Babysitting can be a good job…if you know what you’re doing. But, as Brooke Jacob and Becky Whittemore have learned, like any other job, there are some real fun moments to be had. Enter their web series Sitting on Babies, which recently began its third season, as it takes a satirical look at babysitting. Created by the duo, Sitting on Babies follows two characters – Dana and Betsy – as they get into trouble while also taking care of other people’s kids. The series takes a mockumentary style approach so that the audience can see the real intricacies of babysitting such as playdates, getting rejected and getting lost on the subway.
Both Whittemore and Jacob trained at the UCB, meeting and building a writing relationship from there. The show idea drew from their real life experiences as adult babysitters but it’s turned into a bigger beast. While both are theatre trained, Whittemore finds more solace in the behind the scenes process of production while Jacob falls more on the acting side. But both are learning to master several talents. I recently had a pleasant chat with the two where we discussed all things babysitting.
How long have you two been working together?
Brooke: Oh my gosh, it’s been a little over three years now actually.
Becky: I feel like it might even be four years considering all of the preplanning and figuring out what it is we were actually going to do.
Brooke: Yeah! I think you’re right. It was before I got married. So I think it was three and a half to four years ago.
Becky: It doesn’t seem like it. [laughs].
So you guys just kind of jumped into the whole Sitting on Babies thing? You didn’t plan it out or anything?
Brooke: We took an improv class together at UCB and we weren’t even friends. We had just sort of done that for eight weeks and then it ended and I think afterwords is when we started talking to each other and we just said “we should write something together!” We didn’t know what and then it turned out we were both babysitters at the time so whenever we would meet and sort of talk about…our days babysitting [that’s when] we realized that’s what we should be writing about.
Babysitting was the real catalyst for all of this. You just found a common interest and you were like let’s play off of that.
Becky: Right. We would meet up and come up with these silly ideas. I had just been on a reality show so of course it was just going to be way more poking fun at reality shows and pull things from that. But you know just from our natural killing time before we got to work talking about babysitting, we just sort of eventually said “lets just write what we know, what we have in common and see what comes of that.” We’d both been doing it for a while. When you work with kids and of course parents, there’s a lot of material there. [laughs]. We went for it.
Brooke: Yeah, I think a big thing we realized since we started talking about it is that only in New York City – not only New York – but in New York City there’s so many babysitters that are older than what you think should be babysitting or maybe all trained to do something else. Like they’re in school to be a lawyer or they’re actually actors or all these things. Growing up, I used to think babysitters were kind of high school students and now I was realizing all of my friends who were old enough to have kids were babysitting. It’s kind of this funny thing in New York we wanted to poke fun at.
Did you both want to act? Did you see acting as a viable option or was it more “I want to be an entertainer. I want to be a comedian?”
Brooke: I’ve been acting forever, professionally, and I went to school for musical theatre so for me, acting is what I always did but the writing is what came second. I think Becky’s is a little bit different.
Becky: Right. We’re kind of opposites on the same coin here. Brooke was always focused on musical theatre and I was a theatre major myself but even in school, I felt like I found my home in comedy as opposed to the dramatic and musical productions that we’d put on. In my college, I found myself way more into my improv group and that’s what actually brought me to New York was I wanted to study it at the UCB and it really just went from there. My background has mainly been improv but I really wanted also to get into sketch writing and just writing comedy in general. It kind of all exploded from there. But we come at it a little bit from different angles but we just got along so well in the class. Brooke had such vibrant and fun characters and we played well together. I was a little bit more focused on my nerdy, Harold homing skills and Brooke was more focused on practicing playing characters so she could use that in her auditions. But I feel like we pulled from different places and came together with something fun.
Brooke: And I think that in our writing, especially now we [I think that] we both love the acting and the writing, has had [affect] on both these different worlds that we’re coming from. I was used to looking at it as an actor and Becky was used to looking at it as a comedian so we were kind of able to take those together and, what I wasn’t strong at, Becky was. And vice versa. And now we’re both strong at everything!
