Former LMU student Busy Philipps drops by campus to talk about disrupting TV patriarchy
Story By Shanee Edwards | Photo courtesy of LMU
Busy Philipps is known for roles on shows like “Freaks and Geeks,” “Cougar Town,” “Dawson’s Creek” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” But it’s her latest project, called “Busy Tonight,” that is really pushing the boundaries for women as she enters the television boys’ club of late night talk shows.
On Friday, March 1, Philipps spoke to a packed auditorium at alma mater Loyola Marymount University for an Alliance of Women Philanthropists presentation about her new show and recent memoir “This Will Only Hurt A Little.”
Speaking with former “CNN Newsroom” host Carol Costello (who’s married to LMU President Timothy Law Snyder), Philipps told the audience, “Part of everything that motivates me is that I want to disrupt. Part of the reason I wrote the book, and part of the reason I made the decision to do this impossibly hard thing — this late night talk show — is to be a disruptor.”
Philipps claims she became disillusioned with her 20-year acting career after a string of professional disappointments that included a TV show she developed with Tina Fey not getting picked up.
“I felt broken. I just didn’t know how I was going to keep doing this thing that continues to break my spirit,” she said.
So Philipps did what any Hollywood professional facing a career crisis would do.
“I got stoned in the desert,” she said. “I get stoned a lot. It’s better than wine, and it helps my anxiety. I was looking out at the stars and the palm trees at the Merv Griffin estate, and I don’t know, maybe his spirit spoke to me. I just turned to Marc [Silverstein, her husband] and said, “I’m supposed to be the first female host of ‘The Tonight Show.’”
Her husband wasn’t immediately convinced, and neither were her agents. But Philipps is a self-proclaimed pusher: “I’m just a person who pushes, and I’ve always felt if I can just push through this, I know there’s something on the other side.”
After Tina Fey made a call to E! Television on Philipps’ behalf, what seemed like a far-off dream became a reality when “Busy Tonight” launched.
“Ultimately,” said Philipps, “I think my mission in life is to dismantle the patriarchy. I say that crying is an act of defiance, but just having a body is an act of defiance. Just being a woman is an act of defiance — especially now in the late night space.”
Over the last couple years, Philipps has gathered 1.6 million followers on Instagram by sharing emotionally raw, brutally honest stories, including a rape at age 14 and an abortion at age 15. She’s fearless in the social media space and says her talk show is no different.
“I’m not doing a political show. I’m talking about women’s bodies and women’s health in a very casual, nonchalant way, like every time I got my period I will talk about it. It’s important to normalize being a woman. Being a woman is political, and I’m not afraid of that. I’m hopeful there’s going to be five more women who get late night talk shows,” she says.
When Philipps wasn’t talking about her new show and memoir, she shared memories of being an LMU student in the late 1990s.
She talked about living in the dorms, in a room adjacent to a nun’s quarters. Sneaking her college boyfriend, Colin Hanks (son of Tom Hanks), into her room became risky business.
“It was like a sitcom. I’d open the door at 8 a.m. at the same time as the nun next door,” said Philipps, so she’d improvise excuses as to why a boy was leaving her room, saying, “Thanks for the early morning study time Colin, you’re going to do great on the test!” But it seems the nun caught on. “Halfway through the year, I got kicked out of that room because they wanted to turn it into a ‘study room.’ Yeah.”
Philipps left LMU after just two years when she was hired on the cult classic show “Freaks and Geeks.” But she has plans to return to the university.
“I really want to make my daughter Birdie come here in seven years, and I’ll totally f**king ‘Gilmore Girls’ her. I’ll show up for class and get my credits with her.”
We’ll have to wait and see whether Birdie is onboard with that plan.
“Busy Tonight” airs four nights a week on the E! Network. Philipps’ memoir, “This Will Only Hurt a Little,” is available at bookstores and online.