Happy Endings is a delightful underdog of a show: After some mean reviews when the sitcom premiered earlier this spring, the charming sitcom about six Chicago-based buddies has gained some prominent supporters. The backlash against the initial critical drubbing is well deserved. Happy Endings— which has its season finale on Wednesday— might not be breaking any new ground with its Friends-like cast of attractive, underworked twentysomethings, but it has a certain exuberance that often results in surprise Fosse dance moves, endless neologisms (instead of referring to a pal as homophobic, the gay character coins "gaycist"), and a lot of bad dates, including one with a guy named Doug Hitler.
Casey Wilson, who plays the chronically single Penny on Happy Endings, is one of the brightest spots on the show (which just got renewed for a second season). Wilson also has a sideline co-writing feature films such as Bride Wars and the forthcoming Ass Backwards and The Bachelorette Party with fellow comic actress June Diane Raphael. The ex-Saturday Night Live cast member talked to Slate about how she and Raphael write their movies (it involves taking stripping classes), why she stopped reading Internet comments about herself, and how the Real Housewives is like a Greek tragedy.
Slate: Since you started out doing sketch comedy at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater and then at Saturday Night Live, doing Happy Endings is a shift. Had you always been interested in doing sitcoms?
Casey Wilson: Even before I got on SNL I assumed I would do some type of sitcom; I kind of thought that was how I would start. I don't mean to sound arrogant—I just thought I would be best suited to the form. So then I got the script and I loved the idea that this character of Penny is single but not jaded. I thought, That's true to life and to my friends and funny. She's not a dark, bitter, black-hoodie-wearing single girl—she's not that.
Slate: What was the shift from UCBto SNL like?
Wilson: I went to drama school at NYU for serious acting. So I was doing Chekov and Sam Shepard plays. So the weird transition was going from that into sketch, and then I guess everything is a weird transition in my life.
Slate: You've also had a good deal of success as a screenwriter, co-writing studio movies with fellow comedian June Diane Raphael. What is your writing process like?
Wilson: [June and I] try to do a lot of things together, like take weird classes.We took an S Factor stripping class this year. We started a book club. We'll just do any old thing. Just because there's something funny for us about exposing ourselves to the weirdoes of the world. It's given us just a wealth of material. Then we just sit in a room together and try to make each other laugh and struggle to stay on task, and struggle to work instead of talking. She's very busy with her career and I'm busy, so ultimately we'll split things up and send things back and forth. We share a sensibility about what's skewed or the weird thing about whatever's going on in the moment, so we like to experience those awkward things together and write about them.
Slate: You and June wrote Bride Wars, and now you've written a forthcoming movie called The Bachelorette Party—what is it about weddings that have so much comedic potential? Do you think our feelings and anxieties around weddings are changing because women are getting married later?
Wilson: Sometimes with Bride Wars and Bachelorettes, it's not really coming from June and me. It's more what studios are willing to put out, which is movies about weddings. So there's that aspect of it, but then the flip of that is that I think women actually like those movies, and I don't believe in putting any women down for liking those movies. I mean, guys like nerdy movies and we're all fine with it.
At the same time, I think that is so true [about women getting married later], that's what our movie Ass Backwards is about. It's about two best friends who are so codependent they share a waterbed, and they build each other up in all the wrong ways. But they have to because they're 30 and they're single. They really only have each other. You do end up—more so now than in the past—relying on your friends. Not everyone is married at 25 and taken care of.
Slate: I was reading about your recurring UCB show, The Realest Real Housewives, where you do a staged reading of scenes from various episodes of the Real Housewives franchise. How did you get the idea for the show?