Interview with Lisa Arch of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO by Suzanne 11/18/21
I enjoyed chatting with Lisa on Zoom! She is so funny. I can see why they like her on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” I learned some valuable insights from her about the way that show is run, how the people on it are, and how show business can be. It was very informative. I hope you enjoy it, too!
Suzanne: I was watching some of your YouTube videos last night…
Lisa: Which one? The reviews? The podcast?
Suzanne: The thing where you’re interviewing people with another lady. I can’t remember her name.
Lisa: The Leslie and Lisa Show.
Suzanne: Leslie and Lisa, yeah.
Suzanne: I was watching the one with the the actress from The Flash…So, I noticed that the last one was awhile ago. Are you still doing that?
Lisa: No, it was kind of an experiment. It was kind of an experiment we were doing during quarantine. We had a really good time, but it just wasn’t floating our boat enough, I guess, to keep it going.
Suzanne: Yeah, seems a lot of work.
Lisa: And there’s so much work…It just wasn’t clicking for me. I love working with her. She and I are actually working on another project now, but, yeah, for some reason that was too much. It was just too much with everything else I had going on.
Suzanne: Yeah, I wouldn’t be able to do that kind of thing. I tried it once. I’m like, “Oh, I’m terrible at this. Nevermind.”
Lisa: It’s hard. Everybody makes it seem so easy, but it’s just, it’s a lot.
Suzanne: Yeah. There are a lot of bad YouTube videos where people try to do that. And it’s like, “No, I can’t watch this.”
Lisa: One hundred percent.
Suzanne: Not yours. Yours I enjoyed.
Lisa: Thank you.
Suzanne: It probably helps you’ve done a lot of comedy, both of you.
Lisa: Yes, exactly, and I’ve hosted a ton. So, I love that medium. I still love hosting, and I love interviewing people, but it’s just a lot, when you’re booking all the talent, and you’re doing all the stuff.
Suzanne: And the editing, and you’re trying to promote it; the promotion is hard.
Lisa: You need a team; you need a team of people. We just don’t have it.
Suzanne: I completely understand, because I do all mine, [but] not solo. I have volunteers. I can’t afford to pay anyone to promote, do that kind of thing.
Lisa: But you have volunteers that do it?
Suzanne: I have volunteers who do a lot of writing and proofreading and different things, not promotion so much. I need to get somebody to help me with promotion. That would be great. I spend more time on my own social media, my personal social media, than I do for the site, so that’s a problem.
Lisa: Exactly. Yes. Priorities.
Suzanne: Yeah, I’d rather take a lot of pretty pictures and post them on Instagram than promote my site. [laughs] Well, I realize everybody has their strengths.
So, I’ll get to my questions. You were on Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2009, and then not again until , so what happened in between?
Lisa: Well, so I mean, the show took six years off. I did a season; then they did one more season. Then, they took six years off. I think it’s how it was. No, it might have been two more seasons, and then they took six years off. So, yeah, when I was on the first time, it was just a one shot deal. It was just “come do this role,” and that’s it. There was no indication that there would ever be more.
So, a decade later, when I’m picking my son up from school, my manager and agent called me, and whenever they call me at the same time, it’s good news. But I hadn’t auditioned for anything recently. So, I was like, “I don’t know what this is.” And they said, “Curb wants you back,” and I was like, “Okay. I’m sure they want me back.” They were like, “No, they want you back, and it’s for multiple episodes.” And I just started sobbing, because it was so unexpected, because the day, or the several days, I had done the first time were so magical and everything I had ever wanted this industry to be, and it had never been before. So, to know I was going back to that was just the greatest feeling ever.
Suzanne: I know. He gets a lot of wonderful actors to come in and do their parts. They all love the show so much, and he lets them be different characters, even though they’re playing themselves. They get to be like, the jerk version of themselves.
Lisa: Absolutely, exactly. You’re so right. Yeah, and it is such an amazing, creative environment, and everyone there is such a powerhouse in their own right. So, it’s just an incredible place to be. It’s magical; it’s the Disneyland of the entertainment industry.
Suzanne: Right, I understand. So, on the show, you’re paired with the amazing Richard Kind. What’s that been like, for you?
Lisa: He is spectacular. He is so adorably insecure in a way. I just don’t even think he understands how brilliant he is. So, it just makes him even more brilliant. He’s so funny and lovable. He’s also just been in everything, literally. There is not a television show or a movie he’s not in, nor is there a Broadway show he hasn’t performed in.
Like, off camera he’s talking with Larry about musicals that he’s been in. Larry’s grilling him about certain shows. You know, “Have you ever been in Fiddler on the Roof? Did [you] ever do this? Were you ever in that?” And the answer is always “yes.” “Yes, I was in that. Yes, I did do that.” He is adorable. When I first did the show…When was it?
Lisa: So, I was in my late thirties. I was like, thirty-eight, and he’s like, fifteen years older than me, I think. So, when I was first paired with him, I was like, “This is interesting thing.” But then I just immediately felt like, “Yeah, I see it. He’s my husband. I totally get it.” Then, the more we work together, the more I’ve kind of just like literally fallen in love with him, and I completely see us as a married couple.
Suzanne: That’s cool. Yeah, I interviewed him years ago. Did you ever see “Red Oaks” that he was in? He is wonderful in that. You need to see it; it’s a good show anyway.
Lisa: I have it on my list. I watched like part of the pilot episode, and then something happened. I don’t know, but I have to get back on my list. He told me that I would love it.
Suzanne: I think it’s only two seasons, but it’s really good. He is he just even better than usual in that. It was just like, when I was watching, I was thinking, “What else can you do?” This is like the role of a lifetime. There’s more after that, but still.
Lisa: Yeah, there’s nothing he can’t do.
Suzanne: Yeah, and I saw that you were on Mad TV in the late 90s. Was that a great training ground for you?
Lisa: So, actually, I consider my training ground what I did before Mad TV, which was years and years of sketch comedy live. That was really my training ground. I started when I was fifteen doing sketch comedy in my brother’s sketch comedy troupe, which was really a lot of work. We did it every summer for years, and we sold out every show in Hollywood. Then, after that, I was with ACME Comedy Theater for several years, and I did a couple one-woman shows. So, that that my training ground, and that’s what led to Mad TV. Mad TV was definitely a training ground for how to get the crap kicked out of you on a daily basis and react well to it, which I did not do at the time, but now I know how to, so yes, it was a training ground for the toughest parts of this business.
Suzanne: Would you like to elaborate on what you mean by that?
Lisa: Any sketch comedy show – I mean, you hear this, especially from Saturday Night Live, not only because it’s an incredibly competitive show, but also it’s live. Mad TV, we had the luxury of being taped, so you could screw up and do it again. Although that didn’t happen very often; we memorized our lines instead of having cue cards. So, it was sort of like – I don’t know, but it’s just a very competitive genre. I am a competitive person with myself, if that makes sense, but I’m not super competitive against other people. So, to be thrown into that atmosphere was very difficult for me, and I did not respond super well to it.
I met some wonderful people. I actually met my husband on that show, which is the entire reason I think I got that show was to meet him, but it was a really difficult year for me, very hard. A lot of good times, a lot of fun, and a lot of lessons. I was thrown from being a waitress literally right into being a series regular on a show.
So, you go from struggling to people throwing Nikes at you and going, “Here are these for free,” and you know, “Here’s a bracelet from Tiffany,” and all this stuff that you had never had, unless you’re being driven to parties and stuff like that. It really kind of messes with your head. So, it’s also a good training ground and learning how to be grounded, because that stuff is beyond temporary, and nobody actually loves you as much as you feel like they do. So, I learned a lot of lessons and how to trust the right people [and] how to trust myself and not get caught up in the BS of the industry, because [in] the industry, there’s a lot of BS.
Suzanne: Right, I’m sure. I’m always talking about the people just in PR, who their whole business is [PR], and I’m a Mass Comm major, so I learned about PR, but I already sort of knew about it from this job. Their whole business is to hype everything and pretty much lie almost at times. I’m not putting them down; that’s their job, and it’s a hard job. Acting is also a form of lying in a way, and then the people in charge of actors, do they even look at the stuff? I can see why you would have a lot of that.
Lisa: Yes, it’s definitely a lot of BS. I mean, look, I have some friends in PR, and I definitely think what they do is very real and very hard, but, yeah, what you’re saying is true. It’s a lot of like, “How can we make this one part of your life seem even better than it actually is?” Yeah, for sure.
Suzanne: And the network’s do do that a lot too. It’s so funny, because it can be like, “Oh, this is the great hit of the season,” and then two weeks later, they cancel it. [laughs]
Lisa: But look, what’s so funny is what has completely been modeled after that is social media. I mean, yeah, technically every post is a lie. Anything that has a filter on it is a lie. You know, how many couples do you know that have terrible marriages, and then they’re on a vacation with their family, and they’re kissing in front of a Joshua Tree or whatever. You’re like, “Oh, my God. You just you hate him.” [laughs] You gotta weed through the BS and keep your inner circle small.
