Lake Bell, Lennon Parham, and Amy Solomon, NOTES FROM THE BATHROOM LINE

Lake Bell, Lennon Parham, and Amy Solomon, NOTES FROM THE BATHROOM LINE

“It was always bizarre to me that there wasn’t another big collection of humor writing by women, especially because the community’s only exploded even more. All I do all day is meet brilliant women.” Amy Solomon, Lennon Parham, and actress Lake Bell all join Zibby to talk about compiling work from 150 of the funniest women in comedy, leveling with their kids like adults would, and the different ways we can find and make communities during the on-going pandemic (hint: this book is a start).


Zibby Owens: Welcome, ladies, to “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” I am so excited to be joined here today by Amy Solomon, the editor of Notes from the Bathroom Line, as well as two of the contributors, Lennon Parham and also Lake Bell. Welcome to all of you. Thanks for coming on the show.

Female Voice: Yay!

Female Voice: Thank you for having us.

Zibby: If you wouldn’t mind, maybe you could go around. Amy, why don’t you start since this was your Gilda Radner-inspired enterprise? Talk about how it started and how you roped in these ladies here.

Amy Solomon: Basically, there’s this book from 1979 called Titters that’s this amazing, bonkers book of two hundred pages of all sorts of humor writing by all of my icons in comedy, so Gilda and Laraine Newman and Phyllis Diller and Candice Bergen. I discovered it on eBay when I was little and was obsessed with Gilda Radner. I still am, big time, big time. I got obsessed. It basically was always bizarre to me that there wasn’t another big collection of humor writing by women, especially because the community’s only exploded even more. I produce TV and movies. All I do all day is meet brilliant women. It was like, let’s get them all to write something. Lennon and Lake are two of my all-time favs. I asked friends, who are your favorite people? I went through people’s agents. I just did a huge evil web of trying to rope women in. I was so lucky these gals agreed. It’s an honor they’re in it.

Zibby: It’s amazing. Very exciting.

Lake Bell: Thanks, Zibby. This is Lake talking now. You can hear my voice. Lennon, do your voice so they know you’re you.

Lennon Parham: Do I sound just like you, Lake?

Lake: I think we sound exactly the same.

Lennon: We sound exactly alike. I’m Lennon. We both have deep, sultry, Kathleen Turner voices. Don’t get turned on, guys.

Lake: I’m going to get turned on. No. I love this idea. Amy came to me initially and I was just like, oh, this is a genius idea. Also, you’re right. I think there should be a volume of it every couple of years, frankly. Let’s call it volume one. Can we do that? Can we announce that?

Amy: Sure, but I want a break.

Lake: I understand. It’s tremendously entertaining. It’s also very bite-size. It’s the perfect thing to ingest in a time where we’re feeling like we are deprived of community because it is so communal and playful and inclusive. I poured over it and felt like I was hanging out with my wish-list of dearest friends and some people like Lennon too who, we’re friends. We’re dear, dear friends.

Lennon: Amy sent me the sweetest email. Honestly, if anybody sends me a personal email, I’m like, yes. You know who I am.

Zibby: Watch out. Watch out. You’ve now said that publicly.

Lennon: I’m serious. I know. It was very sweet. I loved the idea. Also, the take on it, when you take people through what the essays are — I wrote a poem that is an “Ode to Target” which is very deeply personal to me and — can I say? — holds up through the pandemic. The openness, the creativity, the option to personalize it — some of the titles are so amazing. I can’t wait to dive in.

Amy: People need to listen to the audiobook to listen to Lennon read her “Ode to Target” because it is unbelievable, very deeply felt.

Lennon: I’m no Amanda Gorman. You know what I mean? Poetry is important. Everyone should know that.

Lake: Just to piggyback, my contribution is a cartoon, sort of like a comic. That’s the other part of this. That’s why I think it’s very digestible and the perfect kind of snack to your creative and cultural list of things to do and ingest. It really does satiate that multifaceted, very uber creative, layered way of expression which is certainly how most comedic and creative brains think, which in terms of drawing and doodles, which I did, and the written word and the poems and the songs. There’s literally a full-on song in there complete with notes. Notes? You can tell I’m a professional musician. One of the greats. It is truly this archive, this artifact of who’s out there, what ladies are out there doing their thing right now. I think it’s quite beautiful.

Zibby: When I got to the song, I was like, all right, I don’t even know what to do with this. Should I even attempt to play this in my head from my rudimentary piano from third grade, or am I just going to look at these and move on?

Amy: The key with the song is watch her perform it on YouTube. People ask her all the time for that sheet music. There is a generation of music theater students that will be thrilled.

Zibby: I’m sure there will.

Lake: sheet music. . Sorry about that.

Amy: All those notes.

Lake: Actual notes. Wait, I just want to jump in here. One of the other parts that I was obsessed with was — who wrote “Frequently Asked Questions About the IUD”?

Amy: Blythe Roberson. It’s so good.

Lake: It’s so good. By the way, I was like, I’m interested.

Amy: These are questions you can’t ask your doctor but you want to know.

Lake: You learn something too. You get your belly laugh on.

Zibby: It’s true. I feel like from the drawings to the essays to all the little mini-interview questions that you rounded up in snackable form, as you were saying, everybody shares a sort of sarcastic-type humor. Everything is so tongue-in-cheek as opposed to, here I am, this is my funny set. No, it’s all just so smart and a variation on reality. “Texts You Would Hear” or “Texts You Sent,” that was so funny, “Texts You Sent by Mistake.”

Amy: That you sent to the wrong person, yes.

Zibby: It’s so funny. All of it is just — you know what it is? It’s entertainment. It’s using the book form to entertain in a new way with visual and colors that are arresting and attention-grabbing. I feel like while community is so important right now, so is being able to focus. Have you guys had a hard time reading lately, or focusing? There’s so much going on that it can be hard. This book is sort of the antidote that.

Lake: I fully agree. I was thinking, your podcast, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books,” I’m like, this one is fine. I’m a mom. I can attest. This one, you’re going to be fine.

Lennon: I think it’d make a great gift too. I feel like you could buy it in bulk, everyone. Everyone buy it in bulk. Then just send it to your best girlfriends. We’re like, I just knew you needed this right now. We’re getting all those ads for Happy Box, etc. It’s a perfect thing like that just to say, I was thinking of you. Here it is from my local bookstore, independent bookseller on the corner. Wrap it up. Love it.

Zibby: You could do a box with some toilet paper or something. You could do the bathroom theme. Keep it going.

Lake: From your female-owned, independent bookshop down the block. There was another one, just to wet the palate and the tease the innards of the book, there’s one, “A Line from My Obituary.” That’s one of my other favorites which is really entertaining to read. One of them is like, “She Was My Favorite Inmate,” or something like that.

Zibby: There was one about the ex-boyfriend, too, that was so funny, when she meets him on the street. She’s running but carrying groceries with her perfect, new husband. She’s like, oh, no-name, I don’t even remember you.

Amy: That’s Mitra Jouhari. It’s a script of running into her ex-boyfriend. It’s so fun.

Zibby: Lennon, your poem, when I read it at first, I just kind of read “Ode,” but then I didn’t read the title carefully. I started reading it and I was like, ooh, I wonder where she is. Is this a Costco? Where is she? Then I was like, oh, I’m such a moron. She’s at Target. Duh.

Lennon: I do believe that Joanna Gaines has the answers. She’s figured it out. How many children does she have? It’s just all farmhouse chic. From head to toe, she’s always got on the right boot. Her husband is annoying and wonderful. She’s got it figured out. Everyone needs a windmill. Don’t we all need a windmill?

Lake: I don’t know who this mystical woman is, but I —

Lennon: — Oh, my god, Hearth & Hand, Fixer Upper. No, you don’t?

Lake: No.

Lennon: You’re too busy making your pizzas.

Lake: I have a pizza oven, and I’m proud of it.

Lennon: It’s the most delicious pizza you’ve ever had in your life. That’s the truth.

Amy: I’m sure Joanna has something you could use for the pizza oven. She’s got all sorts of stuff.

Lennon: She definitely has a pizza stone, a crafted, curated pizza stone.

Lake: Listen, I respect it. That’s the other thing. There’s a lot of different kinds of moms out there. I think that there’s a lot of different kind of proclivities. I have to say, this scratches all the itches, this book. In my doodle, for instance, I was kind of like, funny, funny, just observational stuff. Then upside down, really teeny, tiny writing, I say that my daughter has epilepsy. That’s not a joke. I just say that it’s scary. There’s the full range of little tidbits that feel incredibly real and earnest. Then also, the majority, I would say 98.9 percent of it is just hilarious.

Amy: There were a lot of really real moments in it that are really beautiful. There’s this girl, Carolina Barlow, who’s a brilliant gal, she wrote a piece of all of her fantasies about men throughout her life in chronological order. She used to have this fantasy about getting in an accident and all of these different exes come to her bedside. Then she ultimately does get in an accident. It’s about men actually coming to her bedside. It’s so beautiful. People would send these pieces in. I would be driving home and I would pull over. It was the most exciting thing to read them. They’re poems and comics. It’s fun. I’m sad it’s done, honestly.

Zibby: I read on Instagram when you shared about your daughter having epilepsy and how you wrote that you weren’t sure for a while if you were going to share it or not. You decided that in this time of community, it was good to come forward. Can you tell me about your decision to share?

Lake: Not dissimilar from what I was talking about with a book like this where community is — I think I do what I do and I enjoy my job so much because it is based around the ethos of community. You group up a bunch of people of like mind and create something that didn’t exist before. When it came to my daughter Nova’s epilepsy, I felt very isolated. It happened during the pandemic. She had had seizures before, but it had never been escalated to the stamp of, she has epilepsy. She has a genetic mutation that causes it, which we now know. I felt really alone in it. It’s just scary. It just is. You don’t have the answers. Traditionally, you would have these opportunities to be with other parents and maybe go to a support group, maybe go to a coffee with the Epilepsy Foundation and start to have someone to text in the middle of something, just be like, hey, did you find this? Is this medication working for you? You don’t really have that in this time. I respect that we have to be isolated and be good citizens in this pandemic, but it was hard. I thought, if it’s hard for me, then it’s hard for others. I was looking for support. I did, I got a lot of support. It was really therapeutic to have other moms and dads, just people, cousins, sisters, brothers, whatevers, grandparents, who have a loved one with epilepsy. Sorry, I’m rambling. Then there was other women who were young women and older women who are married now with kids and the whole thing. They’re like, I have epilepsy and I have an amazing life. I thought, oh, okay, Nova’s going to be okay. I’m happy to say we’re six months seizure-free right now. I’m going to knock on all the wood. This is it. You ready? It’s almost scary to say you’re seizure-free because you just don’t know, but she’s doing great. I feel very grateful.

Zibby: That’s great. I’m sure you connected with a bazillion people, but one of my best friends, her son also has epilepsy. She’s funny and amazing and awesome, so if you need another really cool mom to talk to, I’m happy to connect you guys. She also didn’t know anybody when she was going through it. If you’re not on Instagram, you really have to kind of put it out there about not just one thing your child has, but basically everything we’re all going through. There’s so much we all have in all these different ways, loss or divorce or kids’ illnesses or just stress with your kids or whatever it is or work stuff or anything. Before, you’re confined to the people in your physical orbit a lot. Now, all the doors have been blown off. Everything you get has to be in this massive social media world or else you have to be only with the people you know. Does that make any sense? Once you put it on social media, it’s like, oh, this woman in Nigeria has the same thing with her daughter as I’m going through right now. If I hadn’t just sat on my phone and typed two lines, I never would’ve known that. I would’ve been feeling like, oh, my god, I’m the worst mom ever, but now I’m the second worst or something.

Amy: The only time I meet people is the dog park. I basically go in a thousand masks and just stand in the corner and let my dogs live their life because they don’t need to wear masks. Now I’m just so connected to the dog community in a way that I never realized I might be. I feel like it’s taught us the way that if you open up, you can find those people.

Zibby: It’s so true.

Lake: I think our children, too, are suffering so much in a way that they can’t articulate. It’s so crazy that social media has become this tremendous resource to figure out how to talk about complex issues, injustice. You can’t just rely on, for instance, they’re going to go to school and they’re going to talk about that, because not everybody’s able to go to school in the same way. Already there, you don’t have the infrastructure of a staff of amazing educators which can traverse some of this complicated territory. What does feel like to feel full of anxiety? I feel like anxiety is something that our kids are all — what is this new blanket that’s on top of everything that I do?

Lennon: There’s an Instagram account called Seed and Sew which I follow. They were talking recently about patience versus boundary parenting. It’s sort of like, you’re cooking dinner and your toddler hits your leg, and you just keep cooking dinner. He hits your leg again, and you keep cooking dinner. You ignore it. Then the third time, you explode. I was like, okay, this is personal. I felt like they had snuck a camera into my kitchen and watched me deal with my four-year-old. Then the other option is the first time he hits you, you stop cooking dinner, squat down, get eye level with him, and say, I’m not going to let you hit me. It seems like you’re wanting attention. How about as soon as I finish with this whatever sauce or cutting the onion, stop crying, and we do jumping jacks in the living room or something? The first time I did it and it worked, we did jumping jacks in the living room. He was like, what? You want to do jumping jacks? We were jumping jacking in the middle — you can’t use that. You can’t say jumping jacking. Anyway, that’s been a resource for me as I try to homeschool and parent and do all the things that I thought I would be great at and I’m not great at, a resource.

Amy: That’s so funny, Lennon, because this morning, this exact thing. He’s like, “I want to go downstairs.” I’m like, “I’m still sleeping.” He’s like, “I want to go downstairs.” I’m like, “Again, my eyes are closed.” He’s like, “I want to go downstairs.” I’m like, “Ozzy, this is not going to work. I love you. You need to go and put your underwear on, and your potty time. Then I will take you downstairs.” He’s three and a half. He was okay with that. Then maybe now I’ve perpetuated it. I feel I’m making a lot of questions about my life choices.

Zibby: I feel like every parent does that, though. Who’s going to really throw the spatula and sit cross-legged on the floor and attend the first time? Then my daughter, the other day she did the same thing. I have four kids. This was my seven-year-old. I have twins who are thirteen and then a seven-year-old and a six-year-old. My seven-year-old, she was asking me something. I was like, “Wait, wait.” She didn’t listen the first two times, so then the third time, I’m like, “Stop!” She’s like, “Why would you yell at me?” I’m like, “I’m not really yelling, but you didn’t listen to me the first two times. What options do I have?” She’s like, “Okay, okay.” Then the next time, she asks me to stop doing something. I didn’t ignore her. She’s like, “But now I get to yell at you if you don’t do this the second time I ask.” I was like, “No, no, no, you don’t get to turn this around now.”

Lake: You’re like, I’m a grown-ass woman. There’s the difference. No, I’m just kidding.

Lennon: My daughter is seven and three quarters, she would want me to say. She had a breakdown about what wasn’t fair. The four-year-old was watching Wild Kratts, which is educational television, everyone. It counts as school.

Zibby: Totally sanctioned, yes.

Lennon: She was like, “It’s not fair that I have to do all this second-grade homework.” I was like, “You know what’s not fair? I have to make sure that everybody has toilet paper, find a small moment in the day to take a poop myself, make sure that we have something to eat, then clean all those dishes while you get to parade around and play with your OMG LOL dolls. Guess who bought you those? That’s not fair.” She was like, “Okay.” She heard it because I was at the end of whatever rope that particular day.

Lake: Lennon, I hear you. When it gets real, when you get into the, I’m a person — I had a thing where my kids are just fighting, fighting, fighting. Nova won’t allow — she just allows it to get to her. I’m like, woman, it’s okay. You can actually physically take your body away from the situation. Finally, I was like, “All right, everybody in your room.” I was alone there. I’m solo Mommy now because we’re divorced. It’s fine, but we are. There’s two houses. I’m like, “Guys, come on!” Then I went upstairs and I was like, “Hey guys, let’s crisscross applesauce and have a family meeting about what just happened.” That’s when I said, “Look, you know how you’re a person and you’re a person? I’m also a person. Here are three persons sitting down. You know how you get frustrated? I got frustrated. That’s what that was. I needed a minute. You know when you need a minute? I needed a minute.” I just was like, “Let me level with you.” I literally said, “Seriously, you guys, when I’m here alone, sometimes I don’t know how to tell you guys to along.” It was just the honest appeal. They were like, yeah, I get it. It was just a nice moment of raw honestly. I was like, look, I go to therapy. I’m going to use this shit on my kids. You know what I’m saying? That’s how it worked.

Zibby: I think also with divorce — I’m divorced. I’ve gotten remarried since. There’s this extra layer of guilt. I’m trying to do my best, but I lost it. Then all of a sudden, they’re gone. Maybe you don’t split custody or whatever, but every other weekend, it’s quiet. I have the opportunity to reflect and be like, oh, my god, why did I handle it that way?

Lake: Why did I do that?

Zibby: Why did I do that? It just makes it all feel worse somehow. We’re so far off from comedy at this point. We’ve meandered here.

Lake: It’s okay. Hopefully, moms are going, yeah. But, funny…

Lennon: All of us, after this, we’re going to go do some jumping jacking on ourselves.

Zibby: Jumping jacking with three persons.

Lake: #JumpingJacking.

Lennon: I don’t want to explain it to you if you don’t understand what it is.

Lake: Wow. We did a show together, so we are incredibly tight with our friendship.

Zibby: Amy, do you have visions, when everything is back to normal, of assembling your amazing crew of all the contributors to your book in some sort of in-person party of sorts or something?

Lennon: Can I say yes to that already?

Amy: Yeah, that’s the dream, big time. I feel like the times when the book was so hard and forty billion emails and tracking people down, it was like, someday we’ll have a party. Then of course, no, but we will someday. We will. I was a huge fan of every woman in this book when I asked them. That’s why I asked them. I’ve only become bigger fans, so I would love to. That would be the dream.

Zibby: Amazing. You could even turn it into some sort of special performance.

Amy: You’re very Hollywood to say that. Everyone’s always like, how are you going to adapt it? It’s like, some things can stay how they are.

Zibby: Not to say it’s not great the way it is.

Amy: No, I know.

Zibby: I find I make more time for books than stuff on TV these days anyway because they’re there and you don’t have to turn anything on. It’s great the way it is. It’s perfect.

Amy: No, I’m just kidding. It’s just funny.

Zibby: What else is coming next for all of you individually? What’s next on the horizon for all of you?

Amy: I don’t know, guys.

Lake: What are you cooking for dinner?

Amy: The other day, my boyfriend, at 8:45 AM, goes, “What’s for dinner?” I was like, “You go to calm down.”

Zibby: It’s time for him to make dinner.

Amy: He does a very, very hard job. I talk about this a lot. I, this one day, went on a podcast. It was about writing and what are your writing tips for women writers? The only thing I could think of was that I love having a fun pen. I think that that makes writing so much more exciting if you have a pen you’re really excited about. I went home and I told my boyfriend that’s what I talked — Lake’s showing us her pens. I told him, “I said the dumbest thing today.” He works at this amazing nonprofit. He was like, “Today, I did a long interview with a man who was wrongly incarcerated at age sixteen and has finally just been let out of prison and has been paroled to this rehab.” This is what he does all day. I was like, “I said a stupid thing about a pen.” It’s just bizarre to compare.

Lake: You know what you need to do? You need to cook him dinner.

Amy: I do need to cook him dinner.

Lennon: No wonder he was so angry with you.

Amy: I know. Technically, what’s next is we will shoot Barry, season three, someday when people are vaccinated and it’s a little safer and we don’t get Henry Winkler sick, which would be the worst thing you could do.

Lennon: The worst.

Amy: Yeah. That’s me. Go, Lake.

Lake: Ay yai yai. I’m setting up my third feature, my third original feature that I wrote and will direct. I’m super excited about that. I have another feature that I’m setting up as well concurrently. Then I have a couple TV shows that I am developing in my 20th deal.

Lennon: Cool, as a fancy producer.

Amy: A big, fancy lady.

Lake: I’m wearing a neck scarf.

Lennon: And puffed sleeves.

Lake: Yeah, and puffed sleeves. That and I’m writing a children’s book, which is really fun too. So just dipping in a lot of things right now and a lot of development and things like that.

Zibby: That’s awesome. I have a children’s book coming out with Penguin Random House a year from now, basically.

Lake: Congratulations. You’re at home and you’re like, okay.

Zibby: Yeah, might as well.

Lake: I would like to be reading to .

Zibby: It’s like, all right, enough. Let’s do it another way. What about you, Lennon? What are you up to next?

Lennon: Just nothing. I got nothing. I really do. I am just waiting for everybody to get the vaccine. Then I will be out and about back at Target. I shot a pilot in December — we’re waiting to hear about that for HBO Max — called Mink Switches. It’s great. It’s a period piece set in the seventies. It’s the first playgirl, basically, starring Ophelia Lovibond and Jake Johnson. I play her sister, a housewife.

Amy: Were the clothes amazing?

Lennon: The clothes were amazing. Beth, who actually did costumes for Playing House, season one, and GLOW, did the costumes. Of course, she’s just amazing. Then going to do my silly podcast, “Womp it Up!” which is two insane characters. Hopefully, do some more of that and then writing, more writing.

Zibby: That’s awesome. This is so neat. It’s super inspiring to get to hear what you all are up to and how no matter what everybody is going through, the same stuff. Everybody out there is dealing with a kid trying to get them to stop cooking — I’m not even doing the cooking — or debating who’s doing the cooking for dinner, you or your husband or whatever. Anyway, the book comes at the perfect time and is such an entertaining vehicle for distraction and laughter and what we all need right now. Amy, the five hundred thousand emails, totally worth it. Lake and Lennon, it was so nice to meet you. Loved your contributions too. Good luck with the book. So exciting.

Amy: Thank you.

Lennon: Thanks, Zibby.

Zibby: Thanks, ladies. Have a great day.

Amy: You too.

Zibby: Buh-bye.

Lennon: Bye.

Notes from the Bathroom Line by Lake Bell, Lennon Parham, and Amy Solomon

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