m getting there. I wouldn’t say it’s all figured out quite yet, but I think talking to other creative people, it’s something we all struggle with. It’s really hard when it’s such a personal thing.

Lindsay: There’s an older article in the New Yorker by Toni Morrison and she talks about this and I often read it because it is about the distinction between separating your identity from work and how you are the person that you are not the work that you do.

Jen: Oh wow, please, please. I’m in desperate need of that. Send it over.

Lindsay: Toni Morrison makes everything better.

Jen: Oh my god, yeah. What am I doing? Why have I not been listening to Toni Morrison on this exact topic? I probably could have figured it out many years ago.

Lindsay: I will share it with you later.

Jen: Please.

Lindsay: Let’s talk about Hacks. Obviously, you’re the co-creator, I mean, what even crossed your mind when the show got greenlit and what is it like to actually get a show off the ground in those early days?

Jen: We were incredibly excited. It also for all time will be kind of a twisted, weird experience of it getting picked up off the ground, because it got picked up in April 2020, in the depths of a global pandemic. So it was a weird, interesting time in the world for everyone. But as far as just the show, I mean we were so excited. We had come up with the idea in 2015. It was something the three of us, Lucia, Paul and I had talked about a lot. The reason we talked about it a lot, and I said this before, is we had one of those experiences where you kind of know an idea is worth pursuing, which is that we had the idea in 2015 and then it kept coming back up for all of us. We kept thinking of little new character details or ideas or things we wanted to put in, and that made us realize like, oh, this feels like this is fertile ground. It feels like there’s something here that is worth exploring.

So by the time 2020 rolled around—2019 is when we pitched it—we were supposed to shoot a pilot and then HBO Max very, very helpfully said, “Hey, we don’t know what the world is right now. We don’t know when we’ll be able to go back in a production, but one thing you guys can do from home is write the show. And so we’re going to pick you up and pick up the series and have you write the show, write the whole first season,” which was amazing. Almost every episode that you see in season one is something we had thought of in the few years before, not in the months before. So it was a very nice experience of being able to finally put into action all these ideas we had talked about for so long. And I think, of course, the fear comes in, at least for me of, “Oh no, here’s my shot. I hope I don’t mess it up.”

Lindsay: I mean, you’ve gone though from writer to producer to showrunner. So what has that journey been like to not have that negative self-talk that you can’t do it, or not have that imposter syndrome and get there?

Jen: Well, it’s funny because I do have it. You just, I guess, quiet it. You live with it and you have it next to you on the journey as you go along. It doesn’t ever fully go away, in my experience at least. But you don’t try to get rid of it. I think I used to try to really fight and claw to be like, I got to completely get this out of my brain and now I’m a little bit like, no, it’ll be next to me on this journey and that’s okay. And the trick is just to make sure it doesn’t ever stop you from doing anything.

And I think the other thing I’ve learned and I learned this very much so in coming up in the Parks and Rec room and The Good Place room with Mike Schur is… I think when you start thinking about it, that you’re alone doing it, it’s way easier to have those insecurities and doubts creep in in the imposter syndrome, because it’s like it’s all on me. The truth is it’s never on you, even certainly not in my case because I created a show with two other people. But even if you create a show alone, TV and so many artistic endeavors are such a collaborative process, so I think I learned from Mike Schur that you lean on people and you happily and gleefully invite their collaboration and their process and their artistic vision into yours and it makes it infinitely better. And I find that in leaning into that collaboration, you also are able to quiet that imposter syndrome because it’s not about it kind of can, in the best version of it, stop being about your ego. It’s not about just you doing this and your ability to do it. It’s about you doing it together with other people.

Lindsay: Out of the roles that you’ve had in transitioning from writer to producer to showrunner, what role have you felt strongest or most confident in, or just enjoyed the most or the least?

Jen: That’s a good question. I really like producing actually. There’s something about writing. I obviously like writing in some way. I like having written. The famous thing about writing. I don’t like writing, I like having written. And I like writing in a group. I like writing with Paul and Lucia, and I like writing with our writer’s room. My favorite thing is when other writers on the show come up with a joke that is amazing and so funny. I’m like, oh, in a million years, I would’ve never thought of that and now it’s in the show. I love that. I really, really do.

But with writing, there is an unknown quality to it that is still really challenging to me. When you’re like, I think this is the right story to tell, I think this is the right thing, but sometimes you just know. You’re like, “That’s amazing,” and some other times you’re like, “I hope this works. I think it works.” You don’t know necessarily, maybe till you get it on its feet on the day on set. I don’t know, writing because there’s so many different options, sometimes it’s a little bit more like, well, this is just the option we’re choosing and maybe someone else would make a different story move here, but this is what we’re doing and it feels right for the characters so let’s do it, but we don’t know. You never fully know.