Suzanne: That’s true. Yeah. Actually, yeah, you’re right, because I always tell people, “Online friends are not the same as real life friends. Don’t believe anything people say to you. They could be lying. Everything they said could be a lie.”
Lisa: And yet, ironically, I feel as though I have learned so much from online friends that I’m not even super close with in real life. Yeah, there’s definitely a balance.
Suzanne: Yeah, I mean, I have I have people that I’ve known before even what they call “social media” where they was just message boards and forums things like that I’ve known for a long time, and I feel like I know them but, yeah, you never know how much you know about them.
Suzanne: My criteria is always, would you invite them to your house? Would you let them sit sit with your kids or your dog or house sit? Would you loan them money? If you answer yes to all that, either they’re friends, or you’re very gullible. [laughs]
Lisa: Exactly. You’re exactly right.
Suzanne: So anyway, you’ve done a lot of kids comedies. Is acting in those very different from acting in regular comedies?
Lisa: It really is. It really is. Nickelodeon and Disney, it’s such a blast. First of all, it’s so stupidly fun, but I never feel as much like I’m acting as I think I feel like I’m just like at a playground. You have to be so much broader. And I have to tell you, I did so much of it that I think a lot of my auditions for many years were way too big, because it’s hard to get out of that mindset. It’s like, you’re playing a mean principle, and then everything you do is really big and angry. So, it’s so much fun, but it is very different. For sure. It’s a heightened version of what I normally would think I would do.
Suzanne: Yeah, that makes total sense. You were on Seinfeld in 1996. Did that help you at all get the role of Cassie in Curb?
Lisa: I don’t think so. Honestly, to this day, I don’t know if Larry knows that I was on Seinfeld. I imagine he does, but I don’t know for sure, because it was so many years in between. When I came in, there was no indication that he knew who I was.
It did help me get Mad TV, believe it or not, because right after I did Seinfeld, Mad TV was auditioning, and the person who cast me on Seinfeld was casting Mad TV. I didn’t have an agent at the time, so I called her and just said, “Hey, can I come in? I should be in there.” And she said, “Absolutely. We’ll see you Monday.” So, definitely, Seinfeld was a huge kickoff for my career.
Suzanne: Well, that’s great. Yeah. A lot of careers.
Suzanne: So, you’ve been on a lot of different TV and movie sets. What sets Curb apart from the others?
Lisa: So, first of all, Curb is all improv. You get a scenario, but nothing’s written for you. So, in that respect, it takes the pressure off, because you don’t have any lines to memorize. A lot of people I’ve spoken to, other people who’ve been on the show, thought it adds pressure, because you have to come up with your own stuff, but, to me, that is my favorite thing to do.
Suzanne: Right, you have all that experience.
Lisa: Yeah, and the thing is, it’s such a supportive environment. Beyond that, it is easy to do, because everyone there is rooting for you to be funny. It’s basically the opposite of what Mad TV was. Mad TV, you felt like everybody was rooting for you to screw up. And when I say everybody, I’m generalizing. There were a lot of wonderful, wonderful people there, but on Curb, it’s literally everybody there…But everyone at Curb is just rooting for you to be funny, because they want the show to be good.
Suzanne: That makes sense.
Lisa: So, it’s insanely supportive. It is, genuinely.
When I wanted to get into this business, it was to do everything that happens on Curb. It’s to play, it’s to feel creative, it’s to feel challenged and supported, and to laugh. And all of that happens there. And, honestly, I can’t stress enough, when I tell you that I sobbed when my managers told me I was going back, I promise you that’s the truth, because it is a magical land filled with magical people. Then, all of a sudden you’re at a table with friggin Larry David and Susie Essman and Cheryl Hines and JB Smoove and Patton Oswald. My head, literally, every time I walk into one of those dinner party scenes, my head just like explodes a little bit, and then I’ve got to put the pieces back together, but it’s a dream. It’s a dream.
Suzanne: You mentioned Patton Oswald. He’s another one who’s in everything, between him and Richard.
Lisa: You’re so right. I actually said that exact thing to my husband. Patton is in everything. And what’s so funny is he and Jeff Garlin and Richard Kind, we’re all sitting at this dinner party scene, talking about how they’re all on The Goldbergs, because Richard and Jeff are on it, and Patton does the voiceover. He’s in everything.
Suzanne: Yeah, and he tours too. I don’t know how he finds time for a real life.
