Fun Mom Dinner's Katie Aselton Talks Sexism In Comedy

Photo: Chris Adkins/SilverHub/REX/Shutterstock
The League's Katie Aselton is over being the only female on the field.

As the only actress to appear on the majority of the episodes on the long-running FXX series, Aselton's Jenny was often the show's only female perspective. While Aselton only has the kindest things to say about her time on the series — and her male co-stars — she's ready to kick back with some girlfriends.

That's exactly what she's doing in her new film. Fun Mom Dinner, which premiered at Sundance, stars Aselton, Toni Collette, Bridget Everett, and Molly Shannon as moms desperately in need of a night out. Female bonding ensues — and, off-camera, a group of wonderful women got to create a club all their own.

I chatted with Aselton about her new movie, her own filmmaking efforts, and the unique challenges of being a funny woman in Hollywood.

Tell me a little bit about your character in Fun Mom Dinner.

"I play Emily, who is now a stay-at-home mom, was a lawyer, and is sort of really adjusting to that life change. She's doing great, but parenting is hard, marriage is hard, and what you really need is great girlfriends. She's newly settled in this town, and she's back reconnecting with her best friend from high school. She decided she's going to reach out and try to connect with some other moms at her child's school. In doing that, they plan a 'fun mom dinner.'"

What was it like working with an ensemble of many women?

"It was the best. It was so incredible. I have had seven years of being surrounded by boys and men on The League where I was the only girl... If you have to be surrounded by all guys, those guys are who you absolutely want to be surrounded by. They were so sweet and amazing and sensitive and nice, but, my God, I was craving to do something with women. This was exactly what I needed. Toni, Bridget, and Molly, are, first off, they're just the best that each of them do. I loved and admired them from afar, so to get to play with them every day for 20 something days, was such an insane thing... I fan-girled over them for the first couple of days."

"It was really awesome, and in the theme of the movie: 'Oh, we need our girls.' It doesn't matter how great your marriage is or how great your kids are. If you don't have your girlfriends, you're missing out. To work with a cast of all women, but also a team of women behind the camera — it was written by a woman [Julie Yaeger Rudd], directed by a woman [Alethea Jones], produced by women — that was great. It felt so good. [It's what] I want to do more of."

Each week, you watch a movie made my a female director. Why did you start the #52FilmsByWomen challenge?

"Because there are some really great movies made by women! We're all saying there need to be more female directors. The best way to make that happen is to talk about how great the movies are that these women are making... I guarantee that there are 52 great films made my women. I love dipping into those and making it my assignment or mission to call attention to them... I'm four in and I'm very happy with my choices so far.

You've made two films so far: The Freebie and Black Rock. Why was it important to make these movies?

"I didn't have aspirations to be a filmmaker or director. I really love acting so much. But I had just had my first child, and she was four months old and I was staying at home, and I was kind of panicky about how [to] get back into the world of working. So I said to my husband [Mark Duplass], who is a filmmaker, 'You should write me a movie.' And he looked at me, and it sounds super harsh, but I couldn't be happier that he did it, and said 'Write your own movie.' [And so] I did, and the movie [called The Freebie] was about a couple who take [one night off] from marriage... It was such an incredible experience for me. I just wrote an outline, and it was all improvised, and we shot it in our house, and I really discovered all of these new creative muscles that I had... I really figured out that pulling together a team to tell a story really fulfills me. That film went to Sundance, and sold, and it was very exciting."

"Two years later, I wanted to make another film, and I didn't know what story I wanted to tell but I knew that as an actor I wanted to do something in the action realm. I wanted to use my body and get physical. Sort of the same thing with Fun Mom Dinner, I [needed] more women around me... I just had seen Deliverance and thought 'How fun to tell that story with women, and dip into that genre?' ...It's all real things that are scary, and very real threats. The girls are left to their own devices, and need to protect themselves... Mark and I wrote the script [for Black Rock] together, and it was really collaborative and really great, and we threw me and a team of people into the woods for a month... and that was really hard! I don't think I'll shoot anything into the woods again after that. [Laughs.]"

Are there any specific challenges to be a woman in comedy?

"Getting to be the one who tells the jokes is a basic [struggle] we have. If you look at basic network comedies, women receive the jokes. The jokes are about women. It's very rarely that the woman is the one telling the joke. If you look at network comedy, it's kind of infuriating... I think Amy Poehler changed that in Parks and Recs, but [it still happens.] If you look at like, Kevin Can Wait, Erinn Hayes is one of the funniest women in the world. She has to fight so hard to tell a joke. It kind of makes my blood boil a little bit... When do the guys get to have the jokes bounced off of them?"

"In the film world, regardless of Bridesmaids or [The Heat]... it doesn't matter that these movies kill at the box office, these movies still don't get greenlit. Why? We're really funny! Molly Shannon is one of the funniest people on the planet. Women are so funny... and sometimes men even laugh at our jokes!"

What do you want women to get out of Fun Mom Dinner?

"I want them to have a fun time watching it. I want them to first, go have dinner before hand. I want it to be fun. I want them to go with their fun mom friends. I want them to vicariously have a fun time watching the movie, and laugh, and kick your heels up, and make someone else watch your kids."
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