New York comedian Catie Lazarus has more than dabbled in web series before, popping up as a Barely Political correspondent or as a reverse -therapist and host of YourTango’s On The Couch with Catie Lazarus. But now we get a peek into the devilishly candid and inventive mind of the young performer with her first original series, The On Time Show with Petunia Van De Twirp.
With a setup somehwere close to the Late Night show for the Toy Story gang, puppet host Petunia is the Conan of the stuffed animal kingdom. Voiced (and written) by Lazarus, Petunia’s opening monologue breezes through self-deprecating one-liners cutting quickly over to a very real crank call segment with everything from Virgin Atlantic to Best Buy and Budget Rental Car.
There’s a silent film bit after that—Petunia’s somewhat racy run-in with her bedroom beau Senator Bear—followed by a one-on-one with bilingual prodigy Dora the Explorer. The series for now is just the pilot, though Lazarus promises more are in store if we’re nice about it.
Tubefilter: So, first off, please tell us there more episodes in store.
Catie Lazarus: Yes! If Petunia gets financial support, she can do more. I’ve written a bunch, but it would (or should) violate child labor laws, if a child puppet doesn’t pay her human production crew. For now, The On Time Show with Petunia Van De Twirp wants your hearts and hits, the non-violent variety.
Tubefilter: You’re no stranger to web series with your work with Barely Political and other series, what made you decide to create your own show?
Lazarus: I created Petunia and Couch Surfers (a forthcoming animated web series) to demonstrate my sensibility, or lack of it. My dream is to write and do voice-overs, especially for children’s media and animated shows. I’ve written a bunch of things, but I also wanted to create a tangible demo. Also, this way my neighbors will think there is a reason I talk in funny voices.
Tubefilter: Who’s the creative team behind this with you?
Lazarus: I’m a writer/comedian. I write, do voices, and host shows, so developing stories and characters, and interviewing and facilitating other people to tell their stories comes naturally. Otherwise, I have very few skills.
After seeing me perform comedy, an artist Natan Daskal (A is for America) recommended I connect with an Emmy Award winning former Jim Henson puppet designer Chelsea Carter. Then Chelsea and I randomly met at an event for Women in Children’s Media at the Children’s Museum in Tribeca. I was making a bear/dog with hip dysplasia for a stop-motion holiday video card. Despite my advanced age, I needed supervision with the hot glue gun (hence the animal’s cross-breeding and hip dysplasia). Chelsea, who volunteers for the Museum, kindly stepped in.
A couple weeks later, I was in a video shoot with this fancy fashion and music video director Evan Savitt. He offered to shoot something small together. So I asked Natan to connect me with Chelsea, who brought the puppet to life. I’m a fan of Pixar films and shows like The Muppets and Modern Family, so, like them, I wanted Petunia to appeal to children and adult children.
Tubefilter: Do you still have all your stuffed animals from when you were young? (I do)
Lazarus:No. When I was five, my mom gave me a puppet raccoon, I named Stanley. After Stanley and I married (I grew up in Washington DC, which is quite liberal), I was elected the first human and female President of raccoon’s world. Soon after, Stanley died in a real fire. My family was in a ski lodge in Park City Utah which caught fire. It was the middle of the night, so I escaped with my family. All that I had left was what I was wearing, which were my footy pajamas. Stanley was cremated, but my human family, luckily, survived.
For some live Catie Lazarus, New Yorkers can check out her live chat show (about jobs, work and labor) “Employee of the Month” at 92 Y Tribeca. Oh and we also found some of her standup on YouTube: