Interview by Harper Simon
Portraits by Dave Naz
“I hope Love is good.
You never really know with these things. It was hard
—Lesley Arfinas fuck but also insanely fun.” — Lesley Arfin
Los Angeles-based writer Lesley Arfin is currently set to release her new comedy series, Love, in collaboration with Judd Apatow. She has written for TV shows Girls (2012-15) and Awkward (2011-15) and published Dear Diary, a memoir of sorts based on her former column at Vice.
Harper Simon is an LA-based singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer who has released a critically-acclaimed 2010 self-titled debut and 2013 follow-up, Division Street. He currently hosts the weekly web series and podcast Talk Show.
Love is a comedy that explores the male and female perspectives in a modern relationship. The series is helmed by Judd Apatow and Lesley Arfin, stars Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust and is set to premiere on Netflix in 2016.
Known for his pioneering work in comedy, Judd Apatow directs, writes, produces, acts and is the founder of Apatow Productions. His filmography includes Anchorman, Superbad, Knocked Up and Bridesmaids, as well as TV series Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared and Girls.
Jenni Konner is the executive producer and writer of Girls. Past work includes Undeclared, Help Me Help You and In the Motherhood. She is the co-creator of Lenny Letter with Lena Dunham, an online space by and for women exploring current issues.
Creator, writer and star of the HBO series Girls, Lena Dunham has received eight Emmy nominations, two Golden Globes and a Director’s Guild of America Award. She started her career as writer-director of the 2010 film Tiny Furniture, and her memoir Not That Kind of Girl reached #2 on the NYT bestseller list.
Paul Rust is an actor and comedian best known for his standup and sketch comedy with the Upright Citizens Brigade. As a writer, he’s worked on Arrested Development’s fourth season and IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang!. He starred in I Love You, Beth Cooper and will appear in Love.
Gillian Jacobs is an actor best known for starring in the television show Community (2009-2015). She has also appeared in the fourth season of Girls (2015), Walk of Shame (2014) and The Box (2009). Jacobs will star opposite Paul Rust in Love.
Lesley Arfin began her career by publishing responses to her own adolescent diary entries in the Vice column “Dear Diary.” In 2007, she turned it into a book of the same name, editorializing her angst and sexual exploration and tracking down her old crushes, friends and enemies for commentary. It’s this shameless revisiting of her teenage and twenty-something psyche that landed Arfin as a writer on Lena Dunham’s Girls, a show that navigates the realities and anxieties of twenty-something girlhood. Now Arfin is creating her own show, Love, in conjunction with Girls co-producer Judd Apatow. Starring Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs, Love steers through the joy, frustration and eccentricity of a couple’s relationship.
Lesley Arfin and musician Harper Simon first met on an ill-timed blind date. Here, the two discuss Love, Lena Dunham, Crab Louie and their own missed opportunity.
Harper Simon: We met on a blind date set up by Jenni Konner.
Lesley Arfin: When Jenni set us up, I didn’t know much about you other than she thought you were great and I was great and maybe we’d think the same about each other. And she was right! I think I had just gotten out of a relationship and Jenni was trying to make me feel better. But what she didn’t know was that I had a little crush on someone already. And I’m going to marry that someone in a few weeks.
HS: I’m going to go on record and say I think you could be making the biggest mistake of your life and should call the wedding off. Because we didn’t really have time to explore this arena properly. If we don’t do it now, you’re always going to wonder.
LA: (laughs) I can live with that.
HS: For readers who may not be familiar, Jenni Konner is executive producer of the HBO show Girls. You were a writer on Girls at that time. How did you land that gig anyway?
LA: I wrote a book called Dear Diary a few years prior to Girls, and Lena Dunham was a fan.
“I like that young girls are looking up
to a subversive, artistic person.”
— HARPER SIMON
HS: Most people just refer to that as their diary. They don’t say, “I had written a book called Dear Diary.” How did Lena get ahold of your diary?
LA: I literally wrote a book published with Vice called Dear Diary! Lena heard about it because I wrote for Vice for many years, and she’s up on cool shit like that.
HS: I think it’s great that someone like Lena, who’s literate and cares about art and counterculture, can still find a place in popular culture. I like that young girls are looking up to a subversive, artistic person. I remember Jenni invited me to a screening of Lena’s film Tiny Furniture. I know the HBO deal was in place, but I don’t know if it had begun shooting or not. The screening was at MoMA as I recall, which seemed auspicious, but I viewed it as a kind of hip, Brooklyn-y little indie by a charming, talented, very young person. I couldn’t imagine it becoming this kind of pop culture phenomenon. But Jenni did see it. So did Michiko Kakutani, my friend and book critic for The New York Times, who I went to the screening with.
LA: I saw Tiny Furniture at a movie theater in the West Village, and we all really liked it and thought it was funny. Afterwards, I tweeted at Lena and told her how rad I thought it was. I didn’t know her personally; I just looked her up and started following her. As it turned out, we were fans of each other and had a lot of friends in common. She’s younger than me so I wasn’t aware of a lot of our connections, but when we finally met up it was as if we had known each other for years.
HS: I feel like you say that about everybody. Do you?
LA: No, definitely not! If I say it a lot without realizing, it has more to do with my poor concept of time than anything else.
HS: Remember when you said you were gonna make me Crab Louie?
LA: Not at all. When did I say that? I hate cooking and never do it. It’s like my least favorite thing. Did I say that on our date? I feel like I’m getting a lot of hints here from you. Do you remember being on a cleanse and not eating food even though you asked me on a dinner date?
HS: I was just trying to fool you into making me a snack. But now that I know you hate cooking I’m starting to think you might not really be marriage material after all. Sounds like being with you would involve a lot of room service and take-out bills. Do you also hate cleaning and sex?
LA: You’re sexist, Harper. Prove you’re not by turning this interview around.
HS: I’m not sexist. I’m just hungry! Tell me a bit about your comedy influences and what writers you like.
LA: Comedy-wise, I love Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Carol Burnett, Joan Rivers. Madeline Kahn is a big one. Larry David is huge. Adam Sandler, Wayne’s World, Tina Fey, my friend Fran, Will Ferrell, Colin Quinn. All the usual suspects.
I love both Amy and David Sedaris, which is a good segue into writers who have influenced me. Donna Tartt, Bret Easton Ellis, T.C. Boyle, Lynda Barry, Anne Lamott, Tom Perrotta, Jonathan Franzen, J.D. Salinger and Cheryl Strayed. This is all off the top of my head. Stephen King. That dude has the craft of writing by the balls. I’m in awe of him.
HS: Very different from what my list might be. Maybe it’s generational.
“Do you remember being on a
cleanse and not eating food even though
you asked me on a dinner date?”
— LESLEY ARFIN
LA: What’s your list?
HS: For comedy: Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Nichols and May, Andy Kaufman, writers and performers from the first five years of
LA: Love your entire list! Big fan of all of those people. I’m also adding Diablo Cody to my list. She’s the only female director to get five original scripts made in the last decade, and maybe ever.
HS: Tell me a little about the new show you’ve created for Netflix.
LA: The show for Netflix is something I created with Paul Rust and Judd Apatow. It’s called Love and should be hitting the small screen sometime this February. I hope it’s good. You never really know with these things. It was hard as fuck but also insanely fun. We start the second season a week after my wedding. Yikes. And then a week after that I’m going to Esalen to hopefully learn something new about myself.
Anyway, the show is about two people who have always been stuck in bad relationships. The woman, played by Gillian Jacobs, is in her 30s and goes out with a guy who blows coke up her ass and yet still needs his mom to buy him clothes. The guy, played by Paul Rust, is in an unhappy relationship with his girlfriend and his job. He’s unable to put his own needs first. These two find and like each other but really have no clue why or even how to make it work. But for whatever reason, they’re both committed to try. I like to refer to our show as an unromantic comedy.
HS: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear a word you were saying. I was so distracted by your beauty. Lesley, I need to know: are you going to call off your wedding or what?
LA: What can I say, Harper? To some girls the word marriage has a nice ring to it.