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Pamela Adlon on Keeping Family Items Close to Inspire ‘Better Things’

The first thing you notice about Pamela Adlon is her laugh. Deep, throaty and decibel-shattering, her cackle echoes throughout the cottage in Beverly Hills that serves as her personal writing space for her FX comedy “Better Things,” which she not only produces, but also stars in and directs. The show has an official writers’ room deep in Hollywood, but this cozy, tchotchke-filled nook serves as her “sanctuary,” she says. It also serves as a refuge from her home, which is crowded with not just her own three daughters, but their coterie of friends. “I’ve aged out of my house,” she complains, only half-joking. “My house gets so chaotic!”

Pamela Adlon Office
CREDIT: Jessica Chou for Variety

Bobby or Bust
One of Adlon’s most famous roles takes advantage of her trademark croak: She gave voice to Bobby on “King of the Hill” for 13 years, and won an Emmy for the effort. So a small Bobby statue now lives on her mantle, a gift from a guy who “tricked out” her white van. When she was in his studio, she noticed he just happened to have made a set of Bobby busts in resin. The coincidence doesn’t stop there: Her father wrote an episode of “The Jeffersons” where George had a bust made of himself. “I just thought that was f—ing bizarre,” she says.

Pamela Adlon Office
CREDIT: Jessica Chou for Variety

Father Figures
Scattered throughout are plenty of mementoes of her father — his “porn” collection, as she calls it (he penned a series of soft-core novels), as well as his word ball, which he used for inspiration. “My dad would always say about writing, ‘You have to shake the cocktail. If you get stuck, just move everybody around. Change the characters. Switch them out,’” she says. “And for me, that’s a really good metaphor for the way my life is right now. The way I’m writing the show and being able to bounce ideas off of different people and then channeling all of these situations has been an amazing thing.”

Pamela Adlon Office
CREDIT: Jessica Chou for Variety

Paint by Numbers
“I don’t care about jewelry or cars or anything like that,” says Adlon. “I’m obsessed with art and vintage glass.” So while “every single inch of wall” of her home is covered with art, only one piece made the migration to the cottage — a painting by her friend Chelsea Gibson, depicting a potter at work in her kitchen. “I just f—ing stare at this thing,” she says. “It makes me so happy.” Adlon wanted for years to buy a piece of Gibson’s but “never pulled the trigger,” she says. Then a mutual friend started representing her and hounded Adlon until she finally made the purchase. Gibson’s husband built the wood frame, and professional hangers installed it. “This is the best part of owning art,” she says, as she runs her fingers over the surface. “I’m allowed to touch it!”

Pamela Adlon Office
CREDIT: Jessica Chou for Variety

Desk Set
Fans of “Better Things,” which is loosely based on Adlon’s life, know her uncle is a woodworker, which was depicted in the second season “White Rock” episode. He learned the craft from her master joiner grandfather, who built the desk that sits in the bedroom. But Adlon admits she really works on the couch in the living room, curled up with two laptops — which are not connected to Wi-Fi. “If you have internet access, you’re screwed,” she says.

Pamela Adlon Office
CREDIT: Jessica Chou for Variety

Haring Is Caring
Adlon went to high school in New York City in the ‘80s, when riding the subway was a bit of a risky proposition. But that’s when pop artist Keith Haring would fill the billboards with his iconic art. “Every time I got off, no matter what stop I was at, if I saw that Keith had painted something, I felt safe,” she says. When she moved to L.A., she went to an art show and bought one of his calendars. He happened to be there, and when she told him the story, he signed the back for her. “He did all that for me,” she says. “I cry thinking about that.”

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