The Talented Mrs. Ripa
She has other boundaries in place too. She doesn’t have a Google Alert on herself or know the passwords to her Twitter or Facebook, though she runs her own Instagram. She worries about what all the oversharing is doing to our brains. “I keep saying that Instagram, during the pandemic, has made everyone 300% more of whatever it is we think they are. If you believe this person is great, you believe this person is 300% greater right now,” she says. “And if you don’t like me, or any person, you now believe I’m 300% worse.” She refuses to watch The Morning Show, even though everyone says the Apple+ TV series is about her. “I was like, I don’t know what that means, and that makes me very nervous. No, I’m not watching it,” she says. “I’ve made a decision, and I’ve stayed with my decision to not watch it.” And while her personal comedic icons include Wanda Sykes, Lucille Ball, and Tracee Ellis Ross, she purposefully keeps her on-air persona more sensible than screwball. “I learned to temper my humor,” she says. “Because anything I said in jest or as a joke would be regurgitated sans the laughter of the audience, sans the obvious humor, for any number of tabloid stories.”
Perhaps the only time she’s flouted this rule is when she played a booze-hound, coke-fiending version of herself on Broad City. If you haven’t watched it yet, you absolutely should. “I’m not kidding, 99% of the people that come up to me say, “You were amazing in Broad City.’ They don’t talk about the talk show, or the years on the soap [All My Children], or my own sitcom. They talk about Broad City. That’s it,” she says. “Anytime I’ve been asked to play myself, outside of myself, even when I did Saturday Night Live, it was always about making me demented, or making me some horrible version of myself, or some drug-addled version of myself, or some hideous, monstrous, snobby version of myself. I have to say that it is so fun and liberating to play an evil or twisted or demented version of yourself. It gets it out of your system.”
I ask why she thinks people enjoy watching Kelly Ripa break bad. She says it’s because the truth is “too much for people to bear.” That the real Kelly is a total snooze. “Back when all of the reality shows were starting, I cannot tell you how many companies approached us to do a reality show. Mark and I would say, ‘No, no. I don’t really think you understand. There’s nothing to shoot here,’” she says. I tell her I doubt that, but she won’t budge. “There’s nothing exciting that happens,” she insists. “It truly would be like television’s version of paint drying.” I don’t believe her, but that doesn’t matter. She has me right where she wants me: wanting more Kelly Ripa.
Justine Harman is the former features director at Glamour and a writer and podcaster based in Los Angeles. Her new documentary podcast, O.C. Swingers, drops March 29.