Busy Philipps has a lot of schlep. She works hard! In addition to her Friday SXSW panel with Clique Media Group’s Hillary Kerr, she was a part of a Follies show, and hosted a live edition of her talk show Busy Tonight for some VIPs at the NBCUComcast SXSW house on Saturday. Oh, and she ate a ton of queso. Much like almost every detail of her life, she documented it all on Instagram, and her Instagram stories, and acknowledged several times that it was that following, and that candid “authenticity”, which helped her nab her book deal and develop and sell her talk show.
I know there are people who find her exhausting. I was one of those people for a bit, who followed and then unfollowed. But reading her book, hearing her insightful takes on surviving and thriving in Hollywood with Hillary, and watching her live taping won me over to Kim Kelly’s side. But really, it comes back to her “authenticity.” I’m using airquotes because it’s such a celebrity “brand” buzzword. As if we’re surprised when celebrities have personalities, but we are! They’re cool and have schtick, but are also relatable! Busy definitely follows her own quirky rhythm online. So why is her style of sharing so engaging? She’s not sure why her honesty connects, but says the concept of “engagement makes me want to vomit.”
“I can always tell the difference between, ‘Guys I'm going to Austin for 24 hrs" vs someone with a cute picture of them and being like, ‘Guys it's almost summertime; what's your favourite drink?’”
She talked about how she began using stories in a really personal and intimate way, "found it to be a really incredible way to feel less alone." She explained she felt “alone in her career, isolated in my marriage at the time… and found a great deal of comfort in putting it into the ether and not expecting anything in the world.” Soon, she found her stories about “raccoons f-cking” in the Daily Mail and things began to take off. Busy claims all of her endorsements are “incoming except for Michael’s, which is truly the nerdiest thing of all time.” She, like Jameela Jamil, would “never do a diet thing, like diet tea, though that thing is f---ing fascinating to me.”
She also said she was “beyond lucky” to get her break on Freaks and Geeks with Judd Apatow, Paul Feig, and Jake Kasdan, and that they were very encouraging, which is “incredibly rare.” Busy revealed that her experience on Dawson’s Creek was very much the opposite, and admits “Freaks and Geeks didn’t mean much for me until about six years later when Judd released the DVDs.”
And then she went on to say she is “really proud” of Busy Tonight, which premiered at the end of October. It’s still finding an audience. Apparently, people come up to her and say they love her but haven’t started watching the show.
“I’m really proud of what we're doing on our show, and hope people find a way to watch it and watch it.”
But Busy’s hustling to see it grow, even though “talk show hosts don’t get breaks.” Speaking of which, at the Busy Tonight taping, she joked about her “friend Mindy Kaling’s new movie Late Night” which is about a veteran female talk show host played by Emma Thompson. The trailer dropped last week.
“We know it’s a movie though because everybody knows women aren’t allowed to host late night talk shows long enough to get old!”
It got a big laugh. Her show continues to try and mix viral activations with candid, reflective interviews. Whitney Cummings suggested Busy feature rescue pigs on her show in Austin, so she and Nick Kroll fed them animal crackers in between their interview segments. It didn’t really land as a smooth section of the show, but she and Nick kept the momentum going in an engaging way and I give the credit to Busy there. She switched gears quickly back to interview mode, and whether it was her producers or her own intuition (or both) asked well-researched and fun, lighthearted questions to both Nick and Retta. Later, the three of them played a celebrity association meat game (Texas edition) before Busy sat down with Retta. Busy Tonight throws a lot of ideas at the wall, and some stick, while others don’t connect as strongly. But you have to respect her game. And how hard she’s trying to make it connect, and give late night that female “authentic” voice.
Producer Tina Fey watches the show from New York every day. Busy says Molly McNearney, Jimmy Kimmel’s head writer (and wife) texts her notes and show ideas all the time. She has support, and people are rooting for her. Plus, E! put the live show together through their SXSW mothership pop-up. The question is: what will it take to get people who love her, or even those who aren’t necessarily the biggest fans, to discover the show? Can her viral momentum transfer to television?