'Whatever, Martha!': Alexis and Jennifer talk up Season 2
A few years ago Martha Stewart had a late-night brainstorm -- this time for a new TV show, not a craft project or home repair adventure. She explained to New York magazine last year: "I got the idea from 'Mystery Science Theater,' the way the little pop-up figures were watching the horror movies and making comments. I’ve always loved those guys. I was thinking about my show and the old segments, and I thought, 'How can we get a different audience to watch and still learn?'
"And I thought that’s how we could do it, if Alexis and Jennifer would agree to be the pop-up figures."
And so Fine Living Network's "Whatever, Martha!" was born. The "Alexis and Jennifer" in question are, respectively, Stewart's daughter and her friend Jennifer Koppelman Hutt, co-hosts of the Sirius satellite radio show "Whatever!" As on "Mystery Science Theater 3000," Stewart and Hutt watch segments of "The Martha Stewart Show" and provide their own snarky commentary, occasionally while trying to re-create some of her projects. The peanut gallery that provides the entertainment.
Stewart and Hutt are often the voice of the average Martha fan, a combination of "Oh, what a good idea. Martha Stewart's so smart!" and "Martha Stewart must be out of her mind!" Alexis Stewart, meanwhile, occasionally offers a glimpse into the life of what it's like to have Martha as a mother, explaining to Hutt that the lovely Turkey Hill property isn't so wonderful when you're the one digging the pool and picking the apples. The ladies' rapport is engrossing. To generalize broadly, Hutt is the Ernie to Stewart's Bert, as the two contrast optimism and pessimism, sunny and cloudy dispositions, cooperation and competition, but each with a dose of cheery irreverence. Each episode ends with a segment of "Whatever!" as the ladies discuss some general topic such as grooming or home repair, a little gab that makes the audience want to join in.
We caught up with Stewart and Hutt in anticipation of the new season of "Whatever, Martha" which airs tonight on FLN at 9PM ET/10PM PT.
Was your reaction to the first season what you expected?
Stewart: I think it was better than we expected or than what we could ask for.
Hutt: We didn't know how people would react to it at all. We just kind of went into it. We didn't know if people would like it or how it was going to come out. We weren't scripted or anything; we just watched the episodes and commented. When people did like it, we were like, "Oh, wow, yay!"
How do you think a new (non-Sirius) audience got drawn into it?
Hutt: What's surprising is that people who watch the TV show say, "We love your banter. We love the relationship that you and Alexis have. You are so like my friend and me. You are so different and so honest with one another." So they get the kind of thing we do on the radio show, but it's almost the radio show lite. The radio show is not about poking fun at Martha; it's about each other, life, you name it, and because it's on satellite there's no regulation, so we get much racier and much more open on the radio show because we're allowed to be. When we did it on the TV show, it was all edited out.
How is this season different from the previous season?
Stewart: We added more cooking and crafts to every episode.
Hutt: This year we have a kitchen.
From the one episode I've seen of the new season, it looks like the fake daylight on the "balcony" has been replaced by fake nighttime.
Stewart: It just made more sense, and I can't stand bright light in general, so it made me feel better.I was looking at some of the previews on FLN. Martha's going to be on the show this season?
Stewart: She is on an episode.Hutt: Just one.
Was there any specific feedback from Martha on the first season?Stewart: We filmed the episodes pretty quickly and she wasn't really around; she was busy. I think she was a little nervous about making fun of her guests. I think we do that less this year and it's really good-natured because we know we're pathetic as well.
Hutt: It's not about being nasty. It's all about finding the funny in whatever's going on, rather than just pulling someone apart for the sake of being mean.
Did you hear back from any of the guests that you did poke fun of?
Stewart: The twine guy sent me twine.Hutt: We got one e-mail from a fan of Peanutbutter the makeup artist who was bothered by us poking fun at the remarkable artiste that he is.
What kind of feedback did you get from the show's editors?
Alexis: They'd always come out and tell me to be happier, but since I can't, I didn't know where to go with that.Hutt: Eight shows into the season they said, "Put your legs down. You look better with your legs off the table." I was like, "You waited eight shows to tell me that? Eight shows?"
What were some of your favorite moments of your co-host from last season?
Stewart: I thought the ribbon dancing was pretty good and there was the juggling. She's so multitalented. She can sign the alphabet as well, who knew.Hutt: Yeah, I can. I really liked how Alexis' competitive nature shined through when we were doing the shell picture frames and she got so enraged that mine was actually coming out good that she wrecked it.
Stewart: Well, yours is supposed to be bad, that's the whole point.
Hutt: This season in the clip we have on the website, Alexis is singing. I really like that.
Stewart: I only sing one word.
Hutt: It's still a song!
Are there any topics or segments you don't touch?
Stewart: We try to let it all go and let the editors do it, because if we try to edit ourselves, we might not say something that's perfectly acceptable and funny, so luckily it's not live.What do you get out of being on FLN?
Stewart: They're very kind to us and a shockingly large number of people watch it.Hutt: