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Annie Murphy On Her New, Surrealist Sit-Com

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

"Kevin Can F**k Himself" is what amounts to a surrealist sitcom. A single-camera shot opens on Kevin, a cloddish, beer-slopping, Tom Brady-worshipping husband, and his clueless friends making jokes - if that's what they are - of the kind you've heard only half a million times before and Allison, his spouse, who suffers the boobery with forbearing. Cue the laughs.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGH TRACK)

SIMON: Then the show moves off-set and takes a turn into Allison's depression, desperation and dreams.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KEVIN CAN F**K HIMSELF")

ANNIE MURPHY: (As Allison) We have one car. He doesn't have to share it. He doesn't have to share anything. He has me all to himself 'cause I never went back to school. And he says that's 'cause I never finish things. But do I never finish things, or does he take them from me?

SIMON: The show was created by Valerie Armstrong. And Allison is played by Annie Murphy, one of the stars of the much honored "Schitt's Creek." Annie Murphy joins us now from Los Angeles. Thanks so much for being with us.

MURPHY: Thanks so much for having me.

SIMON: It just occurred to me as I introduced you and I uttered the words aloud, you've now starred in two series that are difficult for us to say on the air.

(LAUGHTER)

MURPHY: I know. I know. You know, my mom is very proud of me that I got these two shows, but she's still having a hard time processing the titles.

SIMON: Well, let me ask you about - we'll just call it "Kevin." The sitcom laugh track has always masked a lot, hasn't it?

MURPHY: It most certainly has. And I have to say that after working on this show, I'm not ever going to be able to unsee or hear it. And so I won't ever be able to just casually kick back and watch (laughter) a sitcom ever again.

SIMON: Yeah. Have you? I mean, did you study up on this? Did you watch a lot growing up or even recently?

MURPHY: Preparing for this part, I did watch episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "King Of Queens." And once you kind of have that bug in your ear about what we've been asked to laugh at all of these years, it's pretty jaw-dropping to see the misogyny and racism and homophobia that's just kind of been glossed over by canned laughter for such a long time.

SIMON: Yeah. There's a question that puzzled me - I've got to tell you - after the first episode. I don't quite understand what Allison ever once saw in Kevin or sees now.

MURPHY: It was also hard for me. When I first read the script, that was actually one of my hang-ups that I had. But in getting to know the character of Allison, it started to make more sense. Allison is a person who has followed the rules all of her life. She's tried to adhere to what society has asked of her. Life, according to Allison, is you go to school, you do as well as you can, you get a boyfriend, you move into a house, you get married. And that's your life. And she did that at a very early age. She met Kevin in high school. They - you know, I'm sure he made her laugh. And I'm sure there was a small period of time where he thought to buy her the occasional flower or two or take her out for dinner, make her feel slightly special. And once you get married, you're married. And then just kind of you succumb to the passage of time. And time goes really, really quickly. And then you wake up one day, and 10 years have passed.

SIMON: I have read that you have a tattoo of Jimmy Stewart on your wrist.

MURPHY: The tattoo that I have is Jimmy Stewart in the movie "Harvey." And it's about a man who tells everybody that he has an imaginary friend.

SIMON: Yeah.

MURPHY: He doesn't say imaginary. To him, he has a friend who is a 6-foot-3 1/2 pooka, which is a mythical creature that's basically a giant rabbit. And no one else can see this rabbit, but he tells them that the rabbit is real. And spoiler alert - the rabbit is real. But to me, the character just represents someone who sees the good in people and kind of the wonder in the world.

SIMON: Yeah.

MURPHY: And it's just - so I tattooed it permanently on my body as a constant reminder of those things.

SIMON: Yeah. Do you hope that people who see this series and, you know, be impressed by the direction of the writing will also cast back on other things they've seen in their lives and wonder about it?

MURPHY: I really hope that it does start conversations. One of our wonderful castmates, Raymond Lee, who plays Sam on the show...

SIMON: Yeah.

MURPHY: ...He had a really incredible reaction. We all watched the first couple of episodes as a cast over Zoom. And as soon as we finished the first episode, Ray said, all right, guys, I have to go; I have to call my wife. And everyone was like, what's going on, Ray? Is everything OK? And he was like, yeah, I just saw way too much of Kevin - of myself in Kevin, and I need to go make a few apologies.

SIMON: Oh, my God.

MURPHY: And I think that is kind of the ideal result of the show. And I hope that if that can happen even one or two more times, I think that the show will have been a great success.

SIMON: Annie Murphy - she stars in the new series - let's be careful now - "Kevin Can F**k Himself" on AMC+ tomorrow and AMC starting next Sunday. Thank you so much for being with us.

MURPHY: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.