Chelsea Peretti on Wolf Mode, Writing for Kroll Show, and Season Two of Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Better get used to hearing the name Chelsea Peretti.

The comedian, writer, and actress is primed to blow up. Why? Well, to borrow a phrase from her comedy comrade Nick Kroll, first and first mostly, she's hilarious. Her work in the writer's room on shows including Parks and Recreation and The Sarah Silverman Program and as an actress on Kroll Show (where she's also a writer) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine demonstrate her love of pop culture satire and ability to deliver straight-faced, reality TV-inspired insanity.

Peretti is working on her first-ever one-hour comedy special, which she'll tape in San Francisco on June 13. Before stopping by Stand Up Live on Friday, May 30, as part of her American Treasure Tour, Peretti talked with Jackalope Ranch about her role as Gina on the Golden Globe-winning comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, her passion for the Kroll Show sketch Cake Train, and what we can expect from her upcoming one-hour special.

See also: Chelsea Peretti's Coming to Phoenix May 30

Let's talk about wolf mode [a style of tweeting Peretti sometimes employs] a little bit. How did it come to exist, and why wolves? It came to exist when it felt like there was no civilized way to respond to certain things that come about on the Internet. So I liken it to a Sasha Fierce/Beyoncé alter ego thing where you're dealing with Internet tomfoolery, shenanigans, what have you. I would flip into this wolf mode. It's otherworldly. It's almost like: What is a wolf going to be impacted by? Like, someone saying something on the Internet? No. A wolf wouldn't care.

Very good point. Then it kind of evolved into a kind of an intense, wild id version of myself, where if I have something I really want to communicate and it has an intensity to it, then I would go into that wolf mode. But it really just became caps lock. You know, people say it's yelling, but to me it's not yelling. It's more like taking someone by the shoulders and looking into their eyes and saying something with intensity.

So, Solange in the elevator: Wolf mode or some other kind of animal mode? You know, I just want to know so many more details about that. It's really hard to comment on it unless they do. I'm really hoping they'll make a statement so I can better understand it. But it is kind of cool that they're not.

I want the audio most of all. It's kind of crazy though that it's like, oh, that's an option? To just not comment at all? [laughs] Why doesn't every person in the media do that when there's a scandal?

I guess 'cause they're not Beyoncé. I don't know. Yeah, I don't know. I feel like wolf mode has a certain. . . it's not frantic for me. It's more like paw after paw just crunching through the snow on some kind of a very serious mission.

I'm picking up a Game of Thrones kind of intensity. Yes, exactly. [laughs] You're like: Chelsea Peretti is a lunatic. She will be coming to town.

Perfect, yeah. So you used to write for the Village Voice -- well, you've done a lot of writing. How did you end up transitioning from that into more comedy writing and stand-up? Well, I interned at the Village Voice right out of college, and then I started doing stand-up and sort of transitioned out of that. I wrote for a video game. That was a fun time. And then Sarah Silverman gave me my first real big shot writing for her show. So I moved from New York to L.A. to write for her show on Comedy Central. Then that wound up leading to writing for Parks and Rec, then Kroll Show, and a variety of other shows.

Your work on Kroll Show is hilarious. Thank you.

I imagine it's a lot of improv, a lot of ad-libbing. Yeah, there's a lot scripted, but then there's a lot of ad-libbing.

So how did Farley come about? Um, you know. I was trying to remember when the first one, the Skype session, aired. I guess that was season one, I think. Nick just asked if I want to do this thing, and it was almost entirely improvised. I don't know how she came about. It was more trying to think who would be dating someone like his character [Bobby Bottleservice]. It just sort of flowed naturally.

I mean I also watch a lot of reality shows. So I felt like she was a composite of Love & Hip Hop meets Jersey Shore kind of reality show character.

Do you have any other characters up your sleeve for the new season? Well, we've done a bunch more Farley things. So there will be more Farley on the horizon.

Is her music career coming along? You know, I'm sure she's going to blow up at some point, but it hasn't quite happened yet for her. Fingers crossed.

What's it like transitioning from Kroll Show to Brooklyn Nine-Nine? Well, you know, they're very different shows, but I think they inform each other. The experiences you have one place always help you somewhere else. A lot of the people that perform on Kroll are people that were all friends coming up and stuff. On Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I knew Andy [Samberg] and I knew Joe [Lo Truglio], but there was a lot of new people, and so it was more of a first-day-of-school feeling when we started the show. But we also all kind of clicked. It's a bigger more involved production. But it was helpful being so free and playing around with your friends, and then going to something more structured to remember to bring in that silliness.

In the writer's room at Kroll Show is it a bunch of people just cracking each other up? That's how I envision it. Writing for comedy shows is pretty amazing. Actually going off on tangents is sometimes where you get great ideas from. So it's a workplace in which being really tangential and going on a rant of some kind or having some crazy debate might wind up influencing an episode. So it's definitely fun.

Do you have any examples of crazy tangents that led to some of your favorite sketches? For example, with Kroll Show: Cake Train. That was something that I just kept pitching over and over and in almost an obsessive way. I kept going: It's a train. You see all these people, they're in the middle of doing activities all over town. And then, you know, you hear the sound of the train coming. They stop what they're doing in the middle. So they might be washing dishes. They drop the dish. They might be typing. They abandon their computer. And I kept pitching it over and over and acting it out. Then they guy is just throwing cakes off a train. And he's just throwing them, and they're catching them and using two arms. And I just kept pitching it, and everyone kind of just kept looking at me. But I think that when you pitch something enough times with enough passion people go, "Maybe there's something to it." Initially, it was too expensive to shoot. And then, I think it was season two, yeah, that we did Cake Train. And it finally got made, and it was this huge victory. Driving out to the train tracks at 6 in the morning, and I'm like, "This is happening!" So, yeah, that was one.

And then we went on this whole tangent when I was a writer at Parks and Rec about, like, which cake was better. I liked this red velvet cake, and Harris Wittels liked some other cake. We ordered all these cakes to the office. I don't know if that's what they were intending, but it seems like it made its way into Brooklyn Nine-Nine with the pie taste-off.

And then also I used to dance all the time in the office at Parks and Rec, and Dan [Goor] was always into that. Then I wound up dancing on the show. I think a lot of stuff winds up making it in.

What material are you working with now on this tour? This one has a lot of stuff about social anxieties and fantasies -- either fantasies of who I wish I was or fantasies of things I wish I could do that wouldn't be socially acceptable. There's some material about my dog and dog people. And there's some stuff about thinking about marriage and family and things like that.

So it's a lot of big stuff. It's definitely very silly and a lot of it is about fantasies -- of me being different or of life being different -- just thinking about social mores and my discomfort with them.

You're shooting the special in San Francisco. Do you have a pretty set idea of what it will consist of or are you tweaking stuff as you go? Well, I'm about to go out for another two weeks of the tour. There are definitely some little tweaks that I want to try. For the most part I'm really happy with this hour, and I feel ready to go. I might want to add in a couple little jokes here and there that might be good connective tissue and stuff like that.

After the special's recorded, what are you working on? After the special's recorded, I'll be going back to Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and we'll be shooting our second season. So I'll be back to 12-hour days and 5 a.m. call times. But I'm hoping to get out on the road and do stand-up when I can.

Do you know what's in store for Gina next season? I have no idea. Dan has told me some crazy things they've been talking about in the writer's room, but I have no idea how realistic it is or not. So it'll be exciting to get to the first table read and see. Largely, I'm interested in how they're going to elaborate on Gina and Charles hooking up or waking up in bed together -- who knows what happened exactly? That's the part that I'll be eagerly anticipating, as well as what will be happening with Jake being undercover.

Is there anything that you hope happens for her next season? I like the idea of her having an inappropriate friendship or a boyfriend, just bringing some social life into the office, I think, would be funny. Other than that, I mostly feel like I'm going to see what the writers come up with.

How different is it being on the writers' side of a show and having screen time as opposed to being an actor? It's pretty different because the writer's room is very intellectual. You're very much thinking things out. You're thinking out one direction, then you're backtracking and thinking out a totally different direction. You're trying to play things out and imagine all these different stories and compare them in your head. It's very heady. The acting part, I find I can be more instinctual because all the thinking has been -- not all of it, obviously, you think about choices you want to make -- but so much of it has been laid out for you that you're really just thinking about some of the basics, and then you just go out there and play with it. I definitely am enjoying the acting side.

Chelsea Peretti performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 30, at Stand Up Live. Tickets to the 21-and-over show are $22, and there's a two-drink minimum. Call 480-719-6100 or visit

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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski