Kate Flannery was first discovered by millions of people from her role as Meredith on the classic NBC sitcom The Office. The reality is that Flannery was working as an actress for many years prior to being cast on The Office, and she has continued to work steadily in the 5 years since The Office stopped producing new episodes. Beyond doing voiceover work for the animated show OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, she appeared in the film How To Get Girls, which hit VOD outlets yesterday, August 13th.
Music has also been a steady part of Flannery’s life. Even the most devoted fan of They Might Be Giants may not realize that she was a vocalist in the TMBG side project Mono Puff in the late 1990s. Flannery has found success post-Office in touring and recording projects alongside actress Jane Lynch. Flannery was a part of Lynch’s 2016 hit Christmas album A Swingin’ Little Christmas, and will be playing 10 shows alongside Lynch at New York’s Cafe Carlyle next month; the two improv-skilled actresses will also be doing Christmas-themed shows in the following months.
Check out the trailer for the new movie How To Get Girls here.
Music has been a big part of your career and I know that you had sung on an album by Mono Puff, the They Might Be Giants side project. How did that happen?
Kate Flannery: I was doing Valley Of The Dolls in New York, we did a theater production of the movie; we started in L.A. It was basically an off-Broadway show. John Flansburgh’s wife [Robin Goldwasser] came to see it, she basically asked me after the show if I would be interested. We had mutual friends. I did a lot of live shows with them for a few years. Mono Puff would actually open for They Might Be Giants. That wasn’t all that we did, but that was some of what we did.
We had a built-in audience immediately. John Flansburgh, he’s a force to be reckoned with, for sure. We were playing The Mercury Lounge and The Bowery Ballroom and Brownies, ACME Underground, all these great spots on the Lower East Side of New York back in the ‘90s.
Did the Flannery-Flansburgh connection have anything to do with it?
Flannery: (laughs) Just a coincidence. I was mostly singing backup, but his wife Robin and I were characters. She was Sister Puff and I was Lady Puff. Eventually Mary Birdsong joined and she was Sugar Puff. It was a little theatrical, it was really fun.
Did you perform in any other bands besides that?
Flannery: I had not really sung in a band, that was it. I kind of felt like even though my experiences were very limited, they were very full. Singing with John Flansburgh, we also sang at TT The Bear’s in Boston and the 9:30 Club in [Washington] D.C. with the Pizzicato Five. Everything was big and loud, really fun. But I sang in college and that was pretty much it. When I got to Chicago, we used to do musicals, but they were musicals that made fun of other musicals. I sang but usually it was in character. When I started to do my comedy lounge act, The Lampshades, I sang all the time but we were singing as characters. So I say that I sang a lot, but I usually had a wig on. (laughs)
A clip where Kate Flannery bakes and talks about her family lineage.
Were there ever musical aspirations for you in terms of being a singer/songwriter?
Flannery: There weren’t. I was really interested in musical theater, but unfortunately in retrospect I realize that the category for the funny woman in musicals kind of went away. That was more of a concept that happened in the ‘50s and ‘60s where they got a couple of great songs in a show. They weren’t really writing that anymore, so I wasn’t as interested.
At what point did you feel with your career that it was a career and not just a series of one-offs?
Flannery: When I first got hired at Second City, I think I had to quit my job because we were converting to computers and I couldn’t be there for the training. I was like, “This is it!” And then I quickly realized that I had to get another restaurant job. Second City was a great gig and it had a lot of cache, but it didn’t have a lot of cash. (laughs) So I quickly realized that I’m going to have to keep having another job… I think The Office, after the second season, I was like, “Okay, this is it!” As I got older, I’d realized that I saw a lot of people quitting things and going, “This may not be it.” So, really with The Office, I was kind of a late bloomer in that respect.
That raises a really good point. As someone who “made it” after the age of 30, is that something you have a lot of pride about? Or something you don’t really think about it?
Flannery: I do have pride about it. I sort of felt like the poster-child for the “actor/waiter/bartender,” like “Hang in there!” I was 40 when I got The Office. A lot of people would have given up by that point. (laughs) There’s a lot to be proud of.
A performance by Kate Flannery and Jane Lynch
Aside from How To Get Girls, what is coming up for you project-wise? Is there stuff you can talk about?
Flannery: Sure, Jane Lynch and I are doing 10 live shows in New York in September at the Cafe Carlyle. We’re doing a big Christmas tour, I think we’re doing 20 cities. I’m also on a Cartoon Network show OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, and we’re picked up for season 3. We’re about to start that. I recur sometimes on Steven’s Universe on Cartoon Network. I have a new show on Hulu that just started streaming about 6 weeks ago called All Night. It’s like a teen comedy, I play the principal at the high school… I’m kind of a buzzkill. It’s a fun comedy. I think that’s all I can discuss at this point.
That’s a lot of different projects going on at once. How are you able to juggle all of that? I know there’s downtime when you’re on-set, but I’d imagine juggling all of that requires skills.
Flannery: Absolutely. I think I’ve gotten better at it as I’ve gotten older. Some of it is about putting out fires as they come up. “What do I have to do?” I’m not always sitting there with my planner going “Monday I have to do this, Wednesday is this.” It’s a challenge but it can be a lot of fun and it certainly keeps things interesting. I also write too and I’m work on a book proposal, but I don’t know if I want to put that out in the world yet. (laughs)
Ultimately is there something you wish more people knew about you?
Flannery: I think being an aging woman [in Hollywood] is a weird thing, but I feel very lucky, I get to do interesting things all the time that challenge me as an artist and as a person. I’m just really grateful. And I feel if you don’t know something about me, that’s okay. It’s okay if you only know me as “Meredith the drunk” from The Office, that’s fine. (laughs) If that is my legacy, that is a great life. I did just more than just fine. (laughs)
So finally, any last words for the kids?
Flannery: (laughs) Keep kickin’, don’t stop, keep going after what you want.