Whereas producing, and by producing, I mean I was a producer on Good Place and other shows, and so that meant I was on set for my episodes and other episodes and kind of working with the actors and stuff. And that was really fun, but kind of what I really mean executive producing for this show, for Hacks, for my own show, what I’ve really enjoyed is the nitty gritty. There’s a more cut and dry like, oh, we found this location. This location would be amazing. Can we get it? Yes, we can. There’s concrete problems and concrete answers in producing and it’s super hard. It’s not always… it’s not easy, you know? So I’ve enjoyed that and kind of have gotten, I think, better at it as I’ve gone along, hopefully.

Lindsay: I’m curious, as far as writing goes though, how do you draw the line of personal experiences that you do want to share or get inspiration from, or is there a specific moment from Hacks that personally aligns with you that you’re like, “This actually feels like it was me,” in a sort of way.

Jen: I think like for me it’s all on the table. I used to be like, no, I need to save that thing for one day. And now it’s like, I don’t know, the earth could explode tomorrow, so maybe I’ll put in this stupid joke. It’s a little bit like everything is up for grabs if it makes sense for the story or for the character, at least for me. And in Hacks, there’s so much stuff in various characters that is me or that is Paul or that is Lucia, from our own personal lives or, things we’ve experienced or our own personal characteristics. And so it’s a little bit all on the table to be taken if it makes sense for Hacks or for something else.

And there’s countless things in Hacks that are from me or about me and same with Paul or Lucia. I would say the one that people are most saddened by, I’ll give you this, is the fact that Ava not being able to swim does come from me.

Lindsay: Oh no.

Jen: No, it’s okay. I can doggy paddle. And then when I tell people that I can doggy paddle, they breathe a sigh of relief. They feel a little bit better. But yeah, I never was taught how to swim as a kid. Never took lessons and so I was always a little skittish around the ocean more. Pools, I’m okay with, as long as it’s not too deep. Let’s not get crazy with how deep it is, but pools I’m okay with.

Lindsay: Right. Yeah, I feel the same way though.

Jen: Yeah, but the ocean is terrifying to me.

Lindsay: I mean, it’s vast. We don’t know what’s down there.

Jen: It’s vast. We don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know what’s going on. You know what? It’s the waves. The waves are what get me. Those things are big, they’re powerful. Calm ocean waters, no problem. Once the waves start coming, I’m losing it.

Lindsay: It’s over.

Jen: I’m freaking out. I’m clutching my life raft.

Lindsay: I mean, you’ve talked about it a lot, I think, as far as television writing for comedy or dramas, but I think especially in how women have been written in TV, and I think there’s obviously so many tropes and stereotypes of the sitcom wife with no real problems or flaws, or just feels very vapid, or it feels like there’s also been an overcorrection of that on a lot of other shows. So how do you find the sweet spot to navigate writing about women on TV now?

Jen: I think we just try to make it feel real. I don’t know,  make it feel true to life. Make it feel connected to something real that resonates for us and then hopefully we know it resonates for other people. On Broad City, that was such a thing that as a writer for the show, I was incredibly proud of and also just as a fan of the show, I think is the most lovely thing about it is that as crazy as that show could get, the thing at the core of that show, that is this has been well covered, but the thing at the core of that show that is so lovely is that it is about this friendship between two women that I don’t think had been— I mean, yes, it had been explored on TV— I don’t mean to make it sound like we did something no one had ever done, but to your point, there were thousands and thousands of shows about women who were the wives, who we didn’t get to see their inner lives. And part of those inner lives that are so important are these friendships and these friendships with other women. And so the thing about Broad City that I always really loved and I felt was the reason when people came up and told me how much they loved it, or I’d be with Abbi and Ilana and people would tell them how much they loved it and it meant the world to them is that people saw themselves in these characters and they saw themselves in this friendship, this kind of romantic friendship. There’s a very specific type of female friendship that is really romantic and lovely and this very important part of growing up and how you get through the world. And I don’t know that it had been, at least for me, I hadn’t fully seen it reflected on screen in a way that I felt resonated with that was true to my relationships.

Because that was another thing too, like you said, there’s a sitcom life and then there’s also so many instances where women were pitted against each other and not able to show these deep, meaningful, really singular important in their lives’ relationships that I knew to be true from my life and my other friends’ lives.

And so to answer your question, I think what it is just trying to write female characters that reflect my experience as a woman in the world and what I know my friends and other women I know, what their experiences are. And so for Broad City, it was showing a friendship like that and for Hacks, it is trying to make these women feel real, feel like, as silly and crazy as the stories can get, at the heart of it, they feel like something in them emotionally resonates with you as you’re watching that is like, I have felt that before, or that is a behavior I do, or something that feels real and truthful that you’re connecting to while you watch. And so that has been the guiding light for how to write characters like that, to me.

