“I start with a Broadway showstopper,” Megan Mullally exclaims, “then Seth Rudetsky asks me several licentious questions. Then I belt out another Broadway tune and Seth asks me the dirty stuff.”
Mullally, who received two Emmys and three Screen Actor Guild awards for her portrayal of the outrageous Karen Walker on “Will & Grace,” is talking about her upcoming performance, An Evening with Megan Mullally, at the Parker Playhouse.
“All of it is off track. Each show is improvised,” Megan continues. Although she and Rudetsky have performed together all over the country and even in Australia, there is no set routine. “I never know what he’ll ask.”
And Rudestsky, the host of "Seth's Big Fat Broadway" on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s On Broadway, is known to ask some brazen questions.
Tickets purchased through Stonewall’s website or phone line will benefit Stonewall National Museum & Archives, but it’s the V.I.P. ticket holders who truly are rewarded. A $200 ticket not only includes seating in the first three rows, but also a photo op with Mullally. Before the performance, all of Stonewall’s guests will enjoy an open bar and silent auction—with such items as two tickets to Cher’s concert and a meet-and-greet with Patti LuPone.
But back to Mullally. She first grabbed audience—and critics’—attention when she appeared in the 1994 Broadway revival of “Grease!” She again hit the Broadway boards in the 1995 production of “How to Success in Business Without Really Trying” with Matthew Broderick and in 2007 in Mel Brooks' “Young Frankenstein.” She sings on all three cast albums. She’s also appeared on many TV shows and in several movies.
But it’s sassy Karen Walker that people remember—and love. Her comments were biting and brutally honest: “Honey, tact is for people who aren’t witty enough to be sarcastic.”
In 2010, on “The 25 Greatest TV Characters of All Time,” TV Guide Network ranked Karen Walker #23.
Until recently, there was talk of doing “Karen Walker: The Musical.” A composer and a lyricist worked on the songs; the plot was developed; everything was moving along when suddenly, Mullally says, “Someone who will remain nameless withdrew the rights to our using the character.”
Naturally she’s disappointed. And now her fans will be too.
“But don’t be sad,” Mullally is quick to add. “There just might be a surprise at the show in January.”
“Will & Grace” ran from 1998-2006, and during season three Karen Walker met her match with Beverley Leslie, played by Leslie Jordan. But Mullally explains that he wasn’t the first choice.
“Originally it was to be Joan Collins. She appeared in one episode, and they were going to bring her back as Karen’s wealthy nemesis.” But negotiations failed — Mullally is quick to point out it wasn’t Collins but her reps who caused the bump—so the casting director suggested Jordan. “I love Leslie! He’s so funny!”
Mullally appeared on Parks & Recreations as the ex-wife of a character played by her real-life husband, Nick Offerman. They not only tore at each other, but the scenery was destroyed too. A lot of the show was improvised, which wasn’t the case on Will & Grace.
“It’s just the way people work now,” Mullally explains. “It’s a different time and era. So many funny people have started out in improv. And it’s also more economical. If you hire the right improv person, you can fire three writers!”
Early in 2013, Mullally and Offerman performed in Annapurna, a play named after Himalayan mountain peaks. In April and May 2014, they’ll do it off-Broadway. This time they play a couple that’s been estranged for twenty years. It’s not remotely like Parks & Recreation. “It couldn’t be more different,” Mullally says. “It’s ninety minutes in a trailer. A drama, with deep thoughts. It’s emotional and very taxing, but there are also some humorous elements.”
Does she enjoy doing drama? “I love that it’s not a comedy! I’d like to be cast in more roles doing drama. That’s slowly happening. But, of course, I’ll always do comedy, too.”
She had her own talk show in 2006-07. “I always wanted to do a talk show. Growing up I watched Johnny Carson; Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin; Dick Cavett. Every episode. I felt it was something I could do. I like people. I feel the reason I’m on the planet is to entertain people. And I want them to feel better about themselves. I wanted the show to have real people, but ‘they’ wanted me to talk with celebrities. I wanted to interact with the audience and use the Internet, but ‘they’ wouldn’t let me do it. Now everyone is doing it.”
Mullally is quick to answer the question, “What are you most proud of in your life?”
“My marriage.” She pauses. “My dog. No, really, my marriage. Nick and I have been together 13½ years; 10 years married. We have a great relationship. I like what we have. And I like his values, his temperament, the way he treats me. He treats me like a queen.”
But unlike Karen Walker, Megan Mullally isn’t a diva. “Fame is funny. The minute you let your ego into it, it’s gone.”
It’s nice to discover this very funny comic has a contemplative side—and a guiding philosophy. “Not to get all serious on you,” she says, “but Taoism says that one should correct oneself before going out to change the world. I want to be a good person. That’s my goal. To do the best I can, in everything—even in this interview.”
That she did.
IF YOU GO
An Evening with Megan Mullally
January 16, 2014
tickets: Stonewall-Museum.org or call 954-763-8565
Charles L. Ross is the author of Inside, a novel about an interior design magazine.