Obviously! How often do you guys write together? Do you ever get a chance to come back and sit down to start writing together again?
Brooke: What we used to do is we would both actually babysit and so we would both meet quickly after our babysitting shifts. Now, life has changed a lot. I’m at home with my baby and she’s working a full time job so what we try to do is when we meet we do these long weekend sleepovers so Becky would come over for two nights and we’ll just make it a writing retreat. And then we’ll go longer where we don’t see each other but when we do, we make it a longer time [together].
Becky: Absolutely. I feel like it’s definitely changed how we worked. It’s been sort of molded around our actual lifestyle but it’s actually fun to be more focused and just get it all done in one really great weekend rather than sort of working little bits by little bits. But I’m sure as both of our lifestyles change, we’ll adapt and see what works best as time passes.
Brooke: Right. My dream would be that, if we could afford to, we go away for a month to a cabin where we have no distractions.
Becky: [laughs] Yeah, right?!
Brooke: It ends up going slower because we have so much other stuff we have to take care of.
It seems like you both are trying to get on some kind of a schedule because this third season just started now and the second seasons started last year but the first season there was a couple of years between that so at least you’re trying to get back onto a certain type of schedule.
Brooke: We’re definitely trying to and we’re actually filming another episode this weekend. We’re not really sure if that’s going to be part of a whole new season [or not]. We’re just sort of filling it in as we go. I don’t want to give anything away of what happens this season but some of it is based on my real experience of becoming a mom in real life. So some of the new episode we’re filming has to do with that.
Let’s get into the brass tacks of the show. Why did you decide to go with the faux-documentary style, the reality style, as opposed to a traditional sitcom format?
Becky: I think that we were inspired because [laughs] I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the show Ink Master but I was actually on it as a human canvas meaning they got to tattoo me on TV.
And it was just so ridiculous. Also, I’ve had other friends of mine on other various reality shows – one of them was on American Idol and so forth – so you just get to talking about how silly these reality shows are. And, even though we already knew they were fake, they’re faker than anyone could imagine. The tattoo is real and it’s still a real competition. We just thought things were so ridiculous. We thought “let’s write something that sort of relates to that.” It sort of just went from there.
Brooke: I think people have gotten savvy to the idea that reality shows were fake. When we started writing four years ago, people didn’t quite realize as much. They were saying to us “they’re not fake! They’re real!” We were like “trust us!” Now you’re watching them and you’re like “this cannot be happening.” But we just thought that was sort of fun to play with.
Becky: As we started the show, we focused more on [confessionals] but as we’ve gone on, we put our focus more on the characters and the plot and the framework of it being somewhat of a reality show. The show’s sort of transformed as we’ve gone on. I guess we wanted to add one more layer of silliness.
Brooke: And we also thought it was so funny to think, like, reality shows can be about anything these days because they’re such silly subject matters. We thought “who would really make a reality show about babysitters.” It’s silly but they would because [reality shows] are about everything now.
I could see that on TLC in the next couple of months.
Becky: [laughs] Totally.
Brooke: And then there really ended up being a reality show a few years later about babysitters in L.A. I don’t remember what it was called.
Becky: It was called Beverly Hills Nannies.
Brooke: Right! And it ended up being nothing like ours but we thought it was so funny. We were like “we had this first! They totally stole it!”
If only we could copyright ideas then you guys would be rolling in the dough.
Brooke: Trust me.
You guys are hard at work on this current season. I was watching a couple of episodes, I just shotgunned them all down my face, and I interview a lot of people – I’ve watched a lot of independently made comedy web shorts and series and this one, I have to say, looks really, really good. Editing is on point. The director, [Tim Young], he’s doing a great job. It even looks good. Not a lot of shows have title sequences that are animated. It looks real.