Lindsay: I think specifically talking about Ava and Deb, there’s obviously a generational difference. I find them both have a lot of parallels and I love the cynicism that I think they both have. But was it important for you to tease out their differences and their different experiences throughout the show, and why was that?

Jen: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it was very much baked into the DNA of the show that when they meet, they have very different views on comedy, but also just the world in general. And that part of the engine of the show was how do they come together and how do they bond over these things and how do they clash over these things and butt heads. And then as they butt heads, these cracks form and then each other seeps into the other. And so that was very much so from the beginning, how the show was designed and it was really important to make sure we were showing that and also showing it in a way where it’s not that one of them was always right and the other was always wrong, it was that they were each coming at a table with perspectives that were worth hearing, and maybe each could benefit from the other’s perspective.

Speaking of writing female characters, it was an interesting experience because the design of the show was that when Ava is hired, she is someone who looks down on the type of comedy that Deborah Vance does in her career and doesn’t have a full appreciation for her and is entitled in that way. And the very intentional journey of the show is her realizing throughout season one and season two as well, like, “Oh, the things that I was placing a premium on and the things that I thought mattered don’t.” And now she’s gains appreciation for this woman and what she’s done.

And so it was a funny experience because I think the tolerance people have for a young entitled woman on screen is I think low, which is fine. I can somewhat understand, but it also is that kind of debate we’ve had a lot as we talk about TV and movies and what female characters are allowed to do that male characters get to do. I don’t know that a male character with the same attitude and POV would’ve, I don’t know, would be as hard to take in, which is just an interesting phenomenon that I’ve noticed. And I’m not speaking just about Hacks. I’m speaking broadly about TV and media in general.

Lindsay: I agree. I mean, I think you definitely see there’s a shorter runway given to women and there’s definitely a smaller tolerance level. 100%.

Jen: Yeah. The most crazy example to me will always be Breaking Bad with Skyler. The hate that she got was just kind of crazy. I don’t know. It’s an interesting phenomenon.

Lindsay: Yeah. I mean, specifically though, with Deb’s storyline, I know that you did a lot of research on women facing hardships in the industry. What did you learn through that research, or what did you put into the writing of why you think it’s historically been so hard for women in the industry to call out when they’ve been wronged even now?

Jen: Yeah, we did so much research on so many people, whether Phyllis Diller, Elaine May, Joan Rivers, Lucille Ball, so many of these women, we really dug into their past. And I think that the thing that kept coming up, to me, that was so wild was I would keep reading about things where I was like, “Oh, if that happened to me, I would’ve quit. And if that happened to me, I would’ve quit.” These women had so many things happen to them that they just had to put up with and keep going, that you never heard about. Like, oh, a business manager stole from them and then 10 years later, another business manager stole from them.

Or there’s a story that I think about all the time, which is not about a woman we researched. It actually came from a woman in our writer’s room. There’s a woman, Janice Hirsch, who is a lovely, very, very funny, wonderful woman in her, late 60s or early 70s who we asked to consult on Hacks season one, because we really… as much as we could research, we knew that we are writing from the perspective of people in their 30s. We’re not a woman Jean’s age and so we wanted to make sure we were reflecting the experience as authentically as possible. And one of the stories Janice Hirsch told, and she has written about this, I think, for The Hollywood Reporter now in the wake of the Me Too Era, she wrote an article about this, is that she was a writer on a show and in the writer’s room one day, a guy took out his penis and put it on her shoulder as a bit in the writer’s room, as a very funny bit in the writer’s room.

Lindsay: Where’s HR?

Jen: Oh god… yeah, no HR in sight. And then the next day, she was fired. She was let go from the show. And I bring this up to say as we researched these women, there were hundreds and hundreds of these stories that, the Me Too Movement brought this out tenfold in our culture of oh my gosh, she went through that and then that, and then that. And so we just kept, like a punching bag, getting hit with these stories and being shocked at what these women had to deal with.

I think that was really something we tried to put into the Deborah Vance character and something that Jean Smart plays so beautifully is this Teflon nature that they had to build up. And you kind of said, why couldn’t they tell these stories? No one wanted to hear them. You either fit into a box and you did the comedy, you were “allowed” to, or you had to go away. That’s very much Deborah’s story. She is a victim of being maligned by her ex-husband in this story being told about her, which was very much so we wanted to reflect this story of the “crazy woman”, and then have society as we look back go like, “Oh wait, that woman wasn’t crazy. Actually, the way we treated her was quite crazy.”

