I've been dining at a quaint little Italian café in Los Feliz called Little Doms with actress/comedian/writer Chelsea Peretti for only two minutes, but she's already teasing me about our interview. "I mean, can I just say a string of lies?" she asks with a devilish grin. "How much do you guys fact check over there?" When I encourage her that feeding this publication a string of lies -- essentially "trolling" proper journalism -- would offer an enlightening and entertaining perspective for me as a writer, she rolls her emerald-green eyes. "Aw, well that takes the fun out of it."
Peretti looks for the fun in everything. Our banter is off the cuff and down to earth. She touches upon the times she sat next to West Coast hip-hop pioneer Too Short on a plane ("He was writing raps right beside me, so it was a real Oakland moment."), the addictive nature of iPhone app Candy Crush ("Sometimes I spend entire breaks between scenes glued to that game"), and horsing around with co-stars on set ("One time, I was going by Melissa Fumero and was faking that I was going to push her coffee on her shirt, and then I actually did.")
With each anecdote, Peretti giggles like the mischievous student who waits for her teacher to get up and go to the bathroom, and then puts a thumbtack on her chair. Yet there is a generosity and warmth within Peretti's spirit, like the class clown who gets sent to detention as a sacrifice in order to make her friends laugh.
However, as gentle and carefree as her persona, Peretti's role within the Hollywood sphere is one of serious distinction. She's written for Parks and Recreation, The Sarah Silverman Program and Saturday Night Live; her standup has been showcased on Comedy Central Presents. An exemplary résumé propelled Peretti to her latest and arguably most acclaimed acting effort as Gina Linetti, the 99th Precinct's sardonic civilian administrator in Fox's rollicking five-o comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
With over half the season to recollect, Peretti's casting as Linetti in the sitcom is a union that's obvious as ham on rye. But the actress still had to prove herself through auditions and test audiences in order to join the team. "The advantage was that the show's creators Mike [Schur] and Dan [Goor] knew me, and they had my voice very much in mind. I think that's what drew me to it, was that the role of Gina was essentially me."
Linetti's voice is obviously paramount to the show, but some of the episodes' standout scenes do not require her to utter a single word. Witness the eye-watering hilarity at Linetti's noodling dance moves in an office meeting, her co-workers dubiously gazing at her. A scene so charmingly awkward that it makes Napoleon Dynamite's stilted moves look choreographed by Michael Jackson. To paraphrase LA Weekly columnist Jeff Weiss, it illustrates the aphorism that twenty funny seconds are worth a thousand GIFs.
Along with the show's ensemble cast, Peretti earned a Golden Globe for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy. With the rest of Brooklyn Nine-Nine inaugural season finishing at the end of March, and a second season in the works, Peretti expects Gina Linetti to evolve as a character--and leave viewers with a few surprises.
"Well, they made Gina the assistant of Captain Holt, and I like the relationship that they have. I think that Holt is sort of a father figure to Gina. [Actor] Andre [Braugher] and I agree that Gina and Captain Holt would've had some casual conversations in which they see eye to eye on some pop cultural things. Basically, fans will get to see a growth in their relationship."
Away from the cameras, Peretti remains as busy as ever. She's drawing up blueprints for her next US tour and standup special, which is set to foray her usual stage antics. "Maybe for the first time there will be some tones of love in there, which is different," she says. She mentions that it will offer a sunny side up from her previous specials, which she labeled as a bit dark and hostile. "I think it's going to be interesting because I'm a lot happier now."
She's also set to grace the pages of Elle.com this month as a guest blogger, and was featured on the site in January, exchanging witty barbs with Danny McBride and Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-star Andy Samberg for Q&A features. "I really want to interview Larry David," she declaims.
Those unacquainted with Peretti can find a snapshot of her humor on Twitter, which was selected as one of Time's 140 Best of 2013. Among a few choice tweets: "No iPhone I never want to say ducking or duck"; "Is it worse to kill 15 people or wear a fedora?"; "HEADS UP: Sometimes I text 'hahaa' + my iPhone autocorrects it to "HAHAHAHA" based on a past time I laughed harder at a funnier joke."
Though Peretti can easily be identified as a "funny woman," she doesn't like the implication that comedy is patriarchal. "It's really irritating. Even people who like my work sometimes come up to me and say, 'I usually don't like female comedians, but your material is great!'" She feels pigeonholed by the idea of comedy being conflated with gender. "It makes the job prospect more daunting. Funny is funny, you know?"
When I tell that I've finished asking my questions, Peretti tries one more prank. She raises her eyebrows and curtly replies, "Welp, bye." She feigns to get up from the table, which would leave me alone with the bill. My eyes widen as I fire back with mock indignation, "If you think you can just dine and dash on me after an interview that's going to be nationally published, maybe you'll become most controversial comedian in the game." She giggles and throws a $5 bill on the table.
This article appears in an upcoming column for the Huffington Post.