Although Bridget Everett has a number of impressive screen credits on her résumé — from films “Trainwreck” and “Patti Cake$” to such television shows as “Inside Amy Schumer,” “Lady Dynamite” and “Unbelievable” — she is also known for work on stage. Touring with her band, The Tender Moments, and starring in several comedy cabaret shows has allowed her to show off her musical talents, and now she is getting the chance to do that on a larger scale with “Somebody Somewhere.” In the HBO series launching Jan. 16 at 10:30 p.m., her character, Sam, finds new purpose in a community of singers.
“Somebody Somewhere” is inspired by elements of your own life. How did you determine what parts of your story you were comfortable fictionalizing?
It’s inspired by if I’d never moved to New York, what my life might be like. And the other parts that are in concert with my real life are the grief of losing a sister and then also the complex relationship I have with music and singing and what it means to me and how it informs my life and who I am. When it comes to direct family stuff, I didn’t want to do anything that would embarrass my family, so that’s where the line was. And I don’t mean the way my tits hang out on stage, but my brother still lives there and my mom still lives there, in my hometown, and I want them to be proud of the show. But even though I had a lot of friends when I was growing up, I always felt like an outsider I was a little too blue, in terms of my comedy, and a little raunchy, and I had sit-down conversations with more than one teacher about, “Do you need to talk like that?” and “Why are you such a dirty girl?”
Having done cabaret shows for years, how did this show allow you to celebrate those previous performances but also go beyond them?
There’s still whispers of the raunchy wild child, but that character was born out of a complex emotional landscape, so we wanted to show a lot of different sides. My original songs are a huge part of me and the reason why I’m on HBO and have this show, so we wanted to include that and try to figure out what it would be like to be somebody who sings these kinds of songs. Just in general, a woman of my age, what am I doing singing about dicks and tits? It makes me laugh, it’s a part of me, so it goes in the show. I think it’s funny. Dicks are fun and we should celebrate them. [Laughs]
That kind of humor certainly pops up in the show, but overall it deals in heavier topics, such as the grief you mentioned. Why did you think it was important to start the show already post-loss, in that grief?
I wanted the world to feel lived-in. We’re walking in on somebody who’s already in the steps of their grief. Also, there’s a thing in my live shows where, if you see a full live show, you get the banging and the hips and then you [counter] it with a tender moment. That’s who I am: There’s a wild side, but it’s really born out of a deep underbelly of [being] incredibly sensitive. And I wanted you to see why Sam is the way she is. You can feel a little lost in that world — in a conservative place — if you’re tit-slinging, singing about dicks. it’s hard to find your home. But as I’ve gotten older, I know a lot of that is just internal things. My family loves and accepts me, in spite of the fact that I sing about dicks. Or maybe because of it.
Since the tone can be so serious at times, it feels like there might not be a lot of room for improv, but your cast is stacked full of comedians. Were you able to go off-script with them?
Jeff [Hiller], Mike [Hagerty], Mary Catherine [Garrison], Murray [Hill], that’s the world we come from and you want to be able to [tap into] that. But I didn’t want it to be, “Let’s just try to fucking slam down jokes on each other.” It was never like that. It was just a very loose and warm environment, and I think it allowed people to show the best parts of themselves. And some of my favorite moments are not scripted, they were just us having a little bit of fun.
What was one of those?
Jeff, who plays Joel, and I sitting in a car, and he’s talking about what he does in a rain storm, and I just made up this little song on the spot about drinking your own wee-wee. I’m not trying to give myself a pat on the back, but it was about the connection between the two of them. We found their love story in a lot of those moments.
The connections Sam makes become so important to her outlook on her life. Were there any character dynamics that changed because of your real-life relationship with the actor cast in the role?
Murray, who plays Fred, is one of my closest friends in real life so we already have a language together, and Jeff I’ve known for years and been a fan of for a very long time. Jeff is so nimble and under-utilized in the industry. We all got a house together, and it was nice because it felt like our real, interpersonal relationships were blossoming while they were also blossoming on screen, even though we shot wildly out of order.
Sharing a house with a group of actors sounds intense! Why did you want to do that?
Murray made us go over our lines and he was like a drill sergeant. Sometimes we got on each other’s nerves, but that was part of it. It was like summer camp! But I have lived alone for a very long time. How Sam is, in the beginning of the season, that’s how I’ve lived for a very long time: alone, staring at the walls. So it was an adjustment. We shot during COVID and we had very strict COVID protocols. And so, I just wanted to have a place where we didn’t feel super isolated during such an isolating time.
Things you didn’t know about Bridget Everett:
Hometown: Manhattan, Kan.
Mood music: “Yacht rock made me feel very connected to my sister.”
Last show she binge-watched: “The Great British Baking Show”
Cause she cares about: Animal rescue