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.
Comic Patti Harrison sang "Memory" from Cats and the Pearl Jam cover of "Last Kiss" the night she met musician Sasami Ashworth at Max Karaoke in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. Sasami dueted "A Whole New World" with fellow musician Mitski. Laetitia Tamko, of the band Vagabon, made a selection from System of a Down's catalogue.
This illustrious group text of indie famous comedians and rock stars were hanging out all together for the first time, but they were already intricately linked. Laetitia invited Patti to karaoke: the pair have been friends since 2015, when they shared bills at the late Brooklyn DIY venue Silent Barn. Sasami and Laetitia met when Michelle Zauner, of the band Japanese Breakfast, invited Sasasmi to go catch Vagabon's set at a festival they were all playing in England. Patti knows Michelle AKA Japanese Breakfast separately: the band once played right after Patti at Silent Barn on an evening where, as Patti recounts, she got trashed, went on two hours late, and did a half hour instead of an eight minute set. Tourmates and mutual mentors/mentees, Vagabon, Sasami and Mitski are a music power trio in their own right.
Patti is best known for her mind-bending stand-up; appearances on Fallon and Samantha Bee; writing on Big Mouth; and acting in Shrill and High Maintenance. Sasami, formerly a member of Cherry Glazerr, released her bittersweet self-titled debut in March last year. Mutual fans before they became friends, the two share a lewd, absurd sense of humor and world-class deadpans. They've been meaning to hang out.
Back in May, deep in quarantine before the revolution, PAPER got them together for what became one endless riff, interrupted by discussions of fashion, Sasami's forthcoming album, and their love of metal.
Sasami: [Laughing at Patti's default Zoom photo of Mel Gibson with bloodshot eyes].
Patti: That's a picture of my partner. I keep it as the background on my phone and computer, to remind me of his light and his love.
Sasami: Hi Patti!Patti: Hiii [waving]. Waving: that is how you say hello.
Sasami: I like all your fake books back there.
Patti: Those are all flasks.
Sasami: Have you seen that Japanese game show where they have to tell whether it's made out of chocolate or if it's real?
Sasami: They make perfect replicas of like, a boot made out of chocolate. And a person bites into it but they don't know whether it's a boot or if it's chocolate. It's so good. I'll send you a link.
Patti: I mean, I gotta see it.
Sasami: It's Asian excellence.
Patti: I would be able to tell every time [mimes sipping cocktail and smoking].
Sasami: Did you paint that? [Points to painting behind Patti].
Patti: No! It's from a segment of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee I did last year. We threw a fake Pride party and the premise was that like, "I'm stupid and I don't know what Pride is about," so it's a knock-off version of Scooby Doo fucking knock-off Scrappy Doo bareback. So I've prepared questions for you [holds up notebook]. They're really triggering.
Sasami: I didn't prepare any questions. But I did brush my teeth and wash my asshole, 'cause I respect you.
Patti: I swear to god, if anything else on your body got cleaned, I'm gonna go demonstrate. I'm gonna go out, take my mask off and demonstrate in the street. No, I won't do that. I'm a good girl. I follow the law and I love the police. I'm actually studying to be a cop right now.
Sasami: Those are actually all cop books behind you.
Patti: They're all, "How to be a Sensitive Cop," "Being a Woke Cop for Dummies." That's a really important text in the discourse of contemporary policing. Okay, so is there anything you think you've learned about yourself during quarantine?
Sasami: I really, really smell when I don't wear deodorant. Like really smell. Like if I don't wear deodorant, and then I try to do like, pilates the next day is torture. That's probably the deepest thing I've learned about myself.
Patti: You haven't experienced that before?
Sasami: I just haven't gone so long without wearing deodorant. On tour, I sweat a lot so I wear an anti-perspirant, with all the aluminum and shit. All over my body, face, tits, groin, asshole. You know, like today, for this interview to be respectful, I deodorized my asshole, just to be safe.
Patti: Which is interesting because I still smell it. Wasn't enough aluminum.
Patti: Are you grossed out by it, or are you like, "Cool."
Sasami: I'm definitely disturbed by it. I would not fuck myself. You know how you can like, tell, by whether you're attracted to someone's scent—
Patti: Their pheromones and stuff.
Sasami: Again, I would not fuck myself.
Patti: I feel that too.
Sasami: I think if you shave your armpits you smell less.
Patti: I have shaved my armpits since I've been in quarantine, but I feel bad, because I want to be like walking around in a tank top with full hairy armpits being like, "Yeah, I'm in quarantine and I'm not caving to societal beauty standards, especially right now, who has the time for that." But like, my armpit hair is so coarse. There's a lot of girls who have like, really fluffy, pretty armpit hair that they can do cool stuff with. Like they can dye it, and it's like "Oh wow, art girl, she's here, she's thriving." But mine just smells so bad. It absorbs the bacteria.
Sasami: Like a Brillo pad. You don't have like, Sarah Lawrence pit hair.
Patti: [Sighs] I never went to Sarah Lawrence, but I should have.
Sasami: After woke cop school.
Patti: I'm a cop and I'm going to Sarah Lawrence. Is Sarah Lawrence a college or a high school?
Sasami: College. It's a liberal arts school.
Patti: Okay, I'm not a school person.
Sasami: Did you go to college?
Patti: I did. But I quit. I also went to school in Ohio so when I moved to New York, I started to hear people talk a lot about school in the pejorative way of being like, "Oh, someone's Bard is showing." I just like, didn't know what that meant, and I don't really know now. I recognize like, Sarah Lawrence, but it's like, "Oh it's a girls' college?"
Sasami: It's where you go to grow the fine pits. The pit hairs [wags fingers under shoulders like armpit hair].
Patti: Is there a memory from your childhood that still makes you cringe when you think about it? Anything humiliating or embarrassing?Sasami: Actually, it's really funny because... Did you watch that show Pen15?
Sasami: That show was so cringy for me, because there are so many things that reminded me of my middle school years from that. I grew up in a pretty strict, conservative environment. So I definitely remember stealing a thong from a friend and keeping it. And not ever being able to wash it... I can't even go into anymore detail, it's too cringy. But I definitely have a Pen15-esque thong shame memory in my folder.
Patti: Everyone does shit like that, truly. We're now entering an age where there's this contemporary, progressive parenting that tries to eliminate shame as a principal dynamic in how you raise your kids.
Sasami: Shame [claps] builds [claps] character [claps].
Patti: Yeah, I don't think there were a lot of people in our generation who were raised... I think we're on the cusp of that.
Sasami: Those people all went to Sarah Lawrence.
Patti: Yeah, like those girls who were electively shaving their own heads as 10-year-old girls.
Sasami: Their moms were like, "I got this, Persimmon" [mimes shaving a head].
Patti: Is that a fruit?
Patti: Personal win. I knew what a persimmon is [mimes doing pull-ups on a bar out of view above the screen].
Sasami: [Laughs] this is actually our PAPER magazine workout video [also mimes doing pull-ups]. Okay, let's just segue to the meeting, the business meeting about my album that we were gonna have.
Patti: Okay. So [clasps hands, feigning professional tone] this album needs to have 30 songs.
Patti: One of the songs needs to be about love. One of the songs needs to be about social justice. Four of the songs need to be about quarantine. Three of the songs need to be about body positivity. Okay?
Sasami: Wow, that is not where I thought this was going.
Patti: I'm sorry, this is just how the label works. You did tell me that you are writing new music and you have a vision and an aesthetic for the new album. Were you already planning on doing that or was that inspiration you found during quarantine?
Sasami: When I was touring, I knew I wanted to make a heavy guitar album next. The album that I put out last year is really mellow, but by the end of a year of touring, they all became heavier and louder and more rockin'. So I knew I wanted to make a rock album. But It's hard to make heavy guitar rock music when you're using an acoustic guitar or playing into your iPad.
Patti: I listened to the track that you sent me and it was great. It was very, I could tell — there were like backing vocals lightly in it?
