As long as HBO’s beloved series The Comeback remains off the air, members of its cult will be asking the same question: When is The Comeback coming back? As someone who has not only drunk the Kool-Aid but would gladly drink show creator Lisa Kudrow’s bathwater, I regret that I do not have an answer to that question.
However, I can say, somewhat hopefully, that a Season 3 remains a possibility (the show’s first season aired in 2005, and its second in 2014). In a charity reunion Zoom that streamed Tuesday via Stars in the House (which benefits the Actors Fund), Kudrow and her co-creator Michael Patrick King revealed what renaissance has-been Valerie Cherish would be doing in quarantine.
“She’d be behind the curve. She’d be just releasing her song now,” said King. Referring to the ’90s sitcom-within-the-show that made Valerie’s name, he added, “We thought she’d probably try to get a table read of an I’m It script going...”
“...But without realizing... how dated, racist, homophobic it would be because it would be,” interjected Kudrow, who also said that the perpetually foot-in-mouth Valerie wouldn’t have read it before going live.
“The thing that would make it perfect for The Comeback is she would be just discovering it in front of a camera,” added King.
It’s been over five years since Valerie has graced HBO in new episodes, but her spirit lives on via conversations between Kudrow and King.
King said he and Kudrow get together “all of the time” to hypothesize where Valerie would be now. “It’s endlessly fascinating, the idea of Lisa and Valerie in the world at any point. It’s just a matter of finding the thing that makes us feel like, ‘Oh that’s worth saying.’”
Kudrow revealed one possible direction for a future season. “I’ve always wanted to see one season of Valerie going to New York, trying Broadway,” she said. “She’d be eaten alive, I think.” That is, “if theater’s ever safe to attend.” And that’s a big “if.”
The series-spanning conversation also touched on the stigma Lance Barber felt after playing Valerie’s cruel showrunner adversary, Paulie G. (around minute 19). They discussed what Season 2 would have been like (around minute 30) if the show had been picked up for it immediately after the first season (writer Gigi, played by Bayne Gibby, would have become the showrunner and proven herself to be a bigger monster than Pauly). The cast and creators also talked about how heavily scripted and choreographed The Comeback was, an enormous feat of virtuosity given how improvised it appeared to be.
“There were some days... before we would shoot a scene, when you’d see Lisa wandering around with 30 pages of script, just going over those lines, those dashes, those malapropisms: ‘Uh, uh, uh, uh,’ four of those, because that’s how she said it when we improvised it, and I wrote it down,” King recalled (starting around the 42-minute mark). “At one point, I thought we’d get a court stenographer, but they were too expensive because we wanted to get exactly what Lisa said in an impulse. It’s an amazing performance because she was able to duplicate it like it’s really happening.” Behold, the sheer technical genius of The Comeback.