‘Odd Mom Out’: The Mad Genius Behind TV’s Most Underrated Comedy
A day on set in the Gilded Cage of the Upper East Side with Jill Kargman, the laugh-riot creator and fish-out-of-water inspiration behind Odd Mom Out—TV’s most underrated comedy.
A parade of preternaturally attractive extras in cocktail dresses and bespoke suits are filing into the Upper East Side’s Hayward House. Were it not for the champagne flutes they dutifully pick up on their way into the Odd Mom Out set, it would be nearly impossible to tell them apart from the smattering of couples in gowns and tails on the sidewalk heading out to do… whatever it is people who dress like that and live on 72nd and Park do on a Friday night.
A catwalk’s distance away from an orgy of designer clothes and confidence is Odd Mom Out star, creator, and writer Jill Kargman. The titular inspiration for the Bravo comedy is gabbing a mile-a-minute from her trailer amidst a sea of discarded bras and a red wine stained puffy comforter she uses to nap between takes.
“Is it hot in here? I’m going through menopause in this trailer,” she says, instructing me to crack the door open if I’m “schvitzing my balls off.” Then she explains away the red wine stain: it’s the byproduct of an unfortunate explosion after the bottle froze on a chilly night.
Kargman is in the exhausting trenches of shooting the second season of Odd Mom Out, Bravo’s first-ever scripted comedy, loosely based on Kargman’s experience growing up and raising her three children in Manhattan’s equal parts fascinating and ludicrous Upper East Side.
She’s walking me through the season’s fourth episode, which airs Monday night as part of a double-header on Bravo—and which she’s in the midst of shooting a chaotic party scene for in the spectacular mansion around the corner.
Fawning over the location as the prettiest the show has ever filmed in, she explains how production landed it, all the while perfectly illustrating her unique position as an outsider who is still so very much an insider.
“I had a book party for Drew, my sister-in-law, sort of…” she begins, referring to actress Drew Barrymore, who, until recently, was married to Kargman’s brother. “Sisters for life!” Kargman laughs sheepishly. Indeed, Barrymore will guest star on this season of her show.
Marin Hopper, daughter of actor Dennis Hopper, attended the party, and told Kargman how much she loved season one of the show, offering up for production the Upper East Side mansion she had refashioned as a shop for her line of jewelry and handbags. And so here we are.
But perhaps more illustrative of Kargman’s awkward-bedfellows comedy is the way luxury accessories lines like Hopper’s are satirized in the very episode she’s about to film in her store.
A major plot point of season two sends up the Upper East Side moms who, bored with simply organizing their children’s social calendars and attending charity luncheons, spontaneously crown themselves jewelry or handbag designers and start their own lines using their husbands’ and fathers’ fortunes.
“Then they take a suite at the Carlyle and just buy each other’s shit,” Kargman explains. “It’s just this cottage industry that feeds itself.”
In season two of Odd Mom Out, Jill’s nemesis and sister-in-law, Brooke Von-Weber (played by SNL alum Abby Elliott) is reeling from her separation from cheating husband Lex (Sean Kleier). She decides to redirect her life from trophy wife to empowered entrepreneur… and starts her own handbag line.
Jill (the character) assumes that it’s another throwaway hobby from another bored UES housewife. But then, against all odds, “Brooke blossoms into Tory Burch,” Kargman says, gasping and stopping herself: “Am I allowed to say that? I have the biggest cock washer. I’m always revealing secrets. Anyway… spoiler!”
Mocking Manhattan’s ladies who lunch isn’t exactly a fresh endeavor—look to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for a recent example—but while it’s common to gape at the horror show from outside the ridiculously ornate walls these people live in, in Kargman’s case, the call is coming from inside the house.
Kargman was raised on Madison Avenue sitting front row at Chanel runway shows with her mom—her dad was president of Chanel USA. She attended the elite Spence and Taft Schools before heading to Yale, and spring breaks were often spent in Paris. But, perhaps owed to her French mother, she was always taught that the flaunting of wealth was gauche.
Her individuality never quite felt welcome, an experience that became amplified when she began raising her children. That experience in turn served as source material for her 2011 memoir, Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut, her 2014 novel Momzillas, and, of course, Odd Mom Out.
When it premiered last summer, Kargman’s firework wit exploded over a season typically thought of as comedy doldrums. The response was so warm and refreshing that it led to Bravo’s first Emmy campaign for a comedy series, complete with a Television Academy FYC event and posters featuring Kargman and the tagline “Trust Your Inner Voice.”
To that regard, when season two of Odd Mom Out went into production, Will Graham, one of the show’s writers, wrote in magic marker across the writer’s room whiteboard: “Let Jill Be Jill.”
“She’s so unique to me because when I met her I was just like, ‘Oh my god, she’s just like this open book,” Abby Elliott says. “She’ll just spew out these jokes and I’m like where do these come from? I have to sit for three hours to come up with something half as good as that. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is not shy and both really hilarious and totally relatable.”
Brooke, for example, comes out as a “shedonist” this season. The term, Elliott explains, “is basically feminism invented by Brooke Von Weber, but of course she has to be the inventor of it.” Strong women take note: power posing is out, direct eye contact is in. And then the relatability part: Brooke is forced to degrade herself to impress a 13-year-old blogger in order to get her handbag featured on bagbitch.net.
Kargman’s skewering of New York culture is so spot-on that, following an indictment of Soul Cycle classes in season one, Elliott swore herself off the bike. “I’m like, ‘That would make me like one of them!’” she says. “Instead I’m at Juice Press after Pilates. I’m just as bad.”
“It’s in the writing,” says Sean Kleier about playing Lex, whose wealth-driven narcissism manifests itself this season in a Burning Man-inspired reinvention, complete with a cringe-worthy man bun. “They don’t just sculpt archetypal douchiness,” or in the case of Elliott’s character, an entitled bitch. “They make someone who is douchey but also magnanimous and generous, who loves his wife but is conflicted.”
Kleier rushes up the steps to rehearse the party scene, which kicks off with Jill recounting a mishap in a car that sent trays of shellfish flying. “It was a full-on mollocaust!” Jill exclaims.
“That is quintessential Jill,” Kleier says, laughing about the line. A lot of shellfish die, so it’s a mollocaust. “She has her own language. I’m still trying to catch up to it and can’t quite speak with her because I don’t know it yet.”
Of course Kargman is speaking it, and rapidly, as we chat on the way to her trailer while she gets mic’d and puts on her Spanx.
Has the show changed how she’s perceived in the neighborhood?
The moms at her kids’ schools, she says, are still having a hard time understanding what exactly her workload entails. Just the other day she had an “Odd Mom Out moment” when she had a late call and thus time to pick her son up from school. The Southern Belle Mafia, as she calls them, gasped when they saw her on campus: “Oh my god, look who’s at pick up! We should buy lottery tickets.”
While peeved that she’s still getting mommy-shamed, Kargman says that the response from the other moms has been overwhelmingly positive, going so far as to feed her tidbits they think Jill should use in the show. “It’s always the people you think are perfect,” she says. “You’re like, really? You feel like an odd mom out?”
Even though they’re armored in designer brands and hidden by the tinted windows of their chauffeured Escalades, these people are still sympathetic because of how transparent those expensive facades actually are. Deep down, all that glitters isn’t exactly gold.
Kargman is a human ticker-tape of one-liners, whether it’s skewering new-age self-help gurus or the zombie-like cult of New Yorkers accosting anyone who’ll listen about the life-changing effects of Hamilton. (“I was shamed by a patient because I haven’t seen it,” says Jill’s doctor friend Vanessa in the episode. “She had third-degree burns all over her body but she felt really bad for me.”)
But for all the quips and zingers, it’s the undercurrent of heart and relatability—relatable even though only a fraction of us can cop to being rich moms on the Upper East Side—that makes Odd Mom Out work.
“Last season when we were launching I was like, ‘It’s not a parenting show! It’s not about moms. It’s about feeling like you don’t belong,’” Kargman says. “Teen girls—my 13-year-old and her friends—watch it. We had a huge response from the gay male community, and that made me so overjoyed.”
Mid-profundity she pauses and heaves a breath into her hand and, without missing a beat, reaches into her purse. “I feel like I just gave Satan anilingus. I’m going to Tic-Tac myself so I don’t kill.”