Last January, TV Land premiered the very funny and always outrageous series, “Teachers.” Pulled from the web series of the same name and created by and starring improv group The Katydids, “Teachers” hit TV Land with positive reviews. The Katydids themselves are made up of six female comedians all having their first names in common. All coming from the Chicago improv scene, Caitlin Barlow, Katy Colloton, Cate Freedman, Kate Lambert, Katie O’Brien, and Katie Thomas play out real world issues in a lighthearted, laugh yourself silly kind of way.
We sat down with five of the six Katydids to discuss being a woman in comedy, the new season of “Teachers,” and the importance of using laughter to spread awareness.
Was comedy what you all knew you wanted to pursue?
Kate Lambert: Not initially. As a kid I always liked to make people laugh, but I think in college I fancied myself as a dramatic actor. Which actually, I think is true for most of us.
Katie Thomas: I will say ditto to that.
Lambert: And I always loved doing musical theater and I loved to do comedy, but I didn’t want to only pursue comedy. I was going to go to New York after college and that fell through, so I ended up staying in Chicago where I started to do Second City improv and sketch. I just fell in love with it.
Thomas: I too had this moment where I thought I was going to be this serious actor. It’s interesting because I grew up watching comedy. My dad was a big comedy guy and had me watching Monty Python when I was in probably 5th grade. And I was watching Kids in the Hall and SNL in 3rd grade. I would do my own sketches based on characters like “The Church Lady” from SNL in my friend’s basement. I was obsessed with comedy for so long, but as soon as I got to college, I became very serious. I couldn’t take comedy seriously and had to ignore my gut saying “yes, yes, yes.” When got out of college, I just knew I had to follow comedy. It just felt right, and that’s what I was getting cast in. I think it’s such a waste of time not doing something you love.
Katie Colloton: I was the same as Katie Thomas, I was always obsessed with comedy growing up, but it took me a while to realize or gain the confidence to pursue it. It took me awhile to find it and know that was a path you could go down.
Were your families supportive of taking the path to comedy?
Kaitlyn Barlow: I would say no. Up until about a year ago, my parents weren’t. They’re very mid-western and really didn’t understand what I was doing at all. Even when we were making the first season of teachers, my dad didn’t know I was actually getting paid to do it. But they get it now. Now that it’s on the air, they are very supportive.
Thomas: I think a lot of us were lucky enough to have our parents support us in comedy, but there were times while I was getting my theater degree when my mom would say, “Maybe you should get your teaching degree just in case.” I think I took that as her thinking i couldn’t do it, or that I’m good enough. Looking back now, that was probably my own insecurities. It all came from a place of love though.
Colloton: My parents were very supportive and had to come to a million shows, at really shitty theaters, watching a skit like “Pantyliner.” They really had to hang in there to support me.
Katie O’Brien: My parents were overly supportive. Like, everyone in town had their information completely wrong and thought I was getting hired for SNL. It’s great and I’m very lucky. It was nice growing up knowing that it was something I could pursue.
Lambert: I think my parents thought the mime shows and everything I did as a child was over, but no no there’s more. They would come to the midnight shows in the city, then leave for home around 1:30am. We really put our parents through a lot.
Have you ever found it difficult being woman in comedy?
O’Brien: You know, I always go back and forth with this, but I think it’s difficult as a woman if you don’t fit into a prescribed box. Sometimes people don’t know what to do with women that don’t fit into a certain role. Luckily, none of us really fit a mold, which allowed for us to create. It’s an amazing time for women in comedy right now. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham, and Amy Schumer have really paved the way for female creators.
Thomas: I always think back to when we were improving in Chicago and we were an “all female” improv group. We weren’t just an improv group, but “all female.”And people always described us as such, even though there are hundreds of all male groups out there. We would always be compared to the other all female groups and people would try to pin us against each other. They would assume that we hated each other or were competing against each other. There was this idea that we couldn’t just support one another, that there had to be one. And even within our group, people can’t wrap their heads around six women getting along. That’s not just a thing in comedy, but in all fields.
How did The Katydids form?
Barlow: We were all involved in the Chicago comedy scene about eight or nine years ago just starting our comedy careers. I put the group together kind of as a joke, since we all have the same name. At the time, there was a show called “Radical Concept,” and I entered The Katydids, but was denied saying just having out names in common wasn’t radical enough. So we started performing together and after the first night, it was magic. We didn’t even all know each other that first night. We all just had great chemistry and even though we all have different comedic methods, when we come together we create a whole other voice. The voice of The Katydids.
What sparked the creation of “Teachers”?
Colloton: Matt Miller, a director in Chicago and an executive producer of “Teachers,” approached us about doing a web series. He had brought the idea of “Teachers” to us after hearing something about how teaching is one of the top five respected and top five adulterous professions. He thought that was interesting and something we could explore. We jumped right on that and started creating characters the types of teachers we would want to play.
Lambert: Yeah, we chose to do to elementary because we felt is was the best way for our teachers to say inappropriate things and have it go over the kid’s heads. So they wouldn’t be permanently affected. We could say adult things and it would miss them entirely.
Was it important to be a part of all aspects concerning “Teachers”? You all are creators, writers, actors, and executive producers.
O’Brien: We actually didn’t plan on it. Now, we find it very important and love being heavily involved. When TV Land offered, we never thought we would get to be so involved. We thought they would keep us on to write and maybe re-cast us, Initially we were just very excited, but TV Land wanted this to continue being our show, Now, we are very protective of that,
Colloton: It’s really fulfilling that the six of us get to have so much control over the show. We are there everyday writing, producing, editing, acting, we are on set together giving notes, talking costumes, and making sure it;s being shot how we see it. It’s so exciting to do, not only as individuals, but as best friends.
Lambert: TV Land has been so great with letting us have so much control over the show and really trusting us on what we find funny.
How is Season 2 of “Teachers” different?
Barlow: I think with season 2 we took a lot more risk with deeper themes. For example, we have an episode that deals with a school election that explores how men and women are treated differently. Which, is quite timely. We touch on the common core curriculum, low teacher pay and what happens when a teacher has to take on a second job.
Colloton: I really think having this great opportunity and platform, there is an obligation to use it in some way. By getting out there and saying what needs to be said, Now that the machine is already in motion, we can explore topics like girls in math and science, or breastfeeding.
It’s so important in these times to use your platform to speak out on cultural issues.
O’Brien: I think, now more than ever, for women in comedy to speak out on things we don’t think are right. We all disagree with the cuts to Planned Parenthood and are very political. It’s important to use our platforms to make our voices heard.
Lambert: The thing about satire is that it allows for people to listen in a new way. When people laugh, they are more receptive to hearing. Hopefully, it let’s others see another way of looking at things. It’s a difficult time to write comedy, but you have to.
What does the future look like for The Katydids?
Lambert: We want to be doing Teachers forever! We want matching convertibles and bunk beds in Malibu. I think we want to keep working as a group, but we also have individual goals to accomplish.
Season 2 of “Teachers” premieres Tuesday Jan. 17 10/9ct on TV Land.