The Tess Rafferty Interview

Thanksgiving is just hours away, so today is an excellent day for a cooking-related interview. Today I'm chatting with a comedian and writer who fans of The Soup may recognize from her occasional appearances, most famously as the dancing maxi pad. Recently she published her first book, Recipes for Disaster, a memoir described as what'd you'd read if Bridget Jones wrote a culinary memoir. You can learn much more about her here.

What made you decide it was time to move on from The Soup?
I knew the book was coming out in the fall and I had just had the screenplay optioned so I figured it was as close as I was going to get to a "sign" that it was OK to go. In this business people often want to move on or do something different, but no one wants to leave a job that's paying until you get another one. But the next opportunity might not totally resemble the last opportunity so sometimes you have to look at it a little differently and take a chance.  I had wanted to do some extended traveling and since I didn't want to go during cold or rainy weather, mid-May seemed like a perfect time to abandon all sense of financial security and go.

To a lot of people I'm sure working there seems like the ultimate dream job: what were some of the less-fun aspects of watching lots of TV and writing jokes about it for a living?
Have you ever heard the parenting tip that if you catch your kid smoking a cigarette you make them smoke a whole pack so they never want to smoke again? That's what watching reality TV for a living is like. When I started on the show I offered to cover a lot of shows because I was already watching them anyway. By the end of it, I was yelling at my husband to turn off the TV if I caught him watching the Real World on one of my weeks off.
Also, reality TV has changed a lot in the time I was on the show, too. It started out as something that resembled reality and then became, "Oh no. Kim Kardashian wants help picking out the color of her Bentley and her sisters don't care. What's going to happen?" Also, too much of it became "The Real Bad Girl Wives Club of the Who Cares?" Just a bunch of women yelling at each other with a bad soundtrack and constant bleeps. It's seizure inducing. I had to put a wallet in my mouth just to watch it.

Who were some of your favorite guest stars to appear on the show?
Wendi McClendon-Covey and Rob Corddry blew me away because not only are they both so talented, but they showed up ready to have fun and give it their all and then hung out with the writers and told us how great they thought the show was which was always such a huge compliment. Seth Green also, was a frequent guest of the show and always up for anything. And Yvette Nicole Brown always knocked whatever we gave her out of the park, always made sure to ask who wrote it, and sent us Lollicakes afterwards. So basically anyone talented who kissed our asses and fed us. Writers are insecure people and we like sweets.
Either positive or negative, what were some of the most memorable responses the show received from the people it made fun of?
We featured a clip of someone who had that adult baby fetish and they later wrote someone on the show and told them to check out their blog which was detailing their experiences trying to potty train themselves.

How did writing for TV and standup help you with the book and in which ways was the experience harder than you expected?
One of the great things about The Soup was that it was like boot camp. One of the best joke writers I know described it as throwing a hundred pitches in a row. Having to write jokes every day, 49 weeks a year, and then be able to think of jokes on the fly, whether it was on set or onstage in my own act, really helps you to just be quick about what you're writing and not overthink things or second guess yourself. I don't get scared about sitting down and having to start something anymore. And when writing Recipes for Disaster, I couldn't afford to. I was still at The Soup full time and had to write the book at night and on the weekend. Also, being stand up, it gave me what I think is a very conversational tone when I write.

What are some of your favorite wines for under $20?
Oh my god there is so much to choose from!
If white wine is your thing there's a great one called Chateau La Graviere. I was first introduced to it at my local wine store, Colorado Wine Company, but if you don't live near me, you can buy it at Whole Foods for $9.99 or online also.
At my LA book party we served a Chianti called La Ginestra which is about $13 a bottle. I bought that at the Flask in Studio City.  And for just under $20 I got another fabulous Italian red, Querciabella Mongrana.
Talking about wine is one of my favorite things. I got a call from a friend who was having an Election Night party and wanted some recommendations and I was like, "I got this." I could do this all day.

What's the biggest challenge you ever set up for yourself, cooking-wise, at a dinner party?
I served a 3 course dinner, 2 of which were fresh pasta that I made myself. I had wanted to make ravioli and serve it in a brodo but then I decided we needed a protein course, too. (Of course there was chicken in the ravioli, but I don't remember why I didn't consider that protein at the time.) So I made boeuf bourguignon but thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to serve it over homemade fettuccini?" I have different definitions of fun from everyone else, I guess. I try to get as much done ahead of time as possible, so I spent much of the day before covered in flour, rolling out pasta, and making frantic calls to a chef friend trying to figure out the best way to store the pasta without having it dry out too much or get too moist and gooey.
The first course was a salad and I made my husband make that.

What's your go-to dish when you want to impress your guests without trying very hard?
Lately I've been making a Coq Au Vin, which is something that always tastes great, but is also something easy enough that I make it on week nights for just my husband and me. But when guests come over I cook it with pancetta.

What's the key to a good roast joke? What's one of your favorites that you've written?
This was my first roast and I was really honored to be part of it having been such a fan of the roasts for years and I profess to be no expert. But for me, writing about the same targets day after day for several days in a row, I was always looking for some detail about someone's life that hadn't been talked about and then finding the funny and unexpected in that. The roast is fun because you can also be inappropriate and hard hitting, but you really have to be able to back that up with something that is just as funny as shocking, otherwise you're just writing mean, stupid things about people. That's why Greg Giraldo was always so good at it.

Here are 3 of my faves that aren't also too filthy to print. The first one was part of Jane Lynch's monologue for the show:
"Roseanne, of course you were attracted to Tom Arnold. You thought with all of that powder on his upper lip, there must be a donut somewhere."

"Roseanne you've butted heads with writers, producers and executives. You've given more Jews upset stomachs than lactose."

"Roseanne, you old hippie broad, I can't believe you're still on Twitter now that you know hashtags don't tell you how much the hash costs."

How has your feature film Thicker Than Water been progressing? What's the status on it now?
We're in early pre-production and plan to begin filming in the first quarter of 2013.

You've written about your love for Sex And The City: What's your favorite episode (or if you can't narrow it down, era on the show)?
OK, this question necessitated a look through my gigantic Complete DVD Collection of Sex and The City because I couldn't decide. I always loved "The Freak Show" for its flawless art direction. The way they visually wove the theme throughout the episode was stunning to me. But I was always on Team Big and not Team Aidan, so season 2 is full of my sentimental favorites. "Evolution" was wonderful, "Twenty-Something Girls...Thirty-Something Women" should be required viewing to make every woman feel OK about turning 30, and "Ex and the City," well, who doesn't love a good The Way We Were reference? (One of my favorite romantic movies, by the way.)

How does it feel to be the 331st person interviewed for
I feel like that's a very lucky number because it's one less than the amount of electoral college votes Obama got in the election. So it's like an Obama landslide minus Delaware or Rhode Island. [Ed: You're actually 332, thanks to timing, so it's the Obama landslide WITH Delaware or Rhode Island!]