Interview: FX's 'Better Things' Creator Pamela Adlon On Louis C.K. And Period Jokes

Louie established Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon as a sort of dynamic duo of comedy. Bonus points if you saw them together even earlier on Lucky Louie. After five seasons of writing and producing Louie, Adlon developed her own show for FX. Better Things is her show, and C.K. still writes and produces with her.

Better Things stars Adlon as Sammy Fox, a struggling actor and single mother of three daughters. Early episodes have Sammy run into famous co-stars at auditions, freak out in a recording studio, clean up after her daughters throw a party, text with potential lovers and give a speech about periods at her daughter's school. When I met Adlon at the Fox/FX party for the Television Critics Association, she may have been a tad surprised that I knew those episodes so well. Or maybe she just couldn't spill all the beans about her Hollywood secrets. 

Would Sammy ever end up on a hit FX show?

I hope so. I think so.

I'm wondering how much she'll mirror your trajectory. Would she end up on a Louie-esque show?

We've thought about that and that would be fun. I don't really know.

We all know when you're texting someone and the three dots appear and then stop, then three dots appear and then stop.

That's right. It's funny because I have a friend who had that with her friend and she said, "You kept doing dot bubbles to me." And he said, "You don't understand. Sometimes you're still in the text and you don't realize it." You could text 100 people and the dots are still there. It's one of those things.

Don't you think it really means someone said something but decided not to send it to you?

I really think it's the second thing you said.

Is cleaning the kitchen any more fun when it's in the scene than when you have to clean it for real?

No, it sucks both ways but if you get an Odetta song to play over it, it's kind of awesome.

A few years ago Kimberly Pierce said that while making Carrie, she couldn't talk to male executives about periods because it freaked them out. Have you had experiences pitching women's stories to male executives and they couldn't talk about it?

Oh wow, I love her. Never, this is my first experience with that besides working on Louie. And then being on Californication and just not really being brave enough to throw my hat into the ring about stuff like that.

So what inspired you to base a whole episode on talking about periods?

Well, I have three daughters. Also, it's interesting because that episode was written by Louie and he based it on all these experiences that he knew that I'd had in my life. I did this fundraiser for one of my daughter's school where I had zombie makeup put on my face and then people were sitting there, and it's middle school. So I was like, "Anybody got their period?" It was so awkward. I reported back to Louie about it and he was dying. So we're each other's witnesses when it comes to ideas and writing. He put that all in.

FX Better Things

You're just establishing Better Things now, but could you see breaking the format as much as Louie does on his show like a 90-minute flashback to his childhood?

You know, I feel like FX is very forgiving in terms of creativity. My last episode is 25-plus minutes and they're not insisting that I put an extra act break. So it's been a build and it's amazing the kind of grace that they give us.

Was the episode about putting on alien makeup based on your experience on Star Trek: The Next Generation?

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesss! Nooooooo. Noooo.

I don't even remember if you played an alien on Star Trek.

No, I don't remember either.

Was the scene in the voice booth based on any of your voice work experiences?

No, I never did an ad like that but I've done thousands and thousands [of animated roles] so we just elaborated.

Have you ever freaked out in a recording booth like that?

You mean in the pilot? I'm a total pro.

What else is coming up for Sammy?

Stuff with her daughters and just regular mundane life things.

How did you assemble your writers room?

I had no room. No writers room.

Just you and Louie?

It was me and Louie and then I had Gina Fattore and Cindy Chupack each write a script and it was a collaboration afterwards with Louie and I. Gina and I worked together on King of the Hill and on Californication. I did a pilot for Cindy that Showtime wouldn't let me do the series during my hiatus and Constance Zimmer replaced me, so I put her in my show.

Are the cameos by Constance, Julie Bowen, David Duchovny and Bradley Whitford all your actor friends?

David is.

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Better Things premieres September 8 at 10PM on FX.