Lisa: I don’t either. And he’s an absolute genius, brilliant mind. He’s just insane and so kind.
Suzanne: Oh, that’s nice. That’s good. It’s good when you hear that people are nice.
Lisa: But by the way, also, and not that he is, because I’ve met him before; he is lovely, but you can’t be a dick on the set of Curb.
Suzanne: I’m sure. Yeah. If it’s that supportive, then, yeah, they wouldn’t put up with that. It’s funny, because you’re all acting like that on the show.
Lisa: You’re so right. Yeah, everyone on that set is so sweet. It’s ridiculous.
Suzanne: That’s good. So, can we see you on other Curb episodes this season?
Lisa: Not this season. I might show up for literally like five seconds on screen in one other episode, but that’s it, unfortunately, because I want to be there every day.
Suzanne: And have you heard about whether there’ll be a season twelve, or is that something that only Larry knows?
Lisa: That’s something that only Larry knows, and that’s the absolute truth. It’s funny, because the whole crew – I would say, conservatively, eighty percent of the crew has been the same since the very beginning, and the only reason anyone would have fallen off is because they got a job that they just can’t leave, but everyone shows up for him. But he is the only one [who] knows if, and he’s the only one that knows when, so you never know. Every time it’s been a surprise for me.
Suzanne: Well, I’m sure he’ll keep doing as long as he enjoys it. It’s not like he probably needs the money. [laughs]
Lisa: Yeah, I do not think he needs the money, and I do think he absolutely is having a blast. He’s also like, the coolest human being alive. No one believes me; he’s super sexy, because he so couldn’t care less what anybody thinks, and it’s so authentic. He just emanates, cool. Literally, he’s like Fonzie, but better.
Suzanne: No, I can understand. A little bit of that comes across on the on the screen, even though he’s being a jerk on the show. You can tell. And I don’t think you could produce a show like that if you were a real jerk in real life. It’s funny how many people in the audience in that Facebook group think that’s what he’s like in real life. I’m like, “Are you kidding?”
Lisa: Oh, yeah. And of course there are aspects, I’m sure; that all comes from his brain. So, that’s definitely indicative of what he is thinking, and I do believe there’s a lot of that; that is who he is, but it’s just obviously a much more heightened version of that.
Suzanne: Right. Well, yeah, he’s probably thinking about things that do bother him, but he wouldn’t be obnoxious enough to say it to people. [laughs]
Suzanne: Like he wouldn’t have any friends or be invited to dinner parties if he really were that obnoxious.
Lisa: Exactly. And yet, I think he also probably takes advantage of the character to use as needed.
Suzanne: Oh, yeah, because some of the things he says are very political in a very sneaky way and a commentary on society.
Lisa: Absolutely, absolutely.
Suzanne: That’s one of the things that makes it great, I think, because you watch it because it’s funny. Then something gets in there that you go, “Oh, yeah, that’s right.”
Lisa: Little stupid things, like the towels. Like, my husband has said, and I’m not joking, my husband has said a million times, “Please don’t give me one of the new towels.” And I’m like, “I don’t get you.” And he goes, “It’s just different; it doesn’t dry you right.” So, when we saw [that], like, who would think that anyone else on the planet would have that thought? So, when we saw that on the show, we were like, “What?” That freaked us both out.
Suzanne: Where’s the hidden camera, that he was spying on you with?
Lisa: Exactly. Exactly.
Suzanne: That’s funny. Yeah, today I was looking up Pirate’s Booty. I mean, I already know what it is; I’ve had it before, but I thought, “I wonder if they take they were really happy about this episode,” but apparently they were bought out by Hershey, so they don’t care.
Lisa: That’s funny. That is very funny.
Suzanne: Then, I found another wonderful article about what the Talmud would say about what Larry did on that episode.
Lisa: I read that.
Suzanne: Did you read that? Wasn’t that a great article?
Lisa: That was phenomenal. So, I love how specific the Talmud is. That’s the funniest thing ever.
Suzanne: Yeah, I said that to my husband. We both love the show.
So, you already pretty much said your favorite part of working on Curb is the supportive environment and the people.
Lisa: And how fun it is and how funny you get to be. You get to be as funny as you can possibly be on the day you’re working. That’s a great feeling.
Suzanne: When you’ve been on, have you ever seen anybody where you thought, “Ah, they probably won’t come back,” because they didn’t do that great of a job? Or is that all pretty much taken care of before they get on the screen?
