HBO’s Somebody Somewhere is Bridget Everett’s Kansification comedy

Bridget Everett and Jeff Hiller in Somebody Somewhere

It’s been a minute, but one of the last times Bridget Everett was performing on stage in Kansas City, she sang an ode to tits. Her tits. The audience’s tits. Pretty much anyone and everyone within her line of vision was fair game for mockery, whether they had tits or not. 

As she speak-sang with raucous aplomb, Everett got off stage and meandered through the audience, riffing on the size, shape, and overall dexterity of mammary glands. It was musical improv at its absolute best: rapid-fire and relentless. 

By the time she ambled back on stage, the audience was frothing at the mouth from laughing so hard. She took half a beat to catch her breath and casually proceeded to introduce her mom who was seated in the theater. The perfect capper. 

The Manhattan, Kansas homegirl had struck again. 

“When you do your thing, the people are gonna listen. Everybody likes tits,” she says, when we remind her of that night. “My mom was in the house, so I had to deliver something. I had to sing a song for her.”

The Little Apple

Per Everett’s telling, the Kansas native had a fairly idyllic, standard upbringing in Manhattan—a.k.a. The Little Apple. Her family was well known in the college town where her dad was mayor back in the day. Her brother, Brad, held the title many years later. 

“We’re kinda like the Kennedys of Manhattan, Kansas,” she once jokingly mentioned to Amy Schumer on the comedian’s podcast, Amy Schumer Presents: 3 Girls, 1 Keith. 

When asked about growing up in Kansas in the ‘80s, she waxes nostalgic. 

“I just loved it,” Everett says. “Going to the lake and driving around with my friends, listening to The Violent Femmes. You can get your driver’s permit when you’re 14.” 

Everett cracks up as she recalls her first time behind the wheel solo. 

“I sideswiped my friend Peter’s car on my first day and he was like, ‘Eh, don’t worry about it,’” she says. “My mom was so mad!”

So, how did a nice girl from Kansas get her start doing bawdy cabaret in New York? 

“Well, I was never a nice girl—which was part of the problem,” she confesses. In addition to the occasional minor fender-bender, Everett divulges she was a perpetual wild child growing up. It didn’t necessarily serve her well, particularly in her teen years. 

“Growing up, I got in trouble a lot for being wild or having a dirty mouth or being a little too much,” says Everett. “And that’s what drove me to New York.”

Well, that and she was pissed that she never once landed a lead in a school musical. Understudy, yes. The main role, no. 

“I was, like, ‘Put me in, coach.’ I never got those opportunities,” Everett says. “It started in middle school. The only chance I got to really shine was in show choir—the great equalizer because you’re all singing the same thing.”

Everett studied opera at Arizona State University.

“[I] bumped around doing karaoke for about 15 years before I found cabaret and the New York downtown performance art scene,” Everett says. “I felt seen—and people appreciated me. They appreciated my voice, what I had to say, and the wild side.”

In a way, she has the Sunflower state to thank for her success. 

“I was super tenacious,” she says. “You gotta have a big fire in your belly and that started back in Kansas.”

Kailey Albus and Bridget Everett in Somebody Somewhere

HBO Comes Calling

A myriad of bit parts and a few meatier roles—including  2017’s rap-focused drama Patti Cake$—helped propel Everett along, but she never really found the perfect outlet for her sing-out-loud-sing-out-strong persona. She did find an ally in comedian Amy Schumer, who welcomed Everett to open for her on coast-to-coast tours. That gave Everett the perfect opportunity to do her thing, spewing bawdy, balls-out original songs amidst occasional stand-up fare. Glance back at the four seasons of Inside Amy Schumer and you’ll spy Everett in nearly a dozen episodes bringing the house down.

As Everett’s exposure and confidence grew, so did her vocal prowess. When HBO reached out about a series deal for the comedy show Somebody Somewhere, the goal was to create an autobiographical-adjacent show which paid homage to Everett’s upbringing. Everett promptly secured Carolyn Strauss—a TV titan with a killer track record working on shows like Game of Thrones, Chernobyl, and Treme—to help nuance the show. 

“She just executive produced Game of Thrones—so this was a lateral move, of course,” Everett jokes. 

An ensemble of eclectic talent on the production and crew team only added to the show’s premise. Co-creators and executive producers Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen joined in the celebrated fray alongside director and executive producers, brothers Jay and Mark Duplass. [Listing credits for the Duplass Brothers would fill the rest of the page, so just pretend to insert the last two decades of indie films and TV here. Yes, they are that prolific.]

Mike Hagerty and Bridget Everett in Somebody Somewhere

The result is a sentimental seven-episode comedy series debuting January 16 on HBO. 

“We wanted to show what it might be like if wild-child-stage-singing-Bridget had stayed in Kansas, and what life might look like,” Everett says. “Being able to engage with the people around her is very similar to me. The thing that’s most parallel to my real life is my relationship to music and singing, and how that affects who I am.”

Everett says a collaborative spirit (and elaborate touring of Manhattan) brought the Kansas-centric show to life. 

“We all sat in the room and dreamt up the world—and the series—together,” Everett says. “The things that make me happy, make me sad, make me laugh. It’s a joint effort. I’m really excited because I feel it shows not just the tits of me but also the heart.”

In the series, Everett plays Sam, a tried-and-true Kansan on the surface but, underneath, is struggling to fit the hometown mold. Singing isn’t just Sam’s outlet, but her saving grace and leads her on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, she finds her community and her voice. 

