The improv comedy series Campus Ladies is kicking off its sophomore year tonight on the Oxygen network (11pm/EST). Following a widow (Carrie Aizley) and a divorcée (Christen Sussin) as they return to college while in their forties, the show is enrolling some big-name guest stars this semester, including Jason Alexander, Jeff Garlin and Penny Marshall. Executive producer Cheryl Hines, best known for her role as Cheryl David on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, has been a big part of attracting that talent. Recently, TVGuide.com had a little chat with her about the Ladies and Larry.
TVGuide.com: I'm a 27-year-old, heterosexual male, and I thought the first couple of episodes of the new season were pretty funny. Is it OK for me to enjoy a show on the Oxygen network?
Cheryl Hines: It is. You know, it's funny — when the show first came out, I was being interviewed by someone from The Today Show, and he said, "How does it feel that reviewers are saying this is guy humor?" I was like, "I don't really know what you mean. It's written by all women."
TVGuide.com: Funny is funny.
Hines: Right, funny is funny. We all came from the Groundlings Theater, and they didn't have a guys' section and a girls' section. There are a lot of guys who are closet watchers, though, so you don't have to worry about growing breasts or anything like that.
TVGuide.com: What a relief. The title characters, Joan and Barri, are really out of place on a college campus. Was the original idea to put middle-aged women in a situation where they don't quite belong?
Hines: Well, Christen and Carrie had these characters, and my husband, Paul Young, who's one of the executive producers, worked with them to figure out where to put these women. They decided that putting them on a college campus would be the funniest possible situation. But we were friends with them from the Groundlings, so we knew they'd be really funny anywhere.
TVGuide.com: Last season, you directed the episode "No Means No." What was the toughest thing about directing?
Hines: Probably keeping everything moving along, because the show is improvised. People say the funniest things when we're shooting, and your instinct is to sit and laugh for 10 minutes until we all pull it together. But as a director, you don't have that luxury, or you're not going to stay on schedule. I had to be the disciplinarian with two of my best friends, but I loved it.
TVGuide.com: Did you direct any episodes this season?
Hines: I did. I directed "Psych 101." Jane Lynch (Best in Show) is in it.
TVGuide.com: How'd you bring so many big guest stars, like Jane Lynch, on board?
Hines: Well, for our first season, it meant asking people for favors, because they'd never seen the show. But after we aired, we got this cult following in Hollywood. I'd run into people, and they would say, "Oh, my god, I love Campus Ladies." I would say, "Great. How would you like to be on it?" That's how we got Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes and people like that.
TVGuide.com: Is the improv approach on Campus Ladies similar to what you do on Curb Your Enthusiasm?
Hines: It's very similar. We "borrowed it," shall we say. With my experience and Carrie and Christen's improv background, we just felt like it was a great way to get the funniest stuff we could get. On Curb, I had been part of the process from the very beginning, so that was very helpful in molding Campus Ladies.
TVGuide.com: What's the status for the new season of Curb?
Hines: We're shooting right now. We're about halfway through the 10 episodes.
TVGuide.com: At the end of every season you hear rumors that [Curb creator] Larry [David] doesn't want to do another one. What do you think keeps bringing him back?
Hines: Me. [Laughs] At the end of every season, he always feels like he's put his heart and soul into that season and doesn't feel like he's got anything left to give. So it takes him a while to recharge and start coming up with ideas again.
TVGuide.com: Early on, did you think Curb Your Enthusiasm had the ability to attract such a big following?
Hines: I had no idea. When I was cast, it was just a one-hour special on HBO. I had no expectations and was just hoping I'd get more auditions because of it. When Larry told me it was going to be a series, I really didn't know if people would embrace it or not. It was such a different way of shooting, and it had a different look and feel to it. I didn't know if people would get it.
TVGuide.com: There's also the issue with Larry not being all that likable.
Hines: Yeah. There are always people coming up to me saying, "I can't stand Larry David, but I love the show." I have a secret feeling [that] they do like Larry but don't know it.
TVGuide.com: At the end of the day, what's better — producing your own show on Oxygen, or being one of the stars of a hit HBO series?
Hines: It's apples and oranges, my friend. I'm having the time of my life on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I'll always treasure having the chance to work with Larry. On the flip side, I'm working with two of my best friends and my husband on Campus Ladies. I'm learning as I get older the importance of picking and choosing who you work with. Life is short. If you're having a good time with the people you work with, it makes all the difference.
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