Vanessa Bayer Is a Real Housewives Aficionado

Photo of Vanessa Bayer
Photo by Getty; Image treatment by Ashley Peña

Vanessa Bayer, who rose to prominence as a long-running Saturday Night Live performer (she held the gig for seven seasons), has a new project sure to conjure up laughs: I Love That for You, a Showtime series she co-created with Jeremy Beiler in which she stars as Joanna, a woman who wins the opportunity to be a host on a QVC-esque home shopping channel.

The story is partially based on Bayer’s adolescence—when the actress was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Joanna is introduced as a young hospital patient who finds comfort in the watching Jackie Stilton (Molly Shannon) sell wares on a fictional home shopping network. As an adult, she wins an opportunity to become a host alongside her home shopping network idol, and discovers it’s a lot harder than it looks to be a purveyor of goods on live television.

Bayer spoke to W about the process of creating I Love That for You (an idea that she had been developing for years before Showtime greenlit a series order), her love of reality television, and the sublime privilege of working with Molly Shannon.

Where did the title, I Love That for You, come from?

We were trying to think of what the home shopping hosts might say that resonates. Initially, it was “I Love This for You,” but Showtime did research and found that the phrase people used most often was actually, “I Love That for You.” The show is about people loving products, people loving each other, having these relationships. It felt like having the word “love” in the title would be important.

Did you grow up watching a lot of home shopping television?

Yeah, especially when I was little, I watched a lot of it. I would tape it. I was so fascinated by the way they explained and sold things. It’s still such a popular concept, and I think people leave it on the same way people leave sports on, because it’s comforting. There’s a connection that people make with the hosts.

What’s the most recent purchase you’ve made from one of the home shopping channels?

When Showtime agreed to make our pilot, my co-creator Jeremy and I bought the three Showtime executives that we work with each a really cozy blanket from Casa Zeta Jones, which is Catherine Zeta Jones’s company. We still hear about how incredibly comfortable this blanket is.

Did you always know that you wanted Molly Shannon to be part of the show, as your character’s mentor and idol?

Jeremy and I have been working on this for years, and once it came to casting, we were pretty excited when we thought of Molly for it. She’s such an incredible actor, but also, this is her personality. She’s so enthusiastic and a very fun person to talk to even in real life, which radiates through this character. It’s very meta. My character always loved her as a home shopping host and wanted to be just like her, and in real life, I always loved her as an SNL cast member and wanted be just like her.

Let’s get into the Culture Diet questions. What is the first thing you read in the morning?

The New York Times app on my phone. I look at that and see how long I can go without getting out of bed.

What is the last thing you Googled on your phone?

For a second, I thought I would talk about General Hospital in this interview, so I googled “W magazine General Hospital.” A video with John Stamos came up.

Are you a fan of General Hospital?

I don’t watch it every day, but I watch it a fair amount. It’s like my home shopping network as an adult, because it’s so comforting to have on and I can do other things while I watch it.

What other shows have been keeping you up at night?

I just watched Amy Schumer’s show, Life & Beth. I am friends with her so I’m biased, but it is actually an incredible show. I just finished Bridget Everett’s show, Somebody Somewhere. She’s also a friend of mine. I shouldn’t have even told you that—because they are truly great shows! I guess I just wanted to brag about being friends with them. I watch a lot of Bravo—Real Housewives, Summer House, etc.

Which Real Housewives franchise is your favorite?

That’s a really hard question to answer. I love Salt Lake City, Beverly Hills, and Potomac.

What books are on your bedside table?

I just started Molly Shannon’s book, Hello, Molly!, and it is really incredible.

What was the last movie you saw in a theater?

Some friends were able to rent out a movie theater, and we watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I had seen parts of it as a kid, but I didn’t really remember it until then.

You host a podcast with your brother, but are there any other podcasts that you like to listen to?

Yes. I have a few favorites. I listen to Up First and The Daily to get news. But I also love Bitch Sesh, which is Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider’s podcast about Bravo shows. I love Las Culturistas, Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang’s podcast about culture.

What’s the last song or album you’ve had on repeat?

I don’t know if it’s because we have a lot of Nineties music on the show, but I’ve been listening to Nineties mixes—there’s something so comforting about them. I was listening to one last night that had Natalie Imbruglia and a lot of Pearl Jam.

Do you remember the last concert you attended?

Jenny Lewis and Harry Styles. I keep bragging about my friends, but I’m also friends with Jenny Lewis, and she got my cousin and I in. A lot of Harry Styles’s fans were screaming. I don’t blame them.

What’s the last piece of art you bought or ogled?

My friend Claudia O’Doherty’s sister, Lucy O’Doherty, is an artist. For my birthday, Claudia gave me this photograph Lucy took of a boat. I’m looking at it right now, it’s next to my bed. It’s a lot of blues—it’s so soothing and so beautiful. That’s why I put it next to my bed.

What is the last thing you do before you go to bed?

This is kind of a hard question to answer because I would like to tell you I read, but sometimes I fall asleep on my couch watching TV. And I consistently do Wordle before going to bed, because it comes out at midnight, and that’s usually around the time I go to bed.