Based on a True-ish Story

Somebody Somewhere

As a fictional spin on Everett’s life, Somebody Somewhere tends to focus on her character Sam’s family, and her merry band of misfit friends. Think one part slice-of-life, one part warts-and-all approach. 

“We all agreed early on that we wanted a very honest, almost documentary approach to observing life in Kansas as it really is,” says director Jay Duplass. “Which, if we did our job right, should contain a healthy amount of family angst, farmland, an open prairie, and a shit-ton of giggles. As usual, we let Bridget and the characters lead, and we tried not to put any spin on that.”

Casting played a crucial role in the show’s authentic nature. Banter between characters is all-too-Midwest familiar—quirky, quippy, yet mundane. The whole show feels organic to a fault. 

Several castmates were longtime friends of Everett’s. Mary Catherine Garrison, who plays Sam’s uptight sister on the show, was Everett’s roommate for eight years. Murray Hill, who plays Fred Rococo on the show, is another close colleague. 

Character actor Mike Hagerty has a plum role as Sam’s long-suffering dad. “I remember walking in the room when I read with Mike and I just started crying,” says Everett. “I felt this connection to him right away. Same with Jeff when he read for the part. We all just knew.”

The Jeff she’s referring to is Jeff Hiller, who plays Joel: Sam’s neurotic confidant and burgeoning BFF. Hiller plays Joel with a quiet sincerity—and he has some of the most spit take-worthy lines in the show. 

During an episode where a tornado is bearing down on the town (because, Kansas), Joel and his new puppy are taking refuge near an outdoor bunker. When an unseen varmint skitters across the concrete, Joel squeals in terror. “I cannot afford to get rabies again,” he laments. 

As the series progresses, Sam and Joel find a kindred spirit in each other. Naturally, they begin hanging out and offering up opinions on everyone in town. Half the reason their dialogue feels so genuine on-screen is because it was often interjected on the fly. 

Bridget Everett and Jeff Hiller in Somebody Somewhere

“Joel Hiller is an improv genius. We sort of excel in being in the moment and letting it ride,” Everett says. “Some of my favorite moments were songs made up on the spot. There were a lot of scenes between Joel and Sam that make their relationship very special.”

Hiller is such a scene-stealing, comedic revelation that we’re predicting an Emmy nomination for him. 

“Jeff and Bridget knew each other from the downtown New York City comedy world so they brought that natural chemistry to their characters,” says showrunner Bos. “We could watch the two of them just sit in a parked car all day.” 

Everett points out that many of her hard-working castmates have been trying to get their big break for years. This show is the culmination of that perseverance. 

“We’re all about the same age and we’ve all been slugging away for years,” Everett says. “And now, we’re all on a show together, getting our shot together, and it feels really special. That’s the tender Kansas girl in me talking right there.”

“100% Bridget Kansasification”

Another co-star in the show is the city of Manhattan, Kansas itself. Despite being shot in Chicagoland, producers went out of their way to ensure as much Wildcat (and hometown) pride made it into the show as possible. 

“We scouted for days until we found one specific downtown that had the feel—and limestone—of Manhattan,” says Bos. 

“100% Bridget Kansasification,” co-creator Paul Thureen adds. “She was in our tiny writers’ room every day, on location scouts, in our meetings with props and costumes, even in the edit after we shot. Everything had to pass through her barometer of what was right and authentically Kansas.”

He’s not kidding. Everett had a specific list of things she wanted in the show, including particular storefronts like Varsity Donuts. 

“We wanted to highlight all those things, the things I look forward to when I come home,” says Everett. “Like, we stop and get Alma cheese curds on the way from the airport. If you haven’t had ‘em, you gotta get with it. And the old Palace Drug Store where I grew up getting soda and stickers. All the things you run away from but you find yourself coming home to that feel so special.”

Bright Lights, Big (Kansas) City

Always the storyteller, Everett was also quick to reminisce about her adventures visiting Kansas City growing up. 

“We used to go there with my mom, and we’d stay at the Embassy Suites near the Plaza,” she says. “They’d have free breakfast and happy hour at night and my mom would light it up in the bar. My brother would sneak us drinks and we’d all roll down in the morning to have breakfast.”

When quizzed if Kansas City can claim the comedian as one of our own, Everett is more than amenable. 

“Yes, spread me out, I’m a big girl,” she retorts. “Everybody gets a piece. I’d love going to the Plaza as a kid and still do. A lot of fond memories. And Westport—I always thought I was so cool when I was in Westport.”

Danny Mccarthy and Bridget Everett in Somebody Somewhere

Superstardom Looms

For all of her larger-than-life antics on stage, Everett is fairly reserved when the spotlight isn’t on her. It’s quite the dichotomy, her producers say. But it gave the writers plenty of fodder for moments of low-key brilliance on the show, like Sam quietly worrying about her aging parents. 

“I think what I find most fascinating about Bridget is that her presence in life off stage is actually somewhat quiet and private and super thoughtful,” says Duplass. “That’s really the lifeblood of the show—a middle-aged woman coming to terms with herself and her family in a rigorously honest and funny way. So, the contrast between that and her explosive on-stage persona is where the electricity lives for me.”

The show is rife with character arcs viewers won’t see coming and it also offers up scenes for characters to break into well-positioned, soaring showtunes. If there was ever an ideal vehicle for the likable Everett to show off her skillset and vocal chops, Somebody Somewhere is it. 

“I would say come for Bridget and stay for the ensemble,” says Duplass. “Every human being in the show is so special and integral to the family we’ve created.” 

Categories: Culture