Cracking eggcellent jokes with Lisa Ebersole

Chad White

There are many topics that can be covered in thanks to web series. Some shorts can focus on a local band trying to make it big; another set could be about a couple of broads in a city. But none – not even regular TV shows – are about fertilization. It’s one of those niche topics that’ll be covered in an independent film probably starring Jenny Slate. One writer took it upon herself to make the genre her own.

Lisa Ebersole has 37 problems and eggs are one of them. Her web series 37 Problems is all about becoming a mother before you even become a mother. With a stellar cast and constant references to eggs, the series takes viewers step by step through the lens of a woman encroaching on her mid-thirties and societies suggestion that she should have bared kids already. I had a chat with Ebersole to discuss the show.

Why make a show about fertilization? What do you find so funny about it?

Lisa Ebersole: I made it because I was 37 and a woman, not thinking about babies and fertility. That came knocking at my door. It seemed like no one was exploring what this question of biology catching up to you [affects] your life. Two of my friends froze their eggs at the time. One had a very successful egg freezing experience and the other one found out that she was basically infertile. That inspired me to take on the idea of what if a character had her eggs counted and found out that there was only one left. How would that influence your life?

I read the blurb on the site that describes the show and why you did it. You were saying that you made a show for women who are in the same area, asking those same questions and “putting our story on the screen.” That’s a pretty noble gesture.

Ebersole: I just think that, for me, there’s plenty of shows that are about babies doing what they need to do to make that happen. And there’s plenty of shows about people who don’t; the space in between. There’s an ambivalence about it where you’re not sure if you want a baby or if you want to be a mom or if you’re at that point in your life where you have to make a decision. That was interesting to me and that was the face where I saw myself in my friends are occupying. There weren’t really stories about that.

With this being a web series, since you wrote it and everything, was it difficult to stay on that one, singular view? Or did you have any temptations of branching out into side stories that really didn’t have anything to do with the idea of fertilization?

Ebersole: No. I spent about three months making notes for this before I started. When I got to three journals full of notes, I went through and highlighted anything that had to do with fertility or coming to this new stage of life or the juxtaposition of career versus motherhood. I left aside all the things that were funny expansions at that point. I had an episode that was called “Hot Tub Orgasm Machine” about one of the characters [having] an orgasm in a hot tub off of one of the jets. That was funny but had nothing to do with fertility or coming of age so that got left behind.

There’s some really good small details. In the pilot episode, you had a parallel with eating [a large amount of] eggs and in the second episode you had something happening with cookie dough. I thought that was a really smart move.

Ebersole: Thank you. The idea of raw eggs being everywhere….that was something – as a writer – that was important to me to be fun and do something clever with the images.

I want to jump ahead to the finale. Was it difficult to put a damper on the pregnant plans that the main character had with her editor?

Ebersole: Yeah. I think the ending is bittersweet. She starts to explore this idea of “well, what would I do if I were pregnant with this person who I pictured but we’re going to have a sort-of relationship?” And then that all gets taken away. In the final moments, when she finds the baby on the beach, it’s meant to be hopeful. At least it is to me. Even if she’s not going to be mother at this moment, she’s decided that’s something that she wants. In thinking that she might be and going through the emotions of that, she decided that’s something that she wants to explore.

That kind of draws a similar parallel to Lena Dunham who you referenced [in the pilot]. In Girls [right now], she’s pregnant. In the first season, we couldn’t imagine this screw up was going to have a child and was ready and mature enough to raise it herself.

Ebersole: Yeah! It’s funny. Obviously, I’ve been watching Girls too and that storyline is great. She still doesn’t seem ready. But it’s as believable as everything she does. It’s exciting to see what’s going to happen with her.

I’m going to get a little bit off topic: do you think she and Adam should have gone off together an raised that baby? Do you think that would have worked?

Ebersole: [laughs] Um…I actually loved that scene. I loved how complicated and true and how too much has happened for that to be this Sex and the City ending for them.

[laughs]

Ebersole: I think I would’ve been disappointed in a way if it all had been tied up so neatly and worked out that way.

You’re a better viewer than me because, when she started crying at the diner, I thought to myself “Oh maybe they’ll stay together.” And that last scene when [Adam] went back home to Jessa, I thought “Oh this is a waste of my time!” I’m in love with Adam and Hannah. I wanted them to be together.

Ebersole: I know! [laughs]

You’re right! It can’t – it cannot happen. You’re right. It’s too Hollywood of an ending. It needs to be real and true and stay itself.

Ebersole: Yeah! They’re so good together and have so much fun together, you want to root for them. But in that scene, I was remembering all of the pain of grad school when he wasn’t there for her. All of that. You remember that [those] two years happened. It’s just too much.

You have a great cast. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have handled web series. This is probably the biggest named cast that I’ve seen in a short web series. That’s pretty good! I’m glad you handled it well. Everybody played a great part. No one was there to just be there. Starting with your doctor (Pej Vahdat) to your best friend (Stephanie Sanditz), everybody was really fantastic.

Ebersole: Thank you!

Every episode is numbered and has a title to go with that number. Should you get subsequent second, third and fourth seasons, do you already have that mapped out or are you just playing by your own way?

Ebersole: Yeah. The idea was to initially have 37 of them. That’s what I hope to do. Talking about a season two now and just starting to think about that, I think a season two will explore the idea of can you have it all without a ton of money? Can you have it all when you’re on Obamacare and living paycheck to paycheck? And what would that look like? If she starts to explore becoming a single mom, what would that look like?

You have all these numbers. You have these episodes planned out. I know you don’t want to do 99 episodes but you have to get a Jay Z reference in there at least once.

Ebersole: I had a Jay Z song in there but I couldn’t get the rights to it so we took it out.

[both laugh]

Ebersole: The title obviously comes to you from that song. I love that song. I wish we could’ve used it.

Follow Lisa Ebersole on Twitter and check out 37 Problems here.