Nancy And Beth (capitalization of the “And” is deliberate) is the punk-vaudeville musical project of actresses Megan Mullally (Will & Grace, Parks and Recreation, Why Him?) and Stephanie Hunt (Friday Night Lights, Californication, Glee). Their show is intriguing, amusing and perplexing in equal parts, and you really do need to see it to understand what we're talking about.
The pair are as charming in conversation as they are onstage, as we recently found out.
L.A. WEEKLY: How did the two of you meet and when did the band form?
MEGAN MULLALLY: We met in Austin, Texas. Stephanie and Nick Offerman, who is my husband, were doing a movie together [Somebody Up There Likes Me], and I ended up doing a cameo in the movie that was unplanned, last-minute. So I was there for a couple of weeks, just to be with Nick mostly. I’d never been to Austin, which was weird, and Stephanie offered to show me around. So we made a date to go see a movie, and we were both late and missed that showing of the movie, which turned out to be a historical constant for us. When we’re together, the concept of time does not exist. Or it exists in an entirely new way than previously imagined by a man. We got tickets for the next showing and in the meantime we decided to go to a bookstore to kill some time. When we got back in the car to go head back to the movie, we couldn’t find Stephanie’s little paper movie ticket. Long story short, we found it underneath her car seat and she had nervously balled it up into an object the size of, not even a pea. Half a pea. For some reason, that made us laugh so hard. We tried to unwrap it to bring it back to its full size, and that process reduced us to hysterical laughter. We were friends ever since.
How we started the band is probably not exactly the answer I just gave, but it was sort of a natural progression. Stephanie writes songs and plays ukulele, so one day she brought a ukulele to the set and played a song. She said that there was a part she needed me to sing with her, and then the moment we heard our voices together we were like, “Oh, that sounds really good.” One thing led to another. The band started kind of accidentally and is now a real band. That’s a better way for it to happen because we didn’t have any expectations.
STEPHANIE HUNT: We just started to get more and more excited about songs together, and realized that we had similar tastes when diving deep into music. But none of this was sought out.
Your music has been described as “punk-vaudeville”…
MM: The band doesn’t fall in line with any known categories of music, so we’ve had to come up with our own labels. Punk-vaudeville is one. Punk-showbiz is one. It is all of those things, but there’s not a category for those things at the Grammys.
Where does the name Nancy And Beth come from?
SH: We had talked about a lot of different names, and then Megan sent a list to me in email format over the world wide web. Buried in the list was Nancy And Beth. I emailed back immediately, Nancy And Beth, and then we were freaking out and called each other. That was the one she wanted, too. We both understood what it meant, instinctually. It makes a lot more sense after you see our live show, even though it’s not like we’re playing the parts of Nancy and Beth. Somehow the name makes sense.
MM: The name really captures the essence of the band, once you’ve seen the band. You get it but you probably wouldn’t be able to articulate why, just like we’re not able to.
Who comes to see you?
MM: The reason it’s so fulfilling or so satisfying is I feel like the audience is just anybody, because we play such a crazy, wide spectrum of venues. We’ve played dive bars where a fight broke out in the audience — full fistfight — all the way to Newport Folk Festival, Grand Ole Opry, Royal Festival Hall in London, we’re gonna play Sydney Opera House, and then everything in between. I feel like every show we’ve ever had, people loved the show and the band. Even at the Carlyle — we’re going back to play the Carlyle for two weeks after playing a week there last year — and I thought, “Oh man, this is gonna be the time where it all breaks down and people storm out and demand their money back.” But no. Here we are, inches from people’s faces doing a super dirty Gucci Mane rap song, and these Upper East Side older couples in their expensive three-piece suits and beautiful designer dresses are just loving it. It’s inexplicable.
How did you pick the musicians? Petra Haden is a bad-ass…
SH: Oh yeah. She’s like 20 people in one.
MM: I had a band called Supreme Music Program, so the drummer in that band, Joe Berardi, is the drummer in Nancy And Beth. Andrew Pressman and Datri Bean are two musicians we met way back in Austin when we first decided to go into somebody’s little recording studio in their house and just record a couple of songs. Petra is an unmitigated musical genius.
SH: Roy Williams from New York is just an all-around great musician. He’s our guitar player and he can play all styles. He has a gig or two every day in New York. The musicians we have need to have a crazy amount of musicianship to play all the genres that we do.
Is it true that Nick Offerman roadies for you?
MM: He’s the finest roadie in the game. But he really does — if we need a cable, he runs out and gets it. He one time sewed Velcro onto Stephanie’s pants so she could put her mic pack on there — we wear matching wardrobe and that was last-minute. Sometimes he’s in the show, so that’s another enticement.
What can we expect from the set in L.A.?
MM: Some songs that we didn’t do last time. Stephanie and I got together last week and I choreographed some songs, but we haven’t had our rehearsals yet with the band. So there’ll be some new stuff, we might have a special guest or two, and we love Largo. They encouraged us to play there once a month back in 2013.
When this show is over, what's next?
MM: We have a record coming out in 2020 that’s gonna be so ridiculous. We made the record last fall, and it turns out it’s exceeded any of our wildest expectations. We’re really excited about.
SH: We also made some workout videos that have yet to be released. They’re called Getting in Shape With Nancy And Beth. We do five different songs, we teach you the choreography, you do it along with us, and then you get slammin’ bods like we have.
Nancy And Beth play at 8:30 on Friday, April 19, and Saturday, April 20, at Largo.