Jill Kargman and I are in the lobby of the West Chelsea office building where she wrote the first season of her critically hailed Bravo comedy Odd Mom Out, and comparing our Pride weekend war stories.
I’m showing off the mortifying V-neck geometry from sunburns suffered at the annual Pride Parade, while Kargman one-ups me with her own battle scars from the previous night’s Pride Island concert featuring Nelly Furtado: copious amounts of glitter that have seemingly embedded in her skin.
“I look like Alice Cooper took a glittery poop on my face,” Kargman says, the residual sparkles contrasting against her signature black-and-white, punk-rock-meets-Park-Avenue style.
The creator, writer, and star of Odd Mom Out, which launches its third season Wednesday night, is a relentless ticker tape of unfiltered humor and observation, whether it’s about her experience as a free-spirit mom in the Upper East Side gilded cage, her dismay over Donald Trump or, in this case, her limited patience for excessive revelry.
“We were like, ‘OK! She sang ‘I’m Like a Bird!’ Let’s get the hell out of here,” she recounts. After all, the mother of three has a TV show to produce and promote, and an entire neighborhood of Joneses to feign interest in keeping up with.
Following her 2011 memoir, Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut, and her 2014 novel, Momzillas, Odd Mom Out’s three-season (thus far) run is the crowning achievement of Kargman’s career of taking aim at the comedic fish in a barrel that are the designer-clad, Escalade-escorted moms and socialites that populate the Upper East Side.
While making comedy out of Manhattan’s ladies-who-lunch horror show is hardly anything new, in the case of Kargman’s observations, the call is coming from inside the house: She was raised on Madison Avenue sitting front-row at Chanel runway shows—her dad was president of Chanel USA—and often spent spring breaks in Paris.
Kargman somehow emerged from it all with a grounded, healthy perspective, likely owed to her French mother, who taught her that the flaunting of wealth was gauche.
It’s a sensibility carried through her experience as a self-conscious mother alongside the neighborhood’s battalion of Botoxed millionaire’s wives, who would shame her for not having read the latest article on the choking hazard of unhalved grapes—and now through navigating the minefields of Upper East Side socializing post-Trump’s election.
The moms have been ripe targets of Kargman’s zingers for the first two seasons of Odd Mom Out. Last year, for example, mocked New York’s obsession with Hamilton tickets as a status symbol, the rat race to get into the best private schools, and the housewives who, bored with simply organizing their children’s social calendars and attending luncheons, spontaneously crown themselves jewelry or handbag designers, funded by their husbands’ and fathers’ fortunes.
Each anecdote is based on can’t-make-this-up encounters Kargman has had in the Upper East Side, to the point that moms at her kids’ schools will joke, “Now don’t put this in your show!” when she catches them doing something especially opulent.
But this is the first time Kargman’s depiction of the insanity of life in those social circles includes judgment of politics on top of parenthood styles. This is, after all, the same zip code that bares the Trump insignia on roughly a half-dozen buildings.
How Trump’s Win Rocked the Upper East Side
The current season of Odd Mom Out was already in production when the election results came in. “We were in tears,” Kargman remembers. “We were angry.” The writing staff went back and punched up the first half season with some Trump-related humor, but it’s in the second half you’ll see the most barbs.
“Bravo was pretty cool about it,” she said, of the political satire. “I think they called and said, ‘Take out 20 to 30 percent of the Trump jokes,’ but we still go after his cabinet and all these other people. There’s a lot of stuff coming.”
It’s a strange experience, Kargman admits, running in Upper East Side social circles in the months since the inauguration. Obviously all of her friends voted for Hillary Clinton—“I wouldn’t be friends with somebody who voted for Trump”—but by simple geographical proxy, she knows plenty of people who backed the current president. “I have to be near Trump supporters, and it’s really hard to have a dialogue.”
The tone of the relentless calendar of events, benefits, and dinners has completely changed. Emily Post’s advice that politics should not be discussed at dinner parties, which had started to seem dated in recent years, is suddenly modus operandi again. “It’s now back to ‘you just don’t go there,’” she says. “It gets too heated. People are so strident in their beliefs, myself included.”
Kargman doesn’t have any juicy stories about running into the Trumps at parties over the years. “He’s really looked down upon on the Upper East Side,” she says. “That’s what’s so surreal to us, when he’s peddled in the press as this New York success story. He’s kind of a laughing stock here.”
But in a very contained and very specific geographic climate where there already is plenty to whisper about behind people’s backs at social events, who did and didn’t vote for Trump is one more thing on which gossips can pass judgement.
“I’ll be like, ‘She seems nice,’ and someone else will be like, ‘Yeah, but Trump voter…’” Kargman says. “I’ll be like, ‘Forget it.’ I have no interest in pursuing that friendship. But I’m probably rare. There are people who voted for Hillary but who aren’t going to let it affect their social circles or their kids’ friendships.”
It’s More Than Just Moms
And while Trump might be a comedic through line of the new season of Odd Mom Out, the show remains what it’s always been—and what’s made it strike such a chord with a wide swath of viewers, from teenage girls to gay men. Many of those gay men spent the previous night fawning to Kargman about how the show and her character has helped them feel seen.
“It’s not just about parenting,” she says. “It’s about the pressure to fit in”—and, specifically, how alternately lonely and empowering it can be when you don’t.
“I’m 42 and that character of Jill is me, but at 28,” she says. “Now I very much feel like I don’t give a shit about things. Whereas when I was a new mother I feel like my whole personality and all my confidence and anything I had achieved… it kind of shook the Etch A Sketch when you have a baby. I felt so vulnerable.”
It’s a show about learning to feel secure in your identity, and how to triumph over those who judge you for what makes you different, but also you.
Since so much of what takes place on Odd Mom Out centers on the more down-to-earth way Jill raises her children in contrast to the families around them, I ask her if having the show has helped her own kids—Sadie, Ivy, and Fletcher—better understand the value of their upbringing, not to mention the insanity of their classmates’ families?
“They don’t have to watch it to have a fun house mirror held up to their neighborhood because I do it on a daily basis,” she says.
She remembers the conversation she had to have with Ivy when she was just three, and came home asking why Kargman didn’t have red bottoms on her shoes like the rest of the moms at her school. It was Ivy’s first experience watching her mother scoff at the foolishness of spending money on things like Christian Louboutins.
Her kids seem to get it, too. Kargman recalls receiving a frantic call on her cell phone recently from another mom who had called to say, “Your daughter said something unkind about horses, and we’re a big equestrian family.” Dumbfounded, Kargman called her daughter, Sadie, to find out what she had said.
“She said the girl was teasing her because we don’t have a country house or stables, so she said she hates horses,” Kargman says. “So I called back the mother and said, ‘Well here’s what your daughter said. Don’t ever call me again unless there’s blood gushing, goodbye.’ And she now stays away from me.”
Even still, Kargman can’t help but shake her head in disbelief at these stories. She just about melts when we start talking about weathering Bar Mitzvah season last year, with Sadie and her classmates having reached the special age. “Oh my god, if I don’t get a season four I will cry, because I have to be able to write all that,” she says.
She couldn’t go to a single party without someone looking over and mouthing, “This is going in your show…” because it was all so transparently ridiculous. There was the black-tie Bar Mitzvah at the Natural History Museum at which Ariana Grande performed, or the one with the $2 million price tag. Last week, Sadie went to one that gave away $550 Golden Goose sneakers as party favors.
(As for Sadie’s own event? A comparatively understated event at Midtown’s Tao nightclub, at which Kargman adorned the venue’s four-story Buddha statue with a yarmulke.)
“The dads always make these speeches,” Kargman, with the delight of a child on Christmas morning, recounts, pretending to recite one: “Whenever we have a private guide in Paris or London, you always have the smartest questions. Whenever we go helicopter skiing off-piste, you’re carving the turns and just really making your own road, so I just want everyone to raise a glass and say may you always live life off-piste...”
Then, her Pride weekend glitter reflecting the glint in her eye, she concludes with what’s become the chorus of our conversation, and one of the biggest reasons Odd Mom Out has enjoyed three years of success: “You can’t make this shit up.”