Sasami: Yeah, there's some weird vocals. There's my mom saying "This song is scary" in Japanese.
Patti: [Laughs] That's so good.
Sasami: It's very on trend to sample your mom.
Patti: You played it for her and she said it's scary?
Sasami: No, I didn't play it for her yet. It's so fucked up because she was sick for the flu, and I was like "Mom, I need you to say a couple of things for me." Her eyes were like, closed. [Solemnly] And those were the last things she said. I'm just kidding [laughs].
Patti: She'll live forever in your noise rock song.
Sasami: Exactly. Lucky-ass her.
Patti: She's like, "Help I'm trapped inside this song. And it's scary!"
Sasami: Oh my god, that would be such a good album cover, just like my mom [puts hands on face and mimes fear].
Patti: What is it like, Kevin McCallister in Home Alone [puts hands on face and mimics Home Alone cover]. What a queer icon.
Sasami: Kevin McCallister? Or my mom?
Patti: You're telling me Kevin McCallister was a little straight boy and he's going [puts hand on cheeks and pouts seductively]. He learned that form watching drag, he learned that from going to the Brooklyn balls.
Sasami: He's a micro-queen.
Patti: He went to Ladyfag, Bushwig. Kevin McCallister at Bushwig [puts hand on cheeks and pouts seductively again]. And like his brows are done.
Sasami: But yeah, trying to make heavy rock is being in the room with the guitar being loud. I have a solo input so I can plug my electric guitar into my iPad but it's just not the same. I definitely miss going to shows. I went to this women and non-binary writers retreat in February at Hedgebrook. It's usually for literature writers but they do one songwriting thing. It's like in a cabin in a woods, but the day I left I went to this metal show, so the whole time I just wanted to write metal music. But it was conflicting because it was like, "Elliot Smith in the woods... but with double-kick."
Patti: Those are moments of pure inspiration though, because it's not like, "Oh, I'm in this recipe, all these ingredients are together for me to make something that sounds like something else I want to make, versus like, you are in this beautiful, quaint, wholesome environment and you're inspired to make a bunch of blast beats." Like, that's great. I'm all for it. Growing up, I always really wanted to make music, like, earnestly. That's why I do comedy, because I don't have the ability to share myself or do vocals.
Sasami: Were you in any bands growing up?
Patti: No. But I made an entire metal album on Garageband. I think it was like 16 songs and it was all on Garageband. It was all on Midi. But it was all like metal or deathcore.
Sasami: Can you scream?
Patti: I used to be able to. I don't think I can now, I was doing it in a way that was really hurting my voice. I would love to hear you put out an album with double-bass and blast beats and gravity blasts.
Sasami: You have to come and scream on a song. In middle school, what were like the bands for you?
Patti: The first band that I was super into was The Number Twelve Looks Like You. And they still hold up, for the most part.The old albums though. They have had albums out in the last couple years but I only listen to the old stuff.
Sasami: I can't wait to hang out, Patti.
Patti: I know. I can't wait. You're not super far. How is Mount Washington?
Sasami: It's weird because it's very peaceful but there's always someone mowing a lawn or jackhammering. You know, the concrete jungle.
Patti: Mowing the lawn and jackhammering, to me... someone's getting pounded.
Sasami: Yeah. It's mainly a lot of sex noises. Ok, what is your favorite designer? I'm transitioning from metal to girly shit.
Patti: Umm I love JP Morgan. I love Goldman Sachs. I love their designs. I love Chase Bank. The silhouettes that Chase Bank…
Sasami: I remember last time, you had gone to the sale at Opening Ceremony and then Laetitia and I went the next wek.
Patti: From an admiration standpoint, I think Iris Van Herpen is the most brilliant person on earth. All of her stuff is couture and like 10 billion dollars. She does a lot of 3D printing, and she did this capsule last year that was ocean-life based, so she wanted all the dresses to move like that. I like Angel Chen. I think she's cool, young, up-and-coming. I like, what is it, Marine Serre? She's really trendy right now, she's got all those moons, all that scuba stuff. I think scuba stuff is cool. I like stuff that's more challenging visually, it's not just like, "I'm gonna make a cute little black dress."
Sasami: You want something you can swim in that can handle the pressure when you go deeper in the ocean.
Patti: Well, when I dive deep enough into the ocean that the water pressure starts to crush my bones, I want the fish who are watching to be like, "Wow, she took a big swing with that silhouette on that gown. She's killing, yas queen, yas honey slay mama."
Sasami: [Laughs] Like the crab from the Little Mermaid [speaking in french accent and miming crab claws]? "Zis is tré beautiful!" Sebastian the crab.
Patti: I think that's Lumiére, the candle in Beauty and the Beast.
Sasami: I've only seen Mulan, so I don't know any of these other ones.
Patti: Well that's the Disney movie for us. And on that note, what's it like being Asian in the entertainment industry?
Sasami: It's a lot like being Irish.
Sasami: Have you been to any events or red carpets thing where you got to wear something that a stylist picked out that you didn't have to pay for?
Patti: I went to the premiere of the Hulu show that I work on, Shrill. The first season, my friend owns a boutique and she let me borrow like a skirt and suit. I think it was Mary McFadden, like a vintage like, foil suit. That was cool because I probably couldn't afford to buy that. My dream would be to wear an Iris Van Herpen dress or something.
Sasami: What do you think they did with Lady Gaga's meat dress?
Patti: It's in a museum.
Sasami: Like in a refrigerator?
Patti: You know that little museum you have in your house that keeps your food cold? Where all the cold art is? Yeah.
Sasami: The cold art that you eat. Look, if Lady Gaga really cared about people, she would do a big fundraiser event where she auctions off the ability to have a Korean barbecue with the dress.
Sasami: She could probably make a billion dollars and donate it to all the people who are suffering in the world.
Patti: Yeah! She could donate it to the Everyone Who's Suffering Foundation. She walks up to the barbecue table and she lays on it and is like, "I'm on the edge of glory" and she burns alive [mimes being burned alive while singing "The Edge of Glory].
Sasami: [Also mimes being burned alive while singing "The Edge of Glory]
Patti: This is so much fun. I'm glad that we had our hangout at some point. Granted it had to be through a magazine.
Sasmi: I only hang out with Patti when press is involved.
Patti: Okay, here's a question. [Using "reporter voice"] "Mess," your most recent single. Can I ask what it is about? What inspired it? Seems like a dark song. Also, I think "concessionaire" [used in the lyrics of "Mess"] is the biggest word I've ever heard used in a song. I was like, "Okay, damn Sarah Lawrence. Your degree is showing."
Sasmi: Okay, my turn to ask you a question. Have you had to stop any production because of COVID and what are you most looking forward to starting back up again?
Patti: I'm not gonna answer that. Not gonna answer that fucking question [purses lips, feigns indignance].... So I was acting in this HBO Max show called Made For Love and that's based off of Alissa Nutting's book. That was so much fun to shoot. It's like a sci-fi comedy, dark comedy, dramedy sort of thing. I had only been filming a couple weeks when we had to stop. I'm looking forward to that picking back up. We shoot Shrill in Portland in the summer, so I don't know what that will look like. I'm sure they'll have to reorient what's happening in the show. Because, now studios are trying to pick up projects that can be shot within guidelines of the loosening restrictions. A lot of crews on bigger productions have 100 something people or more, so they're looking for like, "Okay, does anyone have any scripts with only two characters?" The big painful thing that I keep being reminded of, is that I have reminders in my calendar for concerts and shows I wanted to go to. And it's like [faux-tearfully], "Oh, today was gonna be the Arca concert. Or this was gonna be the Stereolab concert."
Sasami: Yeah, now that we're supposed to be on tour, it's like "I was supposed to play Dayton, Ohio tonight." Is that where you're from? Dayton?
Patti: I'm from like, Columbus area.
Sasami: Café Rumba?! It's a venue.
Patti: The only venue that I saw concerts in was The Basement, that's where I saw metal shows. I think the Newport is where a lot of indie acts go through. Yeah, I don't know Rumba. Sounds bad.
Sasami: Us small-fries. That's where we play.
Patti: Maybe someday you'll be in the ranks of bands like CHVRCHES and you can play at the Newport.
Sasami: Um, it's pronounced "Chu-ver-rches."
Patti: The most starstruck I've been seeing a celebrity in LA. I was in a Lyft home from my friend's house a couple of months ago and I just saw Lauren Mayberry booking it on the sidewalk with a backpack on.
Sasami: I thought you were gonna say she was in your pool.
Patti: Yeah, just me and Lauren Mayberry in a Lyft Line.
Sasami: Is she tiny? Is she really short?
Patti: She looked small to average size?
Sasami: I feel like everyone that's famous is really small. Maybe it makes sense because if you're smaller, you have a complex to have a big character. Or something.
Patti: I feel like I have people tell me that I'm a lot bigger than they think.
Sasami: You're massive. [Waving and looking above the screen] Like, "Nice to meet you Patti."
Patti: I would say Leviathan-esque. I'm not only big, I'm snake-like [mimes snake slithering]. Basilisk-like.
Sasami: I was just gonna say, was that you? In Harry Potter?
Patti: Well, I didn't play the basilisk, but I tested for it. I got pretty far. I did a chemistry test with Daniel Radcliffe. It was a great experience, but they just didn't think I was right. Okay, I have other questions. Is there an album, song, movie, any art, that you currently love or loved that hasn't aged well?
Sasami: A lot of the movies from the '90s and '00s are pretty cringy now. You know, the sexist jokes and dumb queerphobic shit. I feel like a lot of those movies don't hold up.
Patti: But then they nail the race stuff.
Sasami: Oh yeah, definitely. What about you? Do you have anything you've listened to or watched that doesn't hold up?
Patti: A lot of the movies I thought were funny, of course, have problematic stuff in them. Since quarantine I have rewatched Not Another Teen Movie and Scary Movie and Scary Movie 2. And those movies I think are like... I think the Wayans Brothers [directors of Scary Movie, White Chicks, Little Man] are the funniest fucking people on earth.
Sasami: Those hold up?
Patti: They do! Of course, there's stuff in it that doesn't. Trying to find any movie until like... 2018 that has a sensitive portrayal of a trans person is impossible. So like the gym teacher in Scary Movie's name is Ms. Man and the joke is that her big huge balls are hanging out of her gym shorts. But the thing is, I'm laughing just talking about it because Anna Faris in that movie is so good. Anna Faris, Regina Hall. So good. Not Another Teen Movie was so funny, and it held up a lot better than you'd think. The things it actually critiques about these movies, I was like, "That's actually very progressive."
Sasami: It's pre-woke-woke.
Patti: There's race stuff in it that's weird. Like, it's commenting on the way Black people are represented in horror movies. Like there's a scene where the one Black character walks into a party and sees another Black guy and asks him to leave because he's like, "There can only be one of us at this teen party." And the other guy's like, "You're right" and leaves. Which is a fair critique, but like, at the end of the day, you're only hiring two Black actors in this movie full of white people. I think we've hopefully pushed into a space where we can more thoughtfully critique things in art. In ART. In art films like Sorority Boys.
Patti: Okay, more questions. I have "Describe the first person you kissed." I have, "Write a movie, beginning, middle and end right now." And I also have, "Have you ever been compared musically to Sheryl Crow?"
Sasami: Okay, I'll answer that one first: No! But thank you. Sheryl Crow is pretty awesome.
Patti: Honestly, that's the vibe I get from you. I was like, "Oh, she's like cool, dark alt-Sheryl Crow."
Sasami: I'll take it! I usually get Chris Farley with a guitar. Critics say.
Patti: I get that now.
Sasami: I'm gonna 180 on you: You get to choose, first kiss or make a movie.
Patti: My first kiss was with a child. I was a child as well.
