How One L.A. Couple Turned Their Endearingly Antagonistic Relationship Into Comedy Gold
Michael Guggenheim and Sage Einarsen
The new web series Bitter Homes and Gardens begins with a couple arguing over their DVR. He likes Game of Thrones, she likes Girls. He wants her to look at his acting reel and she wants him to look at a spec script she’s written for the Lena Dunham show. He won’t read it because he doesn’t agree with her font choice and mocks the series for being about “pudgy sluts" getting "rimmed on the F train” and “hipster 20-somethings jizzing on everyone’s futons.” Later on, he asks if she wants to have sex. She says she’d rather kill herself.
That's only the first seven minutes of married actors Larry Clarke and Fielding Edlow’s semi-autobiographical comedy, which premieres March 24. (Tonight's launch party at NerdMelt is sold out.) Directed by Dave Rock, they depict a feuding husband and wife who constantly take lethal shots at each other. Larry and Fielding are like the internet’s Ralph and Alice Kramden, or Al and Peggy Bundy, except they’re trying to make it in the entertainment industry, which means they’re even harder to tolerate.
Bitter Homes and Gardens
“We’re even uglier in our own marriage,” Edlow says.
She’s not kidding. Clarke and Edlow start bickering the minute they sit down outside LAMILL coffee shop in Silver Lake, and it's hilarious. He accuses her of being self-centered and she pokes fun at his use of the word “milieu." They repeatedly interrupt each other. Edlow recalls their first encounter in an L.A. writers group: “I was there as a writer and he was there as an actor. I didn’t wanna cast him because I thought he was too old. I thought he was really shy and uncomfortable in his body.”
“And I thought she was a lesbian,” Clarke says.
Clarke moved here from New York in 2002, Fielding in 2003, and the two got married in 2008. Clarke was raised Irish Catholic in the suburbs of Maryland, while Edlow is Jewish from Manhattan’s Upper East Side. They have a 5-year-old daughter, Ellis, to whom Edlow affectionately refers as her “little cockblocker.”
Clarke has appeared on The Mentalist, Grey’s Anatomy, Law & Order, Shameless, the upcoming Twin Peaks revival and Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant, in addition to the play The Glory of Living, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Edlow is a comedian and writer who trained at UCB. In 2010, she wrote a one-man show called Coke-Free J.A.P., which ran for four months in L.A. She’s the voice of Roxie on BoJack Horseman and also hosts the monthly stand-up night Eat Pray F*ck at the Improv.
Three years ago Clarke and Edlow were invited to take part in a storytelling night on the topic of forgiveness at Temple Israel in Hollywood. They recounted one of their fights about their DVR, which eventually developed into Bitter Homes and Gardens. They’ve screened the pilot at the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the New York Short Film Festival, where it won best comedy.
Though Clarke and Edlow live in Larchmont, the eight episodes were filmed at director Rock’s Eagle Rock home, which they describe as “hipster craftsman.”
“Eagle Rock is cool,” Clarke says. “I’m sorry, are you the geographical arbiter of the Eastside?” Edlow asks.
In the series, Larry and Fielding are the archetypal struggling, competitive and self-obsessed actor-writer types; his only notable parts have been as a museum attendant, traffic cop, “fat pervert” and “Frasier’s bloated cousin,” while she’s a wannabe screenwriter who also runs a snack blog. They fight about how he snores too loudly and how she farts too loudly. She picks on this weight and bathroom habits, and he doesn’t like cuddling with her in bed because she has bad energy. “I’m not Chernobyl,” Fielding replies.
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Along the way other people get sucked into their dysfunction, including Ronnie Adrian, who plays Larry’s African-American little brother, Reggie, and Robyn Cohen, who plays Fielding’s imperious personal organizer, Amy. “The ego is so prevalent it’s almost a third character,” Edlow says. “They’re cloaked in it.” Of course, they’ve tried couples counseling. (In real life, Clarke and Edlow have gone through five couples therapists but say they’re no longer in therapy.) But despite their high level of toxicity, the characters’ insecurities make them not only hysterical to watch but relatable.
“There’s a strange kind of intimacy we have in our real life that’s reflected in the series,” Clarke says. “There are people who never argue and then they get divorced. There’s nothing we won’t argue about or voice. We’ve been in therapy long enough to know how not to let that get out of control.”
“But we could be one dead cat away from divorce,” Edlow says. “No, honestly. But I think we’re good for today.”
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