“Farm to table, I love it,” Jill Kargman, creator, writer, and star of Bravo’s new—and first—original comedy Odd Mom Out says as she takes a seat at Chelsea’s The Green Table. “Or as I like to call it: seed to anus.”
“Ramps are so trending,” she quips as she peruses the menus, stroking the bow draped from the front of her black dress. “They’re like the hot onion.” Ultimately, she lands on a double order of deviled eggs. “I’m 40 and my hair is falling out so I need protein.”
Another recent development in her diet: a woeful aversion to sushi. “Now that I’m 40, I can’t eat sushi out as much,” she says. “My fingers are kielbasas right now. The only ring that fits on my finger is a hula hoop.”
Jill Kargman is very funny. And she’s very New York.
She’s spent years mining laughs—lots of them, as evident from the ticker tape of witty sound bites that flows from her so naturally—from her equal parts fascinating and ludicrous neighborhood where she both grew up and currently raises her three children: the mythical, mysterious Upper East Side.
The neighborhood is crucial source material for her 2011 memoir, Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut, her 2014 novel Momzillas, and Odd Mom Out (premiering Monday night), which she calls “my two books in a Vitamix, blended for your enjoyment, pulp and all.”
“Well, we had to leave out some pulp,” she clarifies. “You can’t say fuck on Bravo.”
She calls the Upper East Side and its Gucci’d constituents “comedic fish in a barrel.” Though they’re armored in designer brands and hidden by the tinted windows of their chauffeured Escalades, these people are fascinating and ultimately relatable because of how transparent those expensive facades actually are.
“People are intrigued because they know that deep down all that glitters isn’t gold,” Kargman says. “They love a gilded cage story, where it seems perfect but they know the guy is screwing his secretary, or the girl doesn’t have real friends, or is worried about her weight, or is using her kids as yardsticks to measure themselves.”
Making comedy out of Manhattan’s ladies who lunch certainly isn’t a new endeavor. (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt did it earlier this year.) But whereas it’s so common to gape at the horror show from outside the walls of where these people live, in Kargman’s case, the call is coming from inside the house.
Kargman was raised on Madison Avenue sitting front row at Chanel runway shows with her mom—her dad was president of Chanel USA. She attended the elite Spence and Taft Schools before heading to Yale, and spring breaks were often spent in Paris. But, perhaps owed to her French mother, she was always taught that the flaunting of wealth was gauche.
Her sister-in-law is Drew Barrymore, which comes up in conversation as clarification for who “auntie” is during a story. And, as much as she mocks the moms of the Upper East Side now, she sweated just as hard on the hamster wheel trying to get her kids into the best schools.
But especially after she became a mom, Kargman began feeling “like a square peg in a round hole” among the coven of Botoxed, bleached blonde millionaires wives, who would chastise her for not having read the latest article on the choking hazard of unhalved grapes while en route to $1,000-a-plate luncheons, or wag their fingers at her for bottle-feeding instead of breastfeeding.
All the while, Kargman was under the impression that “Purell” was a foreign word.
The result is a life in a community in which she says she has “one foot in and one foot out.” It’s a good way to describe her Odd Mom Out character, too. Jill Weber married into a WASP-y family, wedding a successful lawyer and birthing three beautiful kids.
Despite being more financially successful than most Americans could ever dream, Jill grumbles in the pilot, “Between Lexington and 5th, I’m a charity case.”
Still, in the name of maintaining family peace and her own dignity, she gamely engages in her extended family’s high-class problems. Will they be accepted at a burial plot with ocean views? Will her sister-in-law’s charity event to fund prophylactic gastric bypass surgeries for at-risk children of morbidly obese parents be a success?
Initially, Kargman met with Bravo’s Andy Cohen and Lara Spotts (Bravo’s senior vice president of development) to pitch a late-night talk show…that would air in the morning. A superfan of series like The Daily Show and The Tonight Show, Kargman, a mom, could never stay up to watch them, and would often find herself doing so in the morning.
Especially on cable networks, which replay bad movies, reruns, and infomercials in the mornings, she saw an opportunity in the marketplace for something less chipper and spicier in the mornings.
“It would be like, ‘Weather: It’s fucking freezing,’” she says. “And like coffee would be a full coffee pot with a straw. We’d talk about the news, but it’s Us Weekly, skimming headlines and stuff.”
The talk show never came to fruition, but when Bravo began a bake-off of sorts for its first two scripted series—one drama (which would become Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce) and one comedy—Kargman gave them her books to read and started developing Odd Mom Out.
“She’s the bottom of the one percent,” Spotts says of Kargman’s sense of humor. “It’s really funny to hear her talk about her financial struggles, when you’re like—hashtag, cry me a river—look at the apartment you live in!”
Still, stretching back to her first memoir, Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut, it took coaxing for Kargman, now 40, to be convinced that her life was worth writing about. When she was approached to write one six years ago, her response wasn’t enthusiastic: “Don’t you have to be gang raped and have your limbs chopped off to write a memoir at 34?”
Two days after that conversation with her editor at HarperCollins, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma. “I had a tumor in my vag,” she says. “It was a peanut M&M, made out of cancer.”
She remembers her hysteria during her MRI, so shaky and nervous that she had to be sedated. While she waited for her sedative to kick in, an 8-year-old patient came in to have the same procedure done.
“I never cried again,” she says. “I was like, that mom is probably freaking and if I were that mom seeing my daughter go through this, I would wish it were me. So my dream came true. It wasn’t my daughter. It was me.”
After her surgery she called her editor and said, “I’m in.”
So began a rich career mocking the Upper East Side and her own life in its confines. That career reaches its highest profile point yet with the premiere of Odd Mom Out, ironically on a network that exploited the bitter reality of that community (Hi, Real Housewives) and parlayed it not only into its own outsized success, but an indelible brand.
What is it about the Upper East Side that we can’t stop gawking at?
There are dozens of iconic, identifiable communities, cultures, and “scenes” in New York, Kargman says. But the Upper East Side might be most ripe for satire. And more, laughing at it works to discount its (very expensive) existence.
“You might see a crew of blonde Mombots with the $1,500 strollers, and you might feel you’re not doing enough if your kid isn’t learning Mandarin or is slower to do shit,” she says. “But really, who cares? So I think if you can laugh at it, it takes away the power and takes the air out of the tires of that crew. Takes the air out of the tires of the $1,500 tires.”
And in the end? “All that matters is your family, your weirdness, your underwear dance parties, and your best friend.”
It’s a small miracle, even in Kargman’s eyes, that she’s managed to maintain a life fully entrenched in the world of the Upper East Side without being suffocated or—worse—corrupted by its lunacy. Now that she’s a mother, too, the miracle of her weird underwear dance parties is constantly on her mind.
“I don’t understand how I escaped unscathed in this aspect and I’m scared that my kids will be fucked with this,” she says.
All she can do is call out insane behavior when she sees it, whether it’s with her kids who are confused why they don’t own a country house like all their friends, or whether it’s with the other moms and friends she encounters on a daily basis.
Recently, she was chatting with a friend who happens to own a 400,000-acre retreat in rural New Zealand. (As you do.) There’s a huge working farm on the property.
“She said, ‘We hired an in vitro veterinarian specialist to impregnate the sheep during the non-mating season so my kids could witness the birth while we were there,’” Kargman recalls. The friends saw the look on Kargman’s face and immediately knew.
“She was like, ‘Don’t put it on your show, promise me,’” Kargman says. “And I was like, ‘If I did no one would’ve believed it.’”