2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year for actress/writer/comedian Jamie Lee. Season three of the Pete Holmes/Judd Apatow HBO series Crashing premiered in January, starring Lee as Ali Reissen, a sassy New York City stand-up. She’s also appearing in another HBO comedy hit, 2 Dope Queens. We caught up with the 35-year-old comedian by phone to discuss her evolving role on Crashing, her hometown of Dallas, and why she refused to be a goat on her wedding day.
Your 2017 debut comedy album, I Mean…, features hilarious riffs on hookups, tying the knot, and rough sex. Does stand-up still give you a safe space to navigate the dark corners of your brain?
Without comedy I might not have an outlet for exploring my dark side, and I feel very grateful to be able to do it. I mean, other types of writing and performing are really satisfying, but stand-up is kind of a catchall that lets you write and perform and sort of say whatever you want. And connect with people over ideas that maybe they’ve thought, but didn’t have the confidence to articulate.
The flaws that I see within myself, when I put them through the filter of comedy, I only appreciate more. I start to view them not as flaws, but as things that define me. What’s important about stand-up is that it takes the things you might deem bad or complicated and makes them kind of hilarious and beautiful.
In season three, episode four, of Crashing, you take on the obnoxious and overrated comedian/club owner Jason (Dov Davidoff). Was there catharsis in that?
My character, Ali, is dealing with this headliner who says whatever he wants, and thinks that makes him edgy and important. Ali proceeds to stand it up as a lot of totally off fluff. It was really thrilling to be able to portray a comedian who was taking a stand, and standing up to him.
One of the things I like about Ali is that she’s subverting people’s stale notions of female comics.
It’s really important to have this depiction of a girl stand-up on TV right now. We’re obviously living in a pretty complicated climate where a lot of people are putting close eyes on these issues of sexism and sexual harassment and being “woke.” Episode four does a really good job of tackling all of those things, and in a pretty realistic way.
I think my favorite moment would be the parking-lot scene at the end. Jason was provoked to come at me. Ali probably wouldn’t give him the time of day otherwise, but because he was attacking her directly, she really let him have it.
You’ve said that episode six, which you wrote yourself, is your favorite.
Yes. The episode is very relatable to me in my own life because when you do a stand-up set on a late-night TV show for the first time, you have a lot of friends who want to make a party out of it. As a comedian, there’s part of you that’s really proud of yourself. But there’s also a part of you that has a lot of shame and you have a kind of fraud syndrome, and you feel a little embarrassed because there’s so much attention on you.
What’s your advice to emerging female comedians?
The advice I wish I could have given myself is to try and tune out the noise as much as possible. Try to focus on yourself and remind yourself that you are just as worthy of this pursuit as anyone else. All of that sort of positive self-talk is really helpful, because it’s a really formative time in your life, and in your comedy life. Be a kind voice in your head because, at the end of the day, only you can motivate yourself to keep going.
What do you do for balance?
I recently got into working out pretty intensely. I was not an athletic kid at all. I did not play sports. I could barely run without getting winded. And then, within the last two years, I got a personal trainer and she really kicked my ass. I leave there being like, Oh, I guess I am capable of moving my body.
You live in L.A. now. Do you miss your home state of Texas?
I do. When I was a teenager in Dallas, I thought it was a little boring, but there’s this area of Dallas called Deep Ellum, which has a lot of really cool music venues. Now every time I go back, there’s a new cool neighborhood to discover. In parts of Dallas where there was no population, [there are all these] really cool bars and restaurants. So yeah, it’s really changed a lot since I’ve lived there. Now when I go back I’m like, Ooh, it could be fun to live here. I wish that L.A. would up and move to Dallas.
Any imminent projects you can tell us about?
I just closed a development deal with [the channel] Freeform for a show called The Girlfriend. I wrote the show on my own and it would be for me to star in. It’s about a girl who finds out she might be dating a murderer. It’s sort of a female Breaking Bad. I also wrote a book about planning a wedding and modern-day wedding culture [called Weddiculous], and we’re working on turning it into a TV series.
It’s cool that marriage is increasingly egalitarian and inclusive. Your zinger “[My father] is not giving me away, because I’m not a fucking goat” makes me laugh.
For my wedding, there were definitely some traditions we adhered to and then others that we were like, “That’s just not for us,” which I think is what everybody should do. We didn’t do the father-daughter giveaway. I think that we’re in a space right now where everyone wants to be talking about it more openly and honestly, and challenging some of these things that we were force-fed to be true. And they’re just not.
As this is Penthouse, what does being sex-positive mean to you?
Sex-positive means to each his own, not judgmental of one person’s sexuality or sexual dispositions. I feel like I fall into that category. I think the more open we are about sex and sexuality, the less alone we all feel.
Image courtesy of Sechel PR.