Lisa: No, I don’t think that is, because, genuinely, I don’t know that I was supposed to be ever back. I think it’s just Larry populates the show with whoever he thinks would fit. So, I don’t think he ever knows if you’re coming back. I don’t know. But no, I’ve never – But then again, I haven’t worked with a ton of guest stars. I worked with more stars this time than I ever have before, but usually I’m just working with the regulars. So, no.
Suzanne: That’s funny. So, do you have any other projects going on that you want to tell us about?
Lisa: Not really anything that I can talk about right now. I’m doing a behind-the-scenes thing right now that I hope turns out well, but I can’t really talk about it yet. Otherwise, no. I’m a character actress, so much of my life is just auditioning and waiting. And during the pandemic, there was so little going on. Now, it’s just gotten very busy again, audition-wise. So, my fingers are crossed that work is coming, and in the meantime, I’m in school, and loving that.
Suzanne: Are you working towards a particular degree?
Lisa: I am. I never [graduated]. I quit school to pursue acting. So, over quarantine, I decided it was time to try to get my Bachelor’s degree. So, I am working toward my Associate’s degree right now, and then I’m transferring for a psychology degree.
Suzanne: Oh, nice. That probably would have come in handy back when you were on Mad TV, right?
Lisa: Oh, my God so much. You have no idea. Yes. I probably should have finished school, although I would have finished with a theater degree. So, I don’t know that it would. Yes, it would have been very helpful.
Suzanne: Are you finding it challenging at all? Are all your classes online?
Lisa: All online, yeah. I decided there was no way I was going to do it if I had to go to school. So, yeah, all online. And it’s been challenging. It’s hard. You know, I’m a mom, and I’ve got all my house duties, plus all my auditions, plus whatever else comes up. So, it’s been tough, but I’m loving it. I’ve never been a good student, and I’ve never liked school, and I’m absolutely loving it. I feel myself becoming a more well-rounded person, just because I’m learning things that I never knew.
Suzanne: I think, in some ways, it’s better to go when you’re older, because you’re more mature; you take it more seriously. Your writing is probably better, all these different things.
Lisa: Absolutely. I mean, I think if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, it’s an important thing to do, to go to school. Look, to be frank, I wish I had finished back then, but I didn’t; that wasn’t my path. And I do feel that I am one hundred a better student now and learning so much more than I would have back then.
Suzanne: And are you going full time or part time?
Lisa: Oh my God, no, part time. [laughs]
Suzanne: That makes it easier too.
Lisa: Exactly. No, there’s no way it could be a full-time student. And what’s cool is there is a program that does classes in an accelerated fashion. So, a sixteen-week class takes eight weeks, but it also packs more work into those eight weeks, but if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t get my AA until I was 60.
Suzanne: …I really like your curtains by the way. Those are pretty.
Lisa: Oh, thank you.
Suzanne: I like looking at the background when I interview people.
Lisa: I know, it’s hilarious
Suzanne: [I see] interesting things. Who’s the actor? Jeff Daniels, I was on a TCA thing with him. There’re lots of people there, but he had like fifty guitars behind him hanging on the wall. He apparently has an addiction to buying guitars.
Lisa: That is awesome. I don’t collect anything. I’m not a collector. I collect dust. I don’t have any cool collections of anything.
Suzanne: Oh, you do enough as it is.
Lisa: Yeah, I do, darn it.
Suzanne: All right. Well, I thank you so much for meeting up with me.
Lisa: Thanks for asking.
Suzanne: Oh, it was great. I will see you on Facebook and hopefully more in Curb.
Lisa: Yeah, hopefully more. Fingers crossed. Thank you so much.
Suzanne: All right, bye bye.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
Lisa Arch is an American actor and comedian, known for her roles in the 1997–98 season of the FOX Network comedy show, Mad TV, as cohost of TBS’s Dinner and a Movie from 2002 to 2005, and as the recurring character of Samantha Samuels on Disney Channel’s Cory in the House. Arch has also been in movies, such as 2007’s Evan Almighty.
Curb Your Enthusiasm is an American television sitcom that has been produced and broadcast by HBO since October 15, 2000. The series was created by Larry David, who stars as a fictionalized version of himself. The series follows Larry in his life as a semi-retired television writer and producer in Los Angeles, and for one season, New York City. Also starring are Cheryl Hines as his wife Cheryl, Jeff Garlin as his manager and best friend Jeff Greene, and Susie Essman as Jeff’s wife Susie. Curb Your Enthusiasm often features guest stars, many of them playing fictionalized versions of themselves.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda