‘YOU’RE THE WORST’ Q&A: Kether Donohue On Season 2, Timeless Comedy and How Her Life Has Changed

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ketherdononue_hires1Preston Barta // Editor

FXX’s little series that could, YOU’RE THE WORST, wormed its way into the hearts of critics and audiences with its first season. Last year, we saw Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) meet at a mutual friend’s wedding and share what was intended to be a feelings-free, one-night stand. What followed was an odd love story that tried desperately to be anything but.

After its 10-episode run, YOU’RE THE WORST closed the book on a devilishly terrific first chapter. Tonight, the show’s second chapter continues its even better and humorous streak.

Fresh Fiction had the opportunity to speak with Kether Donohue, who plays Lindsay on the show, to talk about the latest season, comedy that stands the test of time, and how the show has altered her perspective of life.

Kether Donohue as Lindsay Jillian in Episode 201: "The Sweater People." Photo courtesy of Byron Cohen/FX. CR: Byron Cohen/FX

Kether Donohue as Lindsay Jillian in Episode 201: “The Sweater People.” Photo courtesy of Byron Cohen/FX.
CR: Byron Cohen/FX

I think most of us probably have a friend like Lindsay, who’s just sort of a hot mess and trying to figure things out. But the show treats her with such care and such compassion, and in many ways she’s the heart of the show. When you first came on-board, did you see her in that light?

Kether Donohue: “Absolutely! Rule No. 1 in acting is to never judge your character. My audition scene for the pilot was the scene where Lindsay tells Gretchen that she blew four guys at her high school reunion, so when I saw that, I was like “okay, don’t judge this character.” Every human being has reasons for doing what they do and saying what they say, and the joy of playing Lindsay is that on paper, she does the most awful things.

As we just saw in Episode 4, she stuck a turkey baster in her vagina to artificially inseminate herself with her ex-husband’s sperm. That’s pretty bad. But as an actor, you can’t approach playing a character like that by judging them. I think the worse things someone does, the more compassion you need to have for that character.”

Speaking of compassion, you recently posted on Instagram about young women that struggle with body image, and that seems to be a topic you’re very passionate about.

Donohue: “When I was a student at Fordham University, my major was Communications and Media Studies, and one of the most powerful things I took out of that experience was learning that you can either put things out in the media that reinforce dominant ideologies, or you can put out content in media that challenges those ideologies. Growing up, I was surrounded by girls with eating disorders, and I know people who have been sexually abused, and I know all of these issues go hand-in-hand with the images of women that are presented to us in media.

And I think it’s crucial and necessary to show women on television who are not a size zero. And that’s not to put down women who are naturally thin,but what I’m trying to say is that it’s necessary to have a more diverse palate of women’s bodies in television. And I’m very passionate about that.”

I get the sense that Lindsay isn’t really trying to find love at this point in her life, but more that she’s scared of being alone.

Donohue: “You’re right about that, I think right now her motivation is more driven by “oh sh*t, I’m alone! This has never happened before and nothing is going my way.” When you’re in a position like that in your life, you’ll go to any lengths to get your life back to the way it was – hence why she shoves a turkey baster up her vagina.

I think when something happens that’s chaotic, you try to do whatever you can to tie things up in a little bow and get them back to normal – and as we saw in the last episode, that’s really not happening for her. She’s not able to get thing the way she wants. But in the next few episodes to come, Lindsay’s journey of learning how to be by herself is explored in detail, and there are hilarious moments. And also really sad moments, because it’s sad that there are times she can’t do things for herself that a five-year-old could do.”

YOU'RE THE WORST -- "We Can Do Better Than This" -- Episode 205. L-R: Aya Cash as Gretchen Cutler, Donohue as Lindsay Jillian. Photo courtesy of FX.

YOU’RE THE WORST — “We Can Do Better Than This” — Episode 205. L-R: Aya Cash as Gretchen Cutler, Donohue as Lindsay Jillian. Photo courtesy of FX.

YOU’RE THE WORST is such a smart, relevant show, and I’m curious if working on the show has altered your perception or changed your outlook on life in any way?

Donohue: “Yes! Absolutely. Honestly, I think that’s kind of what gave me the courage to even put that Instagram post up today. Ever since I met Stephen Falk and have been a part of his show, I’ve been inspired to take risks, make bold choices and put art in the world that is not based upon pleasing anybody– I’m putting art out there that speaks to me.

Stephen is a brave storyteller. I can’t give anything away, but you will see later on in the season, Stephen and the writers do something very bold that’s never been done before in sitcom. There’s that saying, ‘with great risk comes great reward’– That’s what I’ve taken away from working with him and being in the show.

Secondly, it’s also comforting when you watch Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship, especially with what’s going to unfold in Season 2, nothing is sugarcoated. They go through some dark, dark times. To be reminded that true love, when you find a true partner who loves you unconditionally, that person will be there for you through thick and thin, even when you’re not at your best.

I think reading Stephen’s scripts has been a comforting experience in a way. We all have flaws, and when you’re dating, you’re scared the person whom you have fallen in love with will see those flaws and judge you for them. So watching Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship has been very inspiring to me as a person.”

We spoke to Stephen not too long ago when this new season started up and I asked him this question, and I wanted to get your thoughts on it because you get to read his scripts. But I feel as though Lindsay has some of the best jokes and gags on the show. I personally find her to be very quotable and say her lines to my wife all the time.

Donohue: [Laughs}

I feel as though there’s a timeless quality to her jokes and what she says. I feel like they won’t age. I could probably watch this show years down the line and laugh just as hard.

Donohue: “Oh! That’s awesome! Thank you!”

No problem! But what do you think is the difference between timeless comedy and the kind of comedy that doesn’t age very well?

Donohue: “That’s a really good question. I have an answer but I’m kind of curious to know an example of the kind of timeless comedy you’re talking about from Lindsay.”

Yeah. One that is coming to mind now is one from the third episode, I believe. It’s when Lindsay is trying online dating and has plans to go out with some guy until she says, “He totally catfished me,” or something like that. I feel like that joke, beside situational humor, is one of the many that would stand the test of time.

Donohue: “Oh! OK, yes. In my opinion, I think a joke that stands the test of time is a joke– it’s kind of like that saying ‘comedy is tragedy – plus time.’ I believe it was Carol Burnett who said that and I love that quote. I think real good comedy, the kind that gives you that guttural laugh and sticks with you for years, is something that does come from something genuinely tragic. It’s also kind of like that saying that ‘God is the best comedian of them all.’ You know, when you’re at rock-bottom in your life, at a certain point all you can really do is laugh about it because it’s so absurd.

So I think the difference between a surface joke, one that will make you laugh and chuckle but won’t stand the test of time, is a joke where the stakes aren’t as high. It’s like a funny ‘Ha-ha,’ a light joke to move on from. A joke that really gets you going is one that rings so true. Pain and suffering is universal, and all we can really do is laugh about it at the end of the day.”

YOU’RE THE WORST airs Wednesday nights at 10:30 p.m. E/P, exclusively on FXX.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.