Improvisational humor ain't all it's cracked up to be. Actress Kerri Kenney-Silver, who plays Deputy Trudy Weigel on Comedy Central's "Reno 911!" sometimes yearns for the 'Stand there, say this' formula of a good ol' fashioned script.
"You can concentrate on your character, rather than, 'Oh shit, it's about to get dark out -- how do we blow up this car?'" she explains.
"Reno 911!" is about to explode into its third season, which premieres Tuesday, June 14. Following the escapades of a Reno, Nev., police force that encounters all the mullets and whores a viewer can reasonably handle, the show satirizes reality TV staple "COPS."
The new season picks up following last season's cliffhanging finale, in which the officers got tossed in the pokey. Having done hard time, they are released, only to be stalked by a serial killer/attorney.
A life of maintaining the peace never is stagnant, of course, and upcoming shows involve a hot new deputy, hot tunes from Liberace's piano, and The Hot Tub King of Reno.
Kenney-Silver's Trudy is a socially inept cop with an itchy trigger finger. Her greatest loves are her cats, placing Beanie Babies on her mother's grave and collecting baby clothes "just in case."
As a "Reno" co-creator, Kenney-Silver is given extensive creative license, which many shows wouldn't allow.
"Since you just sort of make it up, it's constantly being developed," she says. "The good and bad thing about improv is, at the end of the day, you don't have a script that you're happy with, and you go out and shoot. Instead, you have a bunch of people and an idea, and sometimes it's not going to work."
This structure allows Kenney-Silver to cultivate oddball characters. Sure, Trudy's intolerant of just about every race and creed, but deep down she's got a heart of -- well, she has a heart. After all, Trudy says things that make even Kenney-Silver cringe. Using Trudy as an over-the-top mouthpiece, she makes a funny character a bit more human.
"I'm not so interested in the mediocre," Kenney-Silver says. "I really love characters who have lots of faults, who are [piteous] in some way.
"I love characters that are upsetting, but at the same time you see that it's coming from a sad, genuine place of loneliness. I don't know why that's funny to me. When I say that, it sounds like I'm a horrible human being, but for some reason it's funny to me when its done right."
Luckily, a lot of viewers agree. After premiering in 2003, "Reno 911!" quickly became one of Comedy Central's most popular programs. Part of its appeal is that it satirizes people in general, and not only cops. The show could be about doctors or carneys, and the idea still would work.
One of the show's magic ingredients, says Kenney-Silver, is the use of people's everyday language.
"Cops say that our show is more real than you might imagine," she says. "Half the time they talk about who dropped the sandwich behind the microwave, because now it smells. It's not always, 'Let's go get 'em, boys.'"
-- Kara Luger
Tuesdays beginning June 14, 8 p.m.