NPR’s Scott Simon talks to actress Annie Murphy about a new AMC series Kevin Can F ** k Himself that is turning the typical family sitcom approach on its head.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
“Kevin Can F ** k Himself” is a surrealist sitcom. A single-camera shot opens on Kevin, a plump, beer-swallowing, Tom Brady-worshiping husband and his unsuspecting friends joking – if that’s what they are – like you’ve heard them only half a million times before, and Allison, his Wife who tolerates the pillage with indulgence. Cue the laugh.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE LAUGHTER TRACK)
SIMON: Then the show moves out of the set and turns into Allison’s depression, desperation and dreams.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE TV SHOW, “KEVIN CAN F ** K HIMSELF”)
ANNIE MURPHY: (as Allison) We have a car. He doesn’t have to share it. He doesn’t have to share anything. He has me all to himself because I never went to school again. And he says it’s because I never finish things. But do I never finish things or does he take them away from me?
SIMON: The show was created by Valerie Armstrong. And Allison is played by Annie Murphy, one of the stars of the acclaimed “Schitt’s Creek”. Annie Murphy is joining us from Los Angeles now. Thank you for being with us.
MURPHY: Thank you for having me.
SIMON: It just occurred to me when I introduced you and said the words out loud, you have now played in two series that are difficult for us to say.
MURPHY: I know. I know. You know, my mom is very proud of me for getting those two shows, but she’s still having a hard time processing the titles.
SIMON: Well, let me ask you – we’ll just call it “Kevin”. The sitcom laugh track has always masked a lot, right?
MURPHY: Definitely. And I have to say that after working on this show, I can never see or hear her again. And so I’ll never be able to just casually sit back and watch (laughter) a sitcom again.
SIMON: Yeah. Did you? I mean did you study that? Have you watched a lot growing up or even recently?
MURPHY: In preparation for this part, I was watching episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond and King Of Queens. And once you get that bug in your ear about what we’ve had to laugh about all these years, it’s pretty breathtaking to see the misogyny, racism and homophobia just kind of glossed over by canned laughter for such a long time.
SIMON: Yeah. There is one question that got me confused – I have to tell you – after the first episode. I don’t quite understand what Allison has ever seen or is seeing in Kevin now.
MURPHY: It was hard for me too. When I first read the script, it was actually one of my hangovers that I had. But when I got to know the character of Allison, it made more sense. Allison is a person who has followed the rules her entire life. She tried to stick to what society asked her to do. Life, according to Allison, consists of going to school, doing whatever you can, getting a boyfriend, moving into a house, getting married. And this is your life. And she did that very early on. She met Kevin in high school. She – you know, I’m sure he made her laugh. And I’m sure there was a short time when he thought of buying her a flower or two every now and then or taking her to dinner to make her feel special. And if you get married, you are married. And then you just succumb to the passage of time. And time goes by really quickly. And then one day you wake up and 10 years have passed.
SIMON: I read that you have a Jimmy Stewart tattoo on your wrist.
MURPHY: The tattoo I have is Jimmy Stewart from the Harvey movie. And it’s about a man who tells everyone that he has an imaginary boyfriend.
MURPHY: He doesn’t say imaginary. For him, he has a friend who is a 6-foot-3 1/2 pooka, a mythical creature who is basically a giant rabbit. And no one else can see this rabbit, but they tell them the rabbit is real. And spoiler alert – the rabbit is real. But for me the character only represents someone who sees the good in people and the wonder of the world.
MURPHY: And it’s just – so I permanently tattooed it on my body as a constant reminder of those things.
SIMON: Yeah. Do you hope that people who watch this series and are impressed with the direction of the writing also fall back on other things they have seen in their life and wonder about them?
MURPHY: I really hope it stimulates conversation. One of our wonderful castmates, Raymond Lee, who plays Sam on the show …
MURPHY: … He had a really incredible reaction. We all saw the first couple of episodes as a cast on Zoom. And as soon as we finished the first episode Ray said, well, guys, I have to go; I have to call my wife. And everyone thought: what’s the matter, Ray? Is everything ok? And he said, yes, I’ve just seen way too much of Kevin – of myself in Kevin, and I have to apologize a few times.
SIMON: Oh my god.
MURPHY: And I think that’s the ideal result of the show. And I hope if that can happen another time or two I think the show was a huge hit.
SIMON: Annie Murphy – she plays the leading role in the new series – let’s be careful now – “Kevin Can F ** k Himself” tomorrow at AMC and AMC from next Sunday. Thank you for being with us.
MURPHY: Thank you for having me.
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