Mutuals is a new PAPER series dedicated to conversations between musicians and comics that we're launching as a part of It's Nice to Laugh. Why? Because musicians and comedians tend to be some of the most interesting people in the room and do very different yet remarkably similar things for a living. From navigating a stage persona, to the writing process, to their precarious industries, there's a lot to discuss. Plus, we realized they were all already hanging out.
"The show could have easily veered into woke media porn, the kind that production companies throw money at in hopes of earning the liberal dollar without actually hiring any marginalized people, but Shrill's authenticity cuts through the politics and goes straight to the lived experiences that can only be told by those who have lived it." This was Shamir Bailey's take on Shrill, writing in their TV column for Talkhouse. The Las Vegas-born, Philadelphia-based artist broke out with club bops like "On the Regular" around 2015. Since then, aside from moonlighting as a TV writer, they've reinvented themselves as a polymathic indie rock star, traversing genres and established themselves as a scenemaker by founding the record label Accidental Pop Star.
Shrill co-stars British comedian and actress Lolly Adefope as the best friend of protagonist Annie, played by SNL's Aidy Bryant, who created the show. Lolly came up doing comedy gigs around London, before becoming a staple funny person in the British TV world on shows like Loaded, Damned and Lovesick. Her "undeniable" chemistry with Bryant, Shamir writes, helps make Shrill work. They observed of Adefope's performance: "Fran is a hairdresser and makeup artist who is far softer inside than the hard exterior she puts up. Seemingly coming off as a player, she later learns throughout the series to deal with her own issues with commitment."
The fandom, from across the Pacific, is mutual. Lolly has followed Shamir since their pop days. After discovering Lolly in Shrill, Shamir did a deep dive into her IMDB page, revisiting her performances in blockbuster The Spy Who Dumped Me and British dark comedy Sick Note.
PAPER got the pair together on Zoom to discuss cancellation stories, quarantine routines and various controversial white women.
Shamir: Hiiiiiii. Oh my god, I'm so excited about this. I am a true stan.Lolly: STOP.
Shamir: No! I wrote about the first season of Shrill last year when I had a TV column. It was one of my favorite shows of last year. I got to briefly meet Aidy.
Lolly: Oh great! The angel that is Aidy.
Shamir: An angel.
Lolly: It's unnatural, actually.
Shamir: Tell me about the experience working with her? How you got that role? I was thinking about that since you're in London.
Lolly: I was a fan of hers. Then two years ago my agent sent me a self-tape to do for that role. [Fran, Lolly's character] was written as an African-American but I was just like, "I'll just do my accent and see if they like that." I did two self-tapes then flew to do a chemistry read with Aidy, which was mad. We got on very well, very quickly. We talk about [laughs] how unbearable it would be if we just didn't and we had to pretend to be best friends and josh with each other and stuff.
Shamir: The chemistry is there. That's what makes the show. You mentioned the whole accent thing. In pretty much everything I've seen you in, you've used your accent, except for that spy movie [The Spy Who Dumped Me].
Lolly: That's the only time they've let me do an American accent!
Shamir: Do you want to do an American accent more? 'Cause you were good!
Lolly: Thank you! [Laughs] I always want to do an accent because I'm arrogant. I'm always like "Do you want me to do the accent!?" And producers are like "Nooo, we love your British accent." I find it harder to act when I'm not doing an accent, especially with Shrill, where the character isn't a million miles away from my personality. I feel a bit like I'm playing myself.
Shamir: I'm sure soon enough, especially as you get more American-based roles. So Where did you meet Aidy?
"I'll never move to LA."
Shamir: It was a wrap party four years ago for SNL. I got really drunk and stumbled through the words of a Bruce Springsteen song. They wanted me to sing it with no notice. So I was just like "I guess I'll just get drunk and see what I can do." How did you get into comedy? I'm really interested in your beginnings. You're relatively young.
Lolly: I am, yes, I'm 14 years old.
Lolly: I started doing character comedy in like 2014 or 2015? I just did open-mic gigs in London and then I started doing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I got a comedy/acting agent from doing that then started acting in the UK, and then more in America. It's hard when filming to fit both in. When I first started doing TV I was like, "I can definitely film all day and then not really sleep and then go straight to a gig in the evening." It's a shame not to gig that whole time, if you're filming something for two months. But for me, it's easier to do one or the other and not burn myself out doing both at the same time.
Shamir: Do you see yourself more as like, a classic British actress or have you been thinking about doing the LA move?
Lolly: I'll never move to LA.
Shamir: I feel your energy.
Lolly: Do you live in LA?
Lolly: Okay, great.
Shamir: I'm actually in Philadelphia.
Lolly: Oh cool! Yeah, everytime I say "I'm never going to move to LA," people who are from LA are like "I don't get it." But it's like, why are you miserable? Everyone's like, "Oh, after two years it's manageable" and it's like..."That [timeline]'s not good!"
Shamir: Yeah, a lot of people I know that do the move are miserable, so like, what's the point?
Lolly: If there was nothing for me in London, I would leave. But London's great, so why leave somewhere I love to maybe achieve, possibly, a very lonely, celebrity life in LA?
Shamir: I'm from Las Vegas and LA is only like four hours away. It was never that mystical, beautiful thing to aspire to, because like... it was the family vacation every spring break. And I mean, London. It's definitely an epicenter.
Lolly: Yeah... of the coronavirus! Sorry.
Shamir: Is it bad out there?
Lolly: It's the worst. I mean, I'm fine and my friends and family are fine. But the UK is the worst in Europe I think. [Laughs] And probably because of London. I mean, and because we have a terrible government. But annnnnnyway.
Shamir: Look, we're in the same boat. Our president told us to inject hand sanitizer, so.
Lolly: But hey, he was being sarcastic!
Shamir: So how has your quarantine been, what have you been doing to keep mentally healthy and stable?
"[TV sets] with masks on and with nobody talking to each other... just feels like kind of the opposite of what making TV is supposed to be about."
Lolly: Well, I'm neither of those things. I've been going through different cycles. At first, I was like, "I'm gonna be really wholesome and bake loads and cook loads." I bought a keyboard, I was like "I'm gonna get back into playing the keyboard," and I'm gonna do all these nice things. Then I was like, "Okay, I'm having too nice of a time, I'm going to do some work." [Laughs]. Then I was like, "I'm stresssssed from doing one day of work, I'm too stressed for this!" Now I'm being a slob and doing nothing. I'm glad because in the beginning people were like, "You have so much time, and you can write a play!" Now everyone agrees that you don't have to do anything. Everyone's just surviving. Everyone was treating it like a writing retreat.
Shamir: I just remembered this this week. But you were in Sick Note.
Lolly: Yes! Just a couple of episodes.
Shamir: Did you meet Lindsay Lohan?
Lolly: No! She was in the second season and I was in the first.
Shamir: Ohhh okay.
Lolly: You would know if I met Lindsay Lohan [laughs].
Shamir: I actually met her briefly. It was really scary. I was running full-force down a hallway and she popped out of nowhere and I almost knocked her the fuck over. It was terrifying. Like, "Sorry Lindsay Lohan!"
Lolly: Like, "I'm sorry Miss Lohan."
Shamir: I was like a child, so I decided to never run like that again through a hallway during a concert. Mess. But how was Sick Note? I love that show.
Lolly: It was really fun. It feels like it was so long ago. I did meet Rupert Grint and he was lovely. But yeah, sadly no Lindsay Lohan. I think I was only in it for a few days.
Shamir: So is there gonna be a next season of Shrill? What's.... up.
Lolly: Yeah! But who knows? We were supposed to film July to September... There was this weird article in Deadline describing what TV sets might be like when Hollywood opens again where, because actors can't wear masks, everyone who interacts with an actor has to wear a mask, and crewmembers can't go out for lunch, everyone has to get like single-use lunch given to them in boxes, all this stuff about like, you go to set, come back home, no interaction, all this stuff. I was talking to my friend Anu Valia, she's a director. She was talking about how making films is this reflection of humanity, and you're trying to show people coming together to create art. But doing that with masks on and with nobody talking to each other and hand sanitizer just feels like kind of the opposite of what making TV is supposed to be about. CGI-ing crowds in, all that, just feels really depressing.
Shamir: Ugh. The times!
Lolly: Let's get off of corona... How's Philadelphia? Tell me about Philadelphia.
"Philadelphia is the Zoe Deschanel of cities."
Shamir: Philadelphia is the Zoe Deschanel of cities, as I say.
Lolly: WOW. I've never been. My boyfriend really wants to go. He keeps talking about it.
Shamir: It's a quirky place, where a lot of things don't make sense. I feel like I've had to learn a whole different language since I moved here. I mean I've lived here for five years. You know, it's rapidly changing. I've never seen gentrification like this before. Like I'd heard about it, and seen little bits of it. But I've never been hit with what gentrification looks like, like I've seen out here. The best thing about it is the music. A lot of good music, at least in the indie world — and even in the pop world too, we have like Tierra Whack.
Lolly: Oh yeah! I didn't know she was from Philadelphia.
Shamir: Mmmhmm, born and raised.
Lolly: Who else is in your crew of artists that you might know? Or who I might not know.
Shamir: Well, I mean Tierra isn't in my crew. I wish. We do have some mutuals. I don't know if you know Alex G, he's probably one of the bigger ones. But it's mostly just like indie rock bands, not too many pop people. But I eventually want to change that because there's definitely people with talent. Just recently, I started my own label.
Lolly: Oh cool!
Shamir: It's meant to work specifically with artists in Philadelphia, but I have a few others from different places. Got a demo recently of this pop girl and it kinda gave me early Gaga teas and I was like "Okay!" We love to see it. It's still a new scene. But I only see it growing as people kind of flee from New Jersey and New York and come out here. Which is fine, I knew it was gonna be inevitable. Okay, so I want to get into this singing voice of yours. Because you were serving vocals [during a performance of "Shallow" in Shrill]. Gaga might need to hang it up.
Lolly: The thing about comedians is, we do it so we can become musicians [laughs].
Shamir: Are we gonna get a comedy music album situation, what's going on?
"The thing about comedians is, we do it so we can become musicians."
Lolly: I don't know! At the moment [my singing voice] is kind of a fun joke that I can drop in a bit and surprise people with. When I was little I wanted to be a singer, but I never had lessons or anything, so I never knew if I was a good singer or not, because a lot of little girls think they're good singers. My dream would be to write a musical and be in a musical. But again, I have no idea how it works! I don't know how to write music, I don't know how to write lyrics, I don't know how to do any of that stuff. But hey, maybe!
Shamir: Well, you said you've been trying to get back into the keyboard.
Lolly: I haaaaave, I've been learning a lot of Billie Eilish [laughs]. She's very repetitive which is great. I did learn "Shallow." But I can't read music.
Shamir: Same! And I'm a professional musician, so it be like that.
Lolly: Okay perfect.
Shamir: Do you have a quarantine playlist? What's on repeat?
Lolly: I do a thing where every month I make a new playlist, called "May." At the moment I've got, Against All Logic [Nicolas Jaar's project] and FKA Twigs, Fontaines D.C. — they're this Irish band — the new Run The Jewels. Badbadnotgood. Art Feynman and LL Burns, which is my boyfriend's friends from when they were little. What are you listening to at the moment?
Shamir: I'm in the middle of finishing a record, so it's kind of just been that. I'm the type to play the hell out of something and analyze everything about it. Right now, specifically, this week, maybe even two, there's this specific K-pop song called "Oh! My Mistake" by April.
Lolly: I'm gonna add it to my playlist.
Shamir: I literally don't know a better song [laughs]. I've been analyzing it so I can see what I can take from it to add to my repertoire and my sound. That's how I listen to music. I also love the new Greyson Chance. All stuff that's very pop-pop, bubblegum. Your Dua Lipas, your K-pop. Super sugary.
Lolly: Have you heard this song "1:00 AM Pink Mamba" by SACRE?
Lolly: That's the song I have on repeat. Embarrassingly, well, not embarrassing actually — strike that from the record — I saw it on Caroline Calloway's Instagram. She'd been talking about how she'd been listening to it on repeat. I was like, "Well, let me give it a listen," and now I have it on repeat.
Shamir: What is your opinion on her? She was a villain... but now everyone stans her? I'm so confused.
Lolly: It's just what always happens. Someone does something mildly offensive to one person, or like a small group of people. Then it goes viral and everyone laughs because she's this faceless villain that we can all hate together. Then the backlash gets so insane, that it's like "Oh, now you're all the villain," because you like stalk her and troll her constantly. I feel like that's a common thing at the moment. Someone does something a bit wrong, everyone does something much worse. I'm just kind of interested by her anyway. Also, she has great taste in music!
Shamir: I was just talking to a friend, who's also a writer, about how there's an "insert name here" hashtag is over party every week trending. And it just makes them more popular.
Lolly: I feel like recently I've just been publicly defending loads of white women. Which isn't really the right optics. But it just so happens that these people have been doing not-that-bad stuff and then I just feel like I have to pipe up and be like "Leave her alone!" [laughs].
Shamir: I feel like half of my life is defending Kim Kardashian. Not every single time — sometimes I'm like "Yeah, I can't defend that." But she's such a benign person.
"Recently I've just been publicly defending loads of white women. Which isn't really the right optics."
Lolly: Yeah, exactly. Everyone's feeding the flame constantly when they're maximizing these tiny things that people do. You're turning these people into — what my boyfriend always says is "Living rent-free in your head." Kim Kardashian is living rent-free in so many people's heads! They've got to evict her!
Shamir: Well, I hope you're gonna enjoy getting canceled after this.Lolly: [Laughs] I've already been canceled, I've been canceled before.
Shamir: You're gonna be canceled, but we're gonna be canceled together.
Lolly: [Laughs] I think in lockdown, everyone has to get canceled once. And then when you come out of lockdown, everyone is forgiven.