Patti: It was in first grade. Some people think that doesn't count, and your first kiss is your first sexual adult kiss. But the first kiss that I remember having was with this girl named Malaya. This was when I was like "child boy," and I was like, "Do you wanna be boyfriend and girlfriend?" She was like, five or six. She was like, "Yeah." And then we — how did you say it? We jack hammered and we mowed the lawn.
Patti: She was climbing up the slide, and then she turned around and asked for a kiss and I kissed her while she was like, climbing up the slide. It was a peck.
Sasami: Very romantic!
Patti: I remember I told my older sisters and my mom about it when I got home and they like roasted me. They thought it was so funny and then I was embarrassed. And that's why I'm trans and date men now!
Sasami: Understandable. Family fucks everything up.
Patti: They dissect you and they eviscerate you and they chop you into little pieces and put you back together in the worst way possible.
Sasami: And they say, "Dance! Dance! Dance Patti, dance!"
Patti: "Dance, you little Frankenstein bitch!" [dances looking sad].
Patti: What about you? What was the first person you kissed like?
Sasami: This is a whole other thing, but I grew up in a cult where I was supposed to be in an arranged marriage [makes prayer hands]. I wasn't supposed to do anything sexual until I got married. So I didn't kiss anyone until I was eighteen. Till I was in college when I broke away from the religion [laughs]. Yeah.
Patti: What was the person like?
Sasami: After my first kiss, I dated them for three years and almost married them. I went to music school. [Using "romantic" voice] I was a french horn player, they were a double bassist. They also grew up on a corn and soybean farm. So they were a bass-playin' farmer from Minnesota. And now they're married and have kids, so good for him. I just couldn't deliver.
Patti: You're gonna have a soybean farm someday. I promise.
Sasami: Biggest regret of my life: Not inheriting the family farm.
Patti: Can I ask, what was the name of the cult? Or the religion?
Sasami: It was called the Unification Church. Or "The Moonies" is the term. It's like a Korean cult. It's pretty crazy, my parents were arranged marriage by the cult leader. They were mass married in Madison Square Garden with 2,000 other couples.
Patti: Are your parents still involved?
Sasami: Once the cult-leader died, it was kind of your classic dead cult-leader, children vying for the throne kind of scenario. So the church isn't really as functional as it was. But my parents are still together.
Patti: That's good. Just kidding, it's arbitrary. Some people are like, "My parents are separated," and it's really devastating for them and other people are like, "Oh, my parents are separated" and it's fine. My dad died when I was very young, so I have no problem at all talking about it. It's very painless and there's no second thoughts about launching into a conversation about it. But some people are like [gasps].
Sasami: Yeah, sensitive.
Patti: 'Cause I'm cool and I don't care about my parents.
Sasami: I don't care about my parents, pshh, fuck them.
Patti: Yeah, my fuckin' dumbass dad died, stupid ugly piece of shit.
Sasami: My parents getting arranged married, stupid-ass.
Patti: Ugh, I can't wait till I get my soybean farm and I'm outta there.
Sasami: Got my basilisk on my soybean farm.
Patti: "Hi. I'm the basilisk. And this is my soybean farm." That's my audition. Also, I'm 5'0 and I'm 100 pounds on the dot. And then I take my top off [tries to dance and hum Sasami's "Mess"]
Sasami: I like this go-to dance for you. It's very Coachella.
Patti: That's what I was gonna do for the music video [for "Mess"].
Sasami: We should still do it. Like a weird green-screen, like over Zoom, kind of music video.
Patti: I tried to think about like, what would be fun ways to take advantage of having to use a webcam or a phone. A lot of people are doing just like dance videos. We gotta explore other ways. There's gotta be more. I did an Instagram Live show where I did a puppet show on my hands.
Sasami: What if we did a video that was just like us FaceTiming each other, but then you put a spell on me and make me do weird things?
Patti: And I'm doing the hand puppets.
Sasami: And then I'm mimicking what your hands are doing.
Patti: I'm making you do the robot. But it's really painful for you. You have compound fractures. I'll send you some chicken bones so you can do some special effects.
Sasami: Make a treatment. I'm in.
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