Outspokenness is kind of Busy Philipps’s thing. Longtime fans have watched the actor grow up onscreen, first on Freaks and Geeks and then on Dawson’s Creek, and she’s since gone on to anchor shows like Cougar Town and Vice Principals. For anyone who’s had an Instagram account in the last five years, however, her performance on social media may be her greatest yet. An early adopter of Instagram Stories, Philipps has leveraged the platform to become the star of her own life, lauded by over 2 million followers for her hilariously frank missives about the annoyances of exercising, the trials of mothering two daughters, and the madness of making a living in the entertainment industry.
As for figuring out how best to use that voice, well, Philipps is—as the title of her new podcast suggests—doing her best. With a best-selling memoir and a canceled but much-lauded talk show under her belt, Philipps has proven that there is a market offline for her particular brand of unfiltered giving-a-damn, and prior to the pandemic, she was on a mission to meet that demand with an entirely new approach to producing entertainment—but then the world changed, and so did her priorities. The result: Busy Philipps is Doing Her Best, a podcast about the many ways that Philipps, her famous friends, and the rest of us are pivoting to meet the demands of this strange and stressful time. And when she’s not working on her show, she’s gearing up for another semester of Zoom-schooling her two daughters, throwing herself into local politics, and trying to get a home workout in. Over a recent Zoom call, the actress and personality dished about Biologique Recherche, Bulletproof coffee, and life under quarantine.
Are you quarantining in L.A. or elsewhere?
We’re here, but we were in South Carolina for six weeks. We go there every summer, and we weren’t gonna go, but then we kind of figured out a way to do it and we were like, well, we’re just going to be quarantining there. It felt in some ways gross—just being totally honest about my own privilege—but additionally, my entire family is all from Arizona, and my sister and her husband have two little kids, and COVID’s really bad there. They were one of the hotspots. And normally in the summer it’s okay, the kids go to the pool, they do camps and stuff, and obviously that wasn’t what was going to happen this year. So I called and said, “Why don’t you guys just get in the car, come here, live in my house for six weeks, and your kids can be outside, it won’t be 112 degrees, you can use the pool.” And so they did, and they had the best time.
How are you doing in quarantine?
I’m hungry. I’m good, I’m frazzled. I feel like I have too much shit to do but it’s all gonna be fine. Everything’s gonna be fine. My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow, so I’m trying to figure out how to make it special in this bizarro time, right?
I can’t imagine being a kid in the middle of a pandemic.
Can you imagine being stuck at home with your fucking family all the time as a preteen or teenager? I would have lost my mind. These kids are gonna be something else, that’s for sure.
Especially considering that most kids are already growing up online these days, which is hard enough.
Right. I mean, look, I’ve never been opposed to posting about my children, because Marc and I discussed it early on and sort of felt like it was an interesting way to teach them about social media and what they want to put out there and how it gets presented into the world. But both of them are able to say things to me about the things that they want me to post or not post. So I’ll take a picture, I’ll show it to them and say, “I wanna post it with this caption,” because I think it’s sneaky when people post mean captions about their kids.
I think that’s the most important thing, is to talk to them about it. It’s weird to me when people have these whole brands built around their kids, and the kid isn’t part of the discussion at all.
Well, I work with so many brands, and I love working in that space, but I do think there needs to be some sort of agreement put in place that when agencies and brands are asking influencers to use children—there has to be a separate account to put money aside for the kids for later. I feel like it’s so irresponsible that that isn’t done. When I started doing paid advertisement things—monetizing my Instagram—and brands would request that my kids be in it, again, I always asked them if they wanted to do it. Then we take 20% of what I make and put it into their—like, they get paid from what I’m getting paid, and so they’ll have that someday. But the fact that there’s nothing in place to protect kids seems really shocking to me, so maybe someday I’ll do that. I’ll work on that.
You’ve been pretty involved in local advocacy lately, right? I feel like I’ve noticed a lot of people here in L.A. suddenly get super interested in bureaucracy and local government, and you have all these people calling into City Council meetings.
I called! I got on, I was so weirdly lucky—I don’t think it was ‘cause I’m famous. Mine was about taking the police out of LAUSD, and I have a kid in LAUSD, so, you know, I have a vested interest. I just said that this money should be redistributed. We have kids that literally don’t have school supplies, and they’re spending $2 million on, like, tanks. It’s fascinating. I’ve been very into local government for a while, and even more so now, especially now that I have a kid in public school.
I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the L.A. City Council District 4 race.
That’s my race, babe! That’s my race. I’ve been with Nithya [Raman, the challenger for incumbent David Ryu’s seat] since the beginning, ‘cause I’m obsessed with her. Actually, this guy Hayes basically started working with her on some of the homeless initiative stuff that she had been doing before she announced her running, and I had gotten in touch with them a while ago about just what was going on with our unhoused neighbors and how it was being handled, and I was so horrified. I’m doing a fundraiser for her soon.
How are you weaving local involvement into your day-to-day life right now?