Shamir: I've been canceled a few times. It was for dumb things and at the end of the day, I was kind of glad I was canceled, 'cause it opened my eyes to things. One time, I did not come out of it wrong, someone was trying to cancel me for being transphobic, which is like, "Okay! Cool, cool, cool, cool. Let's try to make that make sense."
Lolly: Yeah, after it happened I was like, "Was I wrong?" But I think I was right actually. It was this charity comedy gig in London at Christmas last year or the year before. They put out this poster that had 25 different acts on it and they were all white. It wasn't that I was annoyed I wasn't on it or anything, it was just quite a weird poster to look at. Like, to see 25 white people. I tweeted "Someone's dreaming of a white Christmas." Which, I must say, is very funny. What always happens is that it could have been a non-story but then someone high profile gets involved. One of the comedians who was on it like rushed to the organizer's defense and was like "He's not racist!" And I was like "I didn't say he was a racist." And then it became a race riot between comedians about a charity gig. I just did a funny tweet. But yeah, I'm glad that I've been canceled, because it feels like I'm now immune. I have the antibodies.
Shamir: That's really what it feels like! Once it happens, it's just like, "Okay. Whatever." The internet is a wild place. Wilder now since people have all this time to be up on it.
Lolly: People are so bored, yeah. People are scrolling through so many old tweets [laughs]. Which takes so long! To get tweets from 2011 is... like they've been scrolling since the beginning of lockdown I guess.
Shamir: So, I recently did a Bernie Sanders digital town hall. The day before he dropped out [covers face].
Shamir: I felt so cursed. Anyway, his team did a whole Twitter background search for me. They sent me specific Tweets to delete. Some of it was about other candidates, which I really was not sorry about, but I understand why they'd want me to delete them. But then some of these tweets... they were so unhinged. Just wild shit from high school. I was so embarrassed [laughs]. So anyway, my feed's clean now.
Lolly: How long do you think it will take you to throw yourself back into pre-corona life once everything's allowed again? When it comes out of this... I feel like socially I'll still be [makes "cross" gesture]. Everyone's gonna be like, "Come out! We're allowed to go to the pub." And I'll be like "Oh, yeah. No, I'm still sick."
Shamir: I haven't toured since 2018. Usually after I tour a record, I take a year hiatus because I need to for mental health, I'm bipolar, there's a lot of alcohol on the road. It's something I give to myself. I also just have so many friends who don't know how to be home, and they only know the road. I know a lot of them are really suffering right now, mentally and in a lot of other ways.
Lolly: That's so good. That you know that's what you need, and then you do it.
"I've learned I can easily live as a shut-in."
Shamir: So I was gonna start touring again this year. Now it's looking like two years. So this is the first time I've been itching to tour. But my day-to-day has not changed much. I've been lucky in that regard. I think the saddest thing about this is that I've learned I can easily live as a shut-in.
Lolly: Yeah, I know what you mean. I don't think that's sad though.
Shamir: I don't think it's that sad, but it does worry me. I like to know I can turn that social thing on and off. People keep making these posts like "We, as human beings, thirst for social interaction." And I'm just sitting here like, "I'm not."
Lolly: Have you been doing Zoom gigs?
Shamir: Yeah, I've done a few. I did the Bernie town hall. I did this really great one for this charity called Rural Queer. Do you know the singer Nicole Atkins?
Shamir: She's been doing a themed livestream where she has all her musician friends come on. Each week, the songs have a theme and I was tasked with "sad songs." Probably gonna do a Lana Del Rey song.
Lolly: You should do a cover of the Miley Cyrus cover of Lana Del Rey.
Shamir: Oh, "Summertime Sadness"? Yeah she ate that. I'm sorry, I love Miley.
Lolly: I love Miley. I really do. "Mother's Daughter," mmmmm [closes eyes].
Shamir: There might've been a bit of appropriation involved. But Bangerz? Bangerz set the stage for what pop music became today.
"Bangerz set the stage for what pop music became today."
Lolly: Absolutely agree. I love her. Her voice is unmatched.
Shamir: A voice of a generation. No one's gonna sound like Miley after her, and no one has ever sounded like her. Who woulda thought, you know? Billy Ray Cyrus. I was watching this internet dissertation about Billy Ray Cyrus and his status in the '90s. Did you know he was essentially a joke?
Lolly: Wowwwww. I just assumed he was this really popular guy and then his daughter went to take on the crown.
Shamir: That's what a lot of people think! But his career was basically a failure. His first record did well, but after that he kind of failed. Then he had this really talented daughter, got her into showbiz. And he basically revived his career through her.
Lolly: Love that. That makes me love Miley even more.