Teri Hatcher is getting serious about comedy.
The actor is no stranger to delivering jokes or being put in humorous situations on-screen, from her iconic guest star appearance on “Seinfeld” to eight seasons of often outlandish moments on “Desperate Housewives.” For the last few years she has been balancing television gigs with performing stand-up sets on stage, and now the two are mixing in the Showtime special “Even More Funny Women of a Certain Age.”
“I started writing and performing my first versions of what I would call funny stories maybe five years ago. I was doing that with some really great comedic writers; we would do shows that were for charity in front of audiences of 300 or 400 people. That was kind of the beginning of me looking at just performing a funny story,” Hatcher tells Variety.
Not long after she began participating in these types of storytelling events, Hatcher went to a show in which her friend Aisling Bea was performing. She ended up meeting and unintentionally trying out some material on Bea’s friend, a pre-“Ted Lasso” Brett Goldstein.
“I had come from the gynecologist’s office and I don’t know why, standing and talking to Brett Goldstein — who is this lovely man but I didn’t know who he is because it was years ago — I start telling him the story about how I hadn’t had sex a long time and how I was potentially meeting this guy who maybe I was going to get to be having sex with but I hadn’t had sex in such a long time I wasn’t sure if it all worked down there,” Hatcher recalls with a laugh. “I went to the gynecologist with that in mind and I didn’t really know how to ask the gynecologist that question and I finally just said to him, ‘Does it look like a guy would have a good time in there?’ I really said that and he really backed away from me and he went, ‘Teri, you have a totally average vagina.’ Brett fell out laughing and said, ‘That should be the title of your one-woman show.'”
That idea sparked something greater in Hatcher, who began working on longer-form material. She stayed in touch with Goldstein. The two met up a handful of times when he was in Los Angeles to flesh it out further. “He helped me form what would be maybe an outline of a one-woman show: goals of talking about my sexual abuse as a child and my perpetrator going to jail and what it’s like to be caring for aging parents — subjects I’d like to figure out how to make funny,” Hatcher explains.
That one-woman show has yet to be staged — and admittedly could end up being another book instead, Hatcher says. (She previously published “Burnt Toast: And Other Philosophies of Life” in 1990). But the story about her gynecologist telling her she has a “totally average vagina” made its way into the set she performed for “Even More Funny Women of a Certain Age.”
“The older I get, the more I feel like I’m coming from a perspective of, ‘Wow, I have learned some things’ — either by making mistakes or just by having lived long enough,” Hatcher says.
The theme of her set in the special is de-stigmatizing the aging process for women, but individual ways of tapping into that topic also include referencing her “Seinfeld” character and the “they’re real and they’re spectacular” line that still follows her to this day. She recounts the time her mother tried to set her up with a stranger she just met in Costco and discusses how doing make-up as a middle-aged woman is basically a “full-on craft project.” The former, Hatcher says, “screamed at me as an opportunity for me to get into aging because it’s a line associated with, but it also really sets up the idea of analyzing should you and shouldn’t be, which is what women do all the time.” But she is equally proud of the latter because “I worked on that one joke for probably a week, rewording it, rewording it, rewording it.”
What doesn’t come up in this particular set is her time on series such as “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” or “Desperate Housewives.”
“Like any relationship, the farther you get away from it, I think potentially your perspective on it is broadened in a way that you could actually say something interesting. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a willingness as much as it is you might finally have a light bulb go off — ‘Oh, that’s what was going on,'” she says of reflecting on her life and past work for this new stage of her career.
The rest of the lineup of “Even More Funny Women” is made up of standup veterans, from Wendy Liebman to Monique Marvez and Marsha Warfield. Hatcher admits it was “pretty scary to step on stage” with so many brilliant performers, but she also says it was “an honor to get to hang out with them.”
She came to the show after performing in Nikki Levy’s “Don’t Tell My Mother,” for which she wrote and performed about six minutes of comedy with the premise of it being, as the title implies, something you wouldn’t want your mother to hear. Her managers learned about the third installment of this standup franchise, Hatcher says, and sent in the video she had from that show, which got her the booking.
“I had gotten the job with a short set on the ‘average vagina,’ but that needed to be re-written and new things added to it. One can only talk about their ‘hoo ha’ for a while, if at all, so I started to structure stories. And then the editing begins,” she says. “I did this for the better part of three months, pretty focused on this and not much else. Whereas most comics would go test out jokes at open mics, I was afraid to do this because I felt like in five minutes I wouldn’t be able to explain to an audience what Teri Hatcher was doing on stage telling jokes and [testing] out the jokes, so instead I just walked around my living room talking to myself in to a hairbrush for days and days memorizing.”
Hatcher is still juggling acting gigs; she recently launched the Hallmark holiday film “A Kiss Before Christmas,” for example. But she considers her next challenge to be writing a set “that isn’t under a thematic umbrella that I could feel confident at least trying at a normal club.”
Her background in acting helps her stand-up in the sense that, “while on stage shooting this special, I did in real time forget some stuff, then figure out how to stick it back in later in the set,” she says, noting she’s not afraid of working in front of an audience. But there is a part of her that wonders if a stand-up audience will wonder what she is doing up on such a stage.
“I’ve been single for a long time, I know what that’s like, and I feel like maybe I could make other women feel less alone. I could make the entertainment by my own self-deprecation. The goal is to just unite aging women,” she says.
“Even More Funny Women of a Certain Age” airs Nov. 24 at 10 p.m. on Showtime.