Lindsay: Exactly.

Jen: And so we wanted to reflect that in Deborah’s experience and in the character that she is someone who’s had that journey and had that story. And yeah, just in terms of what women could say and talk about, that was what really struck me as like, oh, these women had these things happen to them and they just had to deal with them. And if they tried to speak up about it, nobody wanted to hear it or their career would be ruined. And it’s just unbelievable. I think we’re inching slowly towards something about how to reckon with this, but I also worry about how, I don’t know, do we maintain on the correct trajectory with this, or will there be some kind of backlash.:

It’s interesting when we do press for this show, we get asked about cancel culture constantly. And I think that’s because the way that Ava comes into working for Deborah is a little bit connected to that. But we actually really never meant for the show to be a statement on cancel culture. It’s actually not something we are interested in exploring, partially because the whole story of the show is about what’s been happening to women for decades and decades. And the truth is Monica Lewinsky was canceled and Winona Ryder, when she shoplifted, was canceled and Janet Jackson was canceled. And only when it started happening to, honestly, in my opinion, powerful men, did we need to put a term on it and say, “this is cancel culture. This has gone too far.”

I don’t even like to use the term anymore because it’s been so weaponized by people in bad faith. But yeah, it’s like we’re not really interested in commenting on whatever this modern day phenomenon is because the truth is we’re trying to tell the story of what’s been happening to women for decades and decades and decades, and no one cared to put any movement around it and say this has gone too far.

Lindsay: But I guess in knowing and seeing firsthand and writing about all of those stories that no one cared about for decades, I think of the phenomenon of people not understanding how Britney Spears was so not in control of her own life and really I think just a complete abuse of power and her conservatorship that we’ve written a ton about on The Cut. And I think there’s obviously been this moment of reckoning for women, but it also feels like, like you were saying, it feels like it’s been inching. I don’t feel like there’s been this huge, amazing leap, but I’m curious of what you feel like and now that you’ve heard all of those stories, but also, I mean, so many people to this day that we’ve grown up and admired or loved have had, and are still dealing with so much scrutiny and not really being in control of their own narrative.

Jen: Right. I think, yeah, I do feel like it’s inching and I worry about just the way our culture is and how everything is so like, I don’t know, divided. This is not a smart way to say that. I’m like divided, yeah. But even with whatever you think about Amber Heard, Johnny Depp, but something’s happening there, where there is some kind of backlash to some sort of movement that is concerning. And so I do think we’re inching towards something, but I also worry about now how the narrative is turning. And I also just regardless, as a culture, we can move forward and we can correct our wrongs in some ways, and we can treat women better today than we treated them yesterday. But the thing that is painful to think about, and I think about it a lot and I always say we did want to make a show that’s a tribute to women like Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller and all these women who like paved the way for, honestly, me to do what I do. But I do also hope that the show is like a tribute to the women who didn’t get to tell their story because the path was so hard. Even though we’re inching forward as a society, there’s a loss there. The Me Too Movement, I think one of the things I was so struck by was all these women who we said, “Oh yeah, what happened to her?” And the truth is what happened to her is something awful happened to her. And then she rightfully couldn’t keep going, like stopped doing it.

And so there is a collective loss of women’s stories that is very sad to me that even though we can inch forward and do better, we still lost those women’s stories because they have those scars and maybe they didn’t keep going, or even if they kept going that their career never took the path that it maybe should have because of this thing. And so that is really, I think a very sad thing to reflect on. And so we also really want to honor with this show is say that there’s a whole world of women’s stories that never got to be told because of the very difficult path they had to travel. And we want to honor that and kind of, I don’t know, it’s a funny word to associate with a comedy show, but mourn that a little bit because it is something I think about quite a lot.

Lindsay: No, that was beautifully put. So I guess, what do we have to look forward to for season three? I mean, I think there’s so much and I know you can’t give us spoilers, but what are some big picture topics or things that you’re just looking forward to unpacking?

Jen: Oh man, what can I say that isn’t a spoiler? The broad thing I’ll say that gives something away, but is hopefully a tease is when we pitched this show, we pitched a lot of ideas and we know kind of where it goes in seasons to follow. It’s very much so the redemption of Deborah Vance and her taking this great journey. And so I think you will continue to see Deborah Vance rise, but also struggle with that rise and what does that mean and what challenges does that bring into her life. And also, we ended season two with this breakup and I think the journey is how can these two women find their way back to each other.

Lindsay: I love Jean Smart, so I’m very much looking forward to this.

Jen: The best, the absolute best.

Lindsay: We are thankful for the miracle of Hacks. Thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it.

Jen: Of course, thanks for having me.

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