If there was ever a perfect time to release a sitcom called Feel Good, it’s now. Tellyheads across the world are stuck inside, most contemplating the end of society as we know it due to self-isolation restrictions and the coronavirus pandemic. Luckily, TV is best enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. Enter comedian Mae Martin.
Co-written by and starring the Canadian stand-up, Feel Good follows a recovering addict who does her best to control the addictive behaviours and intense romanticism that permeate every facet of her life. At the heart of the show is a touching love story, which sees a fictional version of Mae struggling to connect with her partner George (Fresh Meat‘s Charlotte Ritchie), who is equally messed up. Heavy at points, and light in other moments, the new Channel 4 and Netflix co-production is tense, uplifting and, crucially, hilarious. It will pick you up during a dark period and make you cry, laugh and hopefully feel good again.
We caught up with Martin and Ritchie to talk relationships, LGBTQ+ rights and hanging out with Friends legend and co-star Lisa Kudrow.
Mae, your comedy is quite personal and so is Feel Good – were you always this open about your life experiences?
Mae Martin: “I’ve been doing comedy for 20 years now. I started when I was 13 and I think for the first 10 years I was impersonating other people. As I started being more myself on stage, things started to go exponentially better. It’s been a process of getting closer and closer to who I really am, but I’m sure I’m still curating my personality. It’s not 100% me.”
Did you decided to leave anything out when you were working with your writing partner Joe Hampson?
MM: “It was more that we dumped everything out and then picked what to use. We definitely omitted tons and then amplified lots of other stuff. I think my character has all of my issues but just dialled up to like 120%”
Is there a lot of your writing partner Joe in there too?
MM: “We have such a similar sense of humour – even just the words we find funny like eels and wasps and crisps, a lot of ‘s words’… James Bond, snakes – all of these things that we found funny, we snuck in there. There’s a line that George says at a really poignant moment: ‘I feel like there’s eels up my bum’. Things like that are very Joe.”
Did you have Lisa Kudrow in mind when you were writing your mother in the show?
MM: In trying to write the character, we kept saying to people ‘sort of imagine Lisa Kudrow’, but we never in a million years thought that she would do it. I still can’t believe she did. In my pantheon of comedy idols there’s maybe six people: Lisa Kudrow, Conan O’Brian, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Martin Short. Lisa is at the top. She has that really rare ability to ground something emotionally that’s quite mad and just play the truth of it in a really hilarious way. There were lines that we didn’t even intend to be funny like ‘I mean what I say’ or ‘I’m in the middle of my Scotch egg’. All of a sudden a line just comes to life in a totally unexpected way.”
What did you guys learn about relationships from working on Feel Good?
Charlotte Ritchie: “I learned that honesty is essential. George is not truthful about how she feels about her friends. Maybe if she had the conversation [and said]: ‘this is why it’s scary, this is why I can’t do it, can you help me, can I learn?’ But there’s none of that. It’s this arrogance of: ‘It’s my way, this is how we deal with things’ and [the same goes for] Mae. She uses her stand-up to express and exercise her feelings, but doesn’t go to George and say: ‘This is how I feel about it’. So they break down as a result of that.”
MM: “It’s exhausting trying to impress someone and be a version of yourself that might be attractive to them. I think that’s what Mae the character does, and I do that in my life a lot too.”
Does the fact that this show exists mean things are improving for the LGBTQ+ community?
MM: “It’s definitely getting better but there’s so much further to go. People think that because there’s gay marriage in this country that we’ve kind of done it. But I don’t feel safe walking around and I still have things shouted at me all the time. There’s still so little representation. Feel Good is going to be on Netflix in 190 countries and a lot of those countries don’t have gay marriage, so yeah, there’s a long way to go. Of course, the LGBTQ+ community has been relating to straight love stories for years. I love Titanic, I love Romeo & Juliet, those are my favourite films, and so it’s crazy to think that people wouldn’t connect with Feel Good, it’s just a love story.”
What kind of person do you think would enjoy Feel Good?
CR: “I think everybody can watch it. Everybody! Anyone that’s literally ever been in a relationship, or anybody that’s walked out into the world and wondered about something.”
Feel Good season 2: will there be a second series?
MM: “Nothing’s confirmed but we have loads of stories to tell. I want to see [Mae and George] go to Canada and see them try to transform that relationship into a healthy long term one – and if they can do it. You don’t really know if they’re good for each other or not in the end, right? Do they bring out the best in each other or the worst? Or is it just too much?”
CR: “I think they’re helping each other learn – and that’s the best thing about relationships. So hopefully that’s a good sign.”
‘Feel Good’ will be available, free to view or download, on All 4 after episode one airs at 10pm, March 18 on Channel 4, where the series will also air weekly on Wednesdays. It will be available globally on Netflix