Comedians Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer emerged from what’s become the increasingly standard starting line for stardom today — cultivating a fan base online (in their case, through podcasts, a YouTube Channel and eventually going viral with their video, “Justin Timberlake, Make Music Again.“) Now, the two have moved from the second-screen to the first via “Nikki & Sara LIVE,” their late night talk show on MTV, during which they host celebrity guests and filter pop culture news with a comedic sensibility unique to two smart female comedians who also happen to be best friends.
For the freshest commentary, Nikki and Sara stay up-to-date on the latest celebrity news through a selection of blogs and Twitter and an Us Weekly app (Nikki), as well as gossip blog aggregator “WeSmirch” (Sara). After watching the first few episodes, though, it’s clear that the show is more fun than gossip. Nikki and Sara are two smart, funny women and their show is a fun lighthearted addition to the late night circuit – honest and sharp, without being scathing. And as lame as it might sound, their friendship, which shines through on-screen, delivers a refreshing sense of female camaraderie.
Here’s what Nikki and Sara had to say about their new show, what topics they see as “off-limits,” how they’ll evolve their social media presence to meet the needs of a growing audience, and, of course, Justin Timberlake.
What about Nikki & Sara sets it apart from the rest of the Late Night scene?
Sara: I think that because it’s two of us, and because it’s live, that makes it different. We’re also for MTV’s audience, which is a young but very pop culture savvy audience. When you combine all these factors together, we’re bringing something you’re not going to see anywhere else. Plus, we want it to be a fun show, not necessarily a biting, scathing celebrity tear-down show. You’re not tuning in for that. You’re tuning in to talk about the things you’ve seen this week and hear what Sara and Nikki have to say about it.
Are any topics off-limits to you? How does your standup compare to what we might see on the show?
Nikki: One topic we want to completely stay away from is Chris Brown – that’s sort of like a mission statement over here for ourselves and our writing staffs. In terms of edginess, we’re trying to be as funny as possible – we’re not going to push the envelope for the sake of pushing the envelope.
Sara: We want to say smart, intelligent things layered in with what we’re joking about. If you think about what we’re saying, we’re either making a point about how we treat celebrities, how Hollywood treats people – we’re not trying to hit people over the head with it. Over time, as Nikki and I get more comfortable, we’re going to reveal more about ourselves. Compared to our stand-up, I think both of our standup material is very personal. It’s about our lives. We’re not doing the same jokes we’d do in standup, but I think our voice comes through regardless.
Nikki: The same filter we put our lives through when we’re doing standup, we’re doing with celebrities.
The two of you obviously have a relationship that goes deeper than work. How does your friendship and dynamic inform your comedy on the show?
Nikki: We’re best friends and co-hosts – we have a professional relationship. We treat ourselves like we treat celebrities – we call each other out when it’s deserved, but we’re not mean to each other because we love each other. We have senses of humor about each other.
Sarah: We support each other. You can see that on the show. We like to laugh about what’s cute about each other. We’re not those girls that go, like, “Hey B*tch!” We don’t call each other bitches. We have a sweet friendship. And I think that comes through and that makes us a little different than what you might expect from two very honest, strong female standup comedians. I think that’s the surprise that you get when you watch the show – that we’re hugging each other and enthusiastic about each other.
Being women – how does that inform your comedy? Do you consider yourself female comediennes or are you past that?
Sarah: I think we’re past it, but I think we’re not ashamed to say I am female and I am a comedian – and that that makes me different. We’re proud of it. To generalize, I think women tend to be more authentic in expressing their emotions and being open. I think that that adds to our appeal and our comedy because we’re not afraid to say what we think and express ourselves – and it’s not like it’s to be “cool” or to impress anyone. When you sign up to be a comedian and you’re a girl, it’s not to get laid. Somehow I think a lot of guys want to be the in the center of the spotlight to get the girl. Girls want to be in the spotlight because they want to say something, and they want to be heard. Again, I’m making generalizations – this isn’t true across the board for everybody.
Do you have favorite comedians, comedians that inspire you?
Sara: I love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Louis CK. Growing up, Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres were very influential.
Nikki: I would also say Ellen and Tina Fey, but also, just in terms of late night influences, Jimmy Kimmel – his show I want to watch because he seems more off-the-cuff than other hosts. His interviews seem like free form conversation. There’s a genuine interest in joking around, and there seems to be a friendship there with everyone he talks to. Plus his monologue is fun. I think the same for Conan. Conan is my hero. I will always look toward him for comedic guidance. His silliness is something that I truly admire.
How are you guys going to leverage your online presence with the show?
Nikki: We don’t have a Twitter account for our show because we both want to feel connected to our fans, so we’re keeping our personal accounts. I enjoy tweeting up until the moment I walk on stage. I have my phone in my hand, not my assistant tweeting for me. We want to give our followers a behind the scenes perspective – feeling like they really know us and are friends with us – because we’re open to that.
Sara: We’re doing live aftershow online after each episode so people can immediately ask us questions about what they saw on the show, right in the moment. I think that’s a great way to connect directly with people. This [engaging online] is just something I’ve been doing for a long time, working for an online TV show. It’s great to have my own show to take everything I learned from the past and really apply it. We’re going to do special web features – and treat that with the same quality and attention as we’d treat the TV material. I think sometimes people look at the web stuff as an afterthought, and it doesn’t turn out as great, but why would anyone want that? We’re still doing our podcasts and will continue to do those – those, through our fans, helped get us here.
So far you’ve brought Ke$ha, Jenny McCarthy, Shane Mitchell of Pretty Little Liars – who would you love to bring on the show?
Sara: I would love to try and get Justin Timberlake to come on the show since we’re such huge fans and it makes total sense to us that he would do our show… but who knows.
Do you feel responsible for his comeback [through your video]?
Nikki: If you noticed, the Grammy ads all touted “Justin Timberlake’s return to music,” and I don’t know if it would have been presented this way if we hadn’t done our part.
Sara: We put a voice to a feeling that a lot of people had about this particular situation. He had his plans the whole time, but maybe we helped him realize how much people wanted this and how he could capitalize on that and make a really big deal out of it, which is what he’s doing and I love it.
Did his return disappoint? How do you feel about “Suit & Tie”?
Nikki: We love it. “Suit & Tie” is like the theme song – it’s what we listen to to get amped up for shows. It’s what we listen to at the office.
Nikki & Sara Live airs on Tuesday nights at 11 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.