That ringing bell you hear signals that a TrunkSpace class is now in session. Overseeing our lesson in funny is “Teachers” star Caitlin Barlow, one-sixth of the comedy troupe The Katydids. In addition to portraying Ms. Cannon in the TV Land sitcom, she is also co-creator, executive producer, and writer. That’s a lot of hats to wear anywhere but especially in a school, a place where wearing hats is generally frowned upon.
The second half of season 2 of “Teachers” kicks off tonight on TV Land.
We recently sat down with Barlow to discuss the wonders of craft services, why TV Land is the perfect home for the series, and removing gender labels in the world of entertainment.
TrunkSpace: Is being in a comedy ensemble anything at all like being in a band? Is the relationship similar? If The Katydids were to break up, would you go on a “farewell tour” à la KISS?
Barlow: Well, I’ve never been in a band so I can’t say for sure but I can imagine that it is pretty similar to being in a band! I’d say the relationships are pretty similar. It’s a lot of collaboration and a lot of spending time together. We are all comedically gifted in different ways, so in a sense we all have our “instruments.” If we broke up I’d like to think we’d do a “farewell” tour!
TrunkSpace: The second half of your TV Land series “Teachers” kicks off tonight. For those who aren’t familiar with your journey, how did the show ultimately come together and was it a long process from inception to your first day of shooting?
Barlow: It’s been a long journey but basically the Katydids started as an improv troupe way back in 2008 in Chicago. We started doing improv shows and then moved to sketch comedy and videos. In 2012 we made “Teachers” the webseries, which was directed by Matt Miller and produced by Cap Gun Collective. The webseries did pretty well online and in 2013 TV Land reached out to William Morris Endeavor (who we had just signed with) to ask if they had any female-driven workplace comedies in development. Our agent showed them the webseries and they ordered a pilot off of the webseries, which is pretty rare. We shot the pilot in the summer of 2014.
TrunkSpace: Speaking of that first day on set for “Teachers,” was it exhilarating, terrifying, or a combination of the two?
Barlow: A combo for sure! I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I didn’t even know about craft services. I was like “THEY PROVIDE FOOD?!” I was very, very green.
TrunkSpace: Now that you have been a part of the production machine for two seasons, do you still find any aspects of the process exhilarating, terrifying, or a combination of the two?
Barlow: I used to find acting terrifying. I had done improv comedy in Chicago, but had very little on-camera acting. I would freeze when it was my coverage because so many people were looking at me. I feel a lot better now and don’t get nervous anymore, but it took a lot of practice.
TrunkSpace: Do you think “Teachers” could exist in its current form on one of the more mainstream networks? Is TV Land the perfect home for it not only because you’re making the show that you want to make, but also because there is less pressure to pull the maximum amount of eyeballs with each episode, which seems like a recipe for ulcers for those creators looking to make their mark with new, original content on something like a FOX or ABC?
Barlow: I do think that TV Land is the perfect network for us. The show wouldn’t exist in its current form if we were on a mainstream network. TV Land gives us almost complete creative control, which is so awesome and so rare.
TrunkSpace: As a group, you’re all writing, producing, and starring in the show. Now that you’re two seasons deep, what is your favorite hat to wear in the process and why?
Barlow: My favorite hat is writing. I love the act of collaboration and I love the process of stories coming together.
TrunkSpace: In your opinion, how important is it that more women are not only spearheading content in Hollywood, but making the decisions on who those spearheaders (totally not a word but we’re running with it) should be? Do you hope that “Teachers” can help open the door for more women creators to get their projects greenlit?
Barlow: Well, I think it’s very important that women spearhead more content in Hollywood. We have a lot of stories to tell and a point of view to explore. I certainly hope that we help other female creators get projects greenlit. We’ve got to lift each other up!
TrunkSpace: One of the things we always point out when it comes to music is that (and this goes back to our first question in a way) when a band is made up of all men, nobody calls it a man band, however, when a band is made up of all women, they call it a girl band. Why isn’t a band just a band and a group of comedians/creators just comedians who create? Are we getting closer to gender not being used as a label in entertainment?
Barlow: I think that is SO annoying when a group of women is called “an all female band/comedy troupe/whatever.” We’re still referred to as an all female comedy troupe all of the time and it makes my skin crawl. I don’t know why that persists… but it should stop. It’s dumb. Are we getting closer? I don’t know. Probably not.
TrunkSpace: We know that you were actually a teacher prior to making “Teachers.” How much of your own experiences, both in story and in the character development, has seeped into the show itself?
Barlow: A ton of my real life experiences have made their way into the show. When I developed Ms. Cannon I was in grad school getting my masters in education. I was taking classes that espoused very lofty ideals about how education can change the world. I thought it would be funny to have a character who believed everything that she learned in her classes and wanted to change the world through education, but had no practical skills.
In terms of stories, in these next episodes there’s a plot about standardized tests which compares testing week to living in soviet era Russia. I hated testing week when I was a teacher, so it’s been fun to get my point of view out there.
TrunkSpace: Your story of how The Katydids first came together and how the group grew into what it is sounds very reminiscent of your executive producer Alison Brie’s Netflix series “GLOW,” only with less wrestling and more comedy. Has anyone made that comparison before, because it really does sounds similar in terms of the journey?
Barlow: (Laughter) Not that I have heard, but that’s awesome.
TrunkSpace: With that in mind, if someone with very deep pockets said, “We really want to tell The Katydids story in the form of a comedic series, BUT, you can’t play yourselves.” Terrible decision on the network’s part, BUT, you end up having say over the casting process. Who do you vote for playing you on screen?
Barlow: Vanessa Bayer and I used to get told that we look alike when we were both performing in Chicago. I’m gonna cast her.
TrunkSpace: What are you most excited for viewers to see in the second half of season 2?
Barlow: I am really excited for people to see how these characters develop. A surprising new romance blooms at school. Our finale episode takes place in the 1940’s and explores what happens when a woman gets pregnant but wants to stay at work.
To visit “Teachers” co-star Kate Lambert’s classroom, click here.
“Teachers” airs Tuesdays on TV Land.