Brooke: Thank you! That means a lot We’re constantly amazed by the people that – I want to say “hire” but we don’t actually pay enough for me to say “hire” – but we find amazing people that make us look good. It still, four years later, kind of blows my mind when we write these words and people come and say them and they edit and we’re like “that’s what I imagined it to look like! How did you know that?!” Obviously it’s about something we do but so much of it is about these people that come on and they actually care. And although we pay, we don’t pay nearly what they deserve and they do it because they love it. They just really do a good job. We’re kind of blown away by that all the time.
Becky: We felt if we were going to do it, we want to do it right. We were really lucky to meet up with Tim Young who really helped us shape the show since before we even started filming the first season. He got in there and let us know more about the production side of this that we might have missed.
Brooke: Make sure you listen to what Tim’s saying we literally wouldn’t be here without him.
Becky : Our show would be very, very different. He’s become a producer on the show because he’s helped so much that he can’t just be considered a director. He often – even though we get great people do to editing for us – he’s very much a perfectionist and we appreciate that. So he’ll go in and finish a lot of the edits on episodes and totally just polish everything so nicely. It never hurts to have a show that looks beautiful because, once it looks nice, people take you seriously.
Now that you’ve guys made a show about and you’re actually trying to break into the mold of the entertainment world are you going to get angry or do you get a little bit upset when friends or family ask you to watch their children for them for free?
Brooke: It is funny. I had this experience last week where I had a babysitter and I was just so nervous. I was giving directions on what to do and I kind of realized we made fun of babysitter for so long. And I left and I sort of thought of course we’re going to make fun of it because that’s what you do but now, as a mom, a good babysitter is the most important tool in my life. If I actually find someone I trust with my kid…I kind of didn’t realize how important in my life that actually is. It’s cheesy but I kind of wanted to call all of the families that I sat for and just thank them for trusting me with as much as they did. [laughs] Sorry that’s me getting a little sappy.
Where do you two of you go from here in terms of prospects for continuing on being comediennes? Do you want to work in TV shows, do you want to do movies, or do you want to stick with the web stuff for a while?
Becky: Of course we’d rather do web series than big feature films.
Becky: You know, creative licensing.
Brooke: I’m not sure what Becky’s answer is but I would love…there’s so many things I would love to do. I would love to do Broadway and musical theatre but I would love to write and do our own sitcom on network TV or something like that. I’d like to do something on somebody else’s dollar too that isn’t just us producing our web series. That would be fun.
Becky: As far as I go, I’ll be realistic. I fell like the next step for me is probably to produce another show on my own just because that’s life. But is that the only end goal? Of course not. [laughs] I’m not aiming for Broadway personally but I wouldn’t say no! Brooke is of course, she’s still out there; she’s still auditioning. She’s gonna get on it one of these days. You just wait.
Brooke: Oh you are too, Becky!
Becky: I don’t sing and dance so we’ll take that for what it is. I think that being able to in some sort of way be the creative force behind a show that someone else is producing – you know, paying for – is the ultimate end goal. Right now I sort of see myself a little bit behind the scenes as a writer but I would of course love any bit parts in horrible movies. I’ll take them! I’ve got larger goals in mind but I’m also being realistic [laughs].
Brooke: Don’t be realistic! I think when we first started, I mostly wanted it as an acting vehicle, as a funny thing. I just wanted to showcase my acting. Now, four years later, I actually love the writing and producing. So I have been trying to think about where I can incorporate more of that into my life. I talk a lot about it with my husband actually that the producing part does get me really excited. And I’m constantly on my computer answering emails and other stuff. We realized that I like it and I’m better at it than I thought I would be. There’s something about it but I don’t know what that would entail.
It’s good that both of you are doing something. A lot of the times, people are like “I want to do this” but they don’t take any action to do it. At least you guys have acting reels and producing credits. You have all this stuff that’s preparing you for the next big step.
Brooke: You too! Look at you making it happen!
The next episode airs this Wednesday, September 23rd.