You know, I don’t know—at times I was feeling really overwhelmed. June was really hard and sad and upsetting and hopeful and all of the things. I would say that the first two months of being in lockdown, I couldn’t do any work. And I still am not feeling particularly creative. I’m trying my best, which is a little bit how the name of the podcast came about. I’m like, I’m doing my best. I think we all are, unless you’re one of those horrible people, in which case I don’t have any interest in you. I feel like I have to make to-do lists, you know what I mean? Marc and I divide domestic labor pretty well at this point—inevitably one of us always feels like we’re doing more, that’s just what living with someone is, I think, unless you’re like a unicorn—and then I don’t know what to tell you. I’m happy for you, I guess.
Do you have a daily routine in quarantine?
So I wake up early, when the girls aren’t up yet. I’ve learned that that’s a thing that works for me, and I’m able to focus on emails and work stuff a little bit more. I always brush my teeth and wash my face first thing, and Marc thinks it’s so weird that I do it before I drink my coffee, but I gotta start the day clean. And then normally what I’ll do is put on my workout clothes, and we have a puppy, so I take her out and go hang with the dog. Then I’ll make my Bulletproof coffee, which I love. I’ve been drinking Bulletproof Coffee for years. I really hope when I get my physical that my cholesterol isn’t terrible.
Because of the Bulletproof Coffee?
I’ve really bought into the whole thing, but I’m legit drinking butter every morning, so I mean, what am I doing? Although, honestly, I think a lot of people would just objectively say—I feel like I’ve never looked better. Maybe it’s the butter. So, then I’ll do some work on the computer, and then I work out. And after my workout, I’ll fit in a face mask. I have a whole drawer of them, I love all different kinds. I go high and low, because I like Biologique Recherche, but I also work with Olay, and they have this great stick mask that I really like, the Olay Pore Detox black charcoal mask. And sometimes I’ll double mask, so that one I’ll do T-zone vibes, but then I’ll do a more moisturizing thing around my eyes. And then I’ll shower, and I use Kerastase shampoo and conditioner. It’s as expensive as all get out, but I truly love it, and I feel like it’s the only thing that works for me. I have this detangler called Nectar of the Gods that’s also a million dollars, but I love it. It’s hard when the kids are in virtual school, I have to work it around their Zoom schedules, but I try to get all that in before lunch because I don’t like working out after lunch.
How has the remote schooling been going?
If you don’t have anything else to do in your life, and you can just really focus on it and it can kind of be your job—I don’t know, at times it was okay. And then at other times it was excruciating. Because even after they’d get through with their schoolwork, then the “I’m boreds” would start. And those were terrible, because there’s no good response to “I’m bored.”
Like, “We all are!”
Yeah, and what she wanted to do, she wasn’t able to do, like see her friends or go to the Grove or whatever. So, yeah, it’s been a lot. At some point, I realized that I needed to go up on my balcony by myself in the afternoon. Marc and I both picked “things,” and his thing was that he wanted to go sit by our pool for an hour every day. He was like, “I’m tricking myself into feeling like this is just a vacation.” And I like to go up onto the balcony and see the view and see the world and sort of look out, because I felt like that was a really good thing for me to do.
You mentioned that you’ve had a hard time being creative in quarantine. How have you worked with that shift in energy while making your podcast?
Well, just being practical, I do feel grateful that I had made enough money right at the beginning of the year so that I didn’t have to feel pressured. Because at first I like—I don’t have any ideas, I don’t wanna do anything, I’m tired all the time, I just wanna sleep. And at least for me, I think George Floyd’s murder and then everything that came after—I’ve been involved in Black Lives Matter in sort of a peripheral way before this, but then when that happened, it really did snap me out of my own thing, and I think it did for a lot of people that I know. I was getting up and motivated to get on a Zoom call with Patrice Cullors and find out how I could be of service today, and you know, read a new article, so I felt like focusing my energy outward again in a real substantive way opened me up to being able to do other things too. Part of that was to shift what the podcast was about.
How did that work out?
So the podcast was supposed to have happened I think in May, and initially the podcast was about Caissie St. Onge’s and my personal journey post-Busy Tonight. We thought it would be really interesting for people to go on our journey with us, and we were recording the podcast to be almost like you were coming with us on meetings and pitches that we had. I’m really grateful that everybody was on board with putting it on hold, because in June we started to think about that aspect of the podcast as us talking about dealing with our own personal pivots and how we’re all coping and doing our best. So I was talking to one of our writers from Busy Tonight, Shantira Jackson, and I loved on Busy Tonight always having Shantira’s take on things in the room, because she’s a millennial queer Black woman who has a totally disparate life experience than I do. So, at that point, I asked her, “Would you wanna come be involved in this too?” And she was like, “Yeah, I would love to.” And then it just sort of seemed like there was something to talking with people about pivots in life, and how when you’re sort of forced to pivot for whatever reason—if it’s tragedy, if it’s a windfall, if it’s a new job, new love, whatever it is—how so many times it ends up being like, “And I was exactly where I needed to be!” I think it’s reassuring to hear as many of those right now as possible for people, and I know it’s reassuring for me to hear those stories, so that’s what we wanted to focus the interviews on. I’m sorry, that was too long-winded. We have an editor who will be editing the fucking show!