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Interview: Megan Mullally

Lauren LaBorde talks with the singer and actress who performs at NOCCA this week


Megan Mullally and Seth Rudetsky chat during a break in her informal concert. - PHOTO BY KURT SNEDDON
  • Photo by Kurt Sneddon
  • Megan Mullally and Seth Rudetsky chat during a break in her informal concert.

Despite being a two-time Emmy Award winner, Megan Mullally is taking traditional routes to promote her new band, Nancy and Beth. One time, Mullally and her band mate — actress Stephanie Hunt (Friday Night Lights), who had her ukulele in tow — handed out flyers on a street corner in a part of West Hollywood nicknamed "Gay Town" to draw an audience for a show.

  "I love the sort of grassroots feel of it," Mullally says. "We have to work from the ground up like anyone else. And nobody gives a shit — it's actually a point against me that I'm an actress who was on a popular sitcom. We have to work against that to establish ourselves as a legitimate band that has its own appeal besides my acting career."

  The duo discovered their musical chemistry on the set of the indie movie Somebody Up There Likes Me, and since then they've been doing shows in Los Angeles and a handful of other cities. Although their repertoire mostly consists of choreographed covers of up-tempo songs from the 1930s through the '50s, the duo recently garnered Internet notoriety for covering a more contemporary song — Riskay's "Smell Yo Dick," a crass interrogation of a partner suspected of infidelity.

  Mullally performs solo at NOCCA Saturday and the format includes an informal onstage interview. She says her setlist for the NOCCA show consists of Broadway songs, standards and "songs that no one's heard yet, or sort of funny, dirty blues songs."

  Ever since her Emmy-winning role as the acerbic Karen Walker in the NBC series Will & Grace, Mullally has been seen in everything from a ubiquitous "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" commercial to the cult favorite, but short-lived, Starz series Party Down. She's on Adult Swim's Childrens Hospital and has had recurring roles on 30 Rock, Happy Endings and Parks and Recreation, where she plays the ex-wife of Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman). The characters shared a memorable sex scene at a restaurant that may have been aided by their real-life chemistry — Offerman and Mullally are married.

  The couple collaborates frequently. Besides Parks and Recreation, they've been in movies together (Offerman co-produced Somebody Up There Likes Me), Nancy and Beth opens for Offerman's touring American Ham show, and they're currently rehearsing for a production of the two-person play Annapurna, to be staged in Los Angeles.

  "Nick and I are so fortunate to have, first of all the relationship we have, which I think is an unusually comfy and fun and good one, and to be able to work together so much," she says. "Some people don't like working together, but we love it. We met doing a play back in 2000, so we've kind of always worked together."

  Although she's done a lot of things since, she is still mostly recognized from her breakout Will & Grace role. She says she was particularly popular in Australia, where she did a similar show to the Broadway at NOCCA concert with host Seth Rudetsky.

  "I was like Madonna in Australia. They f-cking love Will & Grace and they love the character of Karen. I think that's great. It's fantastic. It's completely fair — that's the main thing I've done that millions and millions people watched when millions and millions of people watched network television, which they don't anymore. And it's still on in syndication," she says. "I'm thankful for it. It's opened so many doors for me for the rest of my career."

  Mullally also has appeared in Broadway musicals and in plays in Los Angeles and in Chicago. Before Will & Grace, she played Marty in the 1994 revival of Grease, and she appeared in the 1995 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying opposite Matthew Broderick. Her most recent Broadway role was in the 2007 musical adaptation of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein as Elizabeth, Madeline Kahn's role.

  Growing up, Mullally was interested in all types of performance.

  "I sort of sprang from the womb in a top hat and tap shoes and a little cane ready to sing and dance for the people," she says.

  Recently, Mullally sold a half-hour scripted comedy series to IFC, she just wrapped season five of Children's Hospital and did another episode of Happy Endings. She's preparing for Annapurna, which opens April 20, and will continue touring with Nancy and Beth — the duo has a spot in the upcoming Sasquatch! music festival in Washington.

  "But the main thing I'm excited about is Nick and I have a nice vacation coming up. We haven't had one in a long time," she says.

  The couple is considering going to Australia.

  "The water there is so beautiful ... and (Australians) are nice people. They're not at war so everyone's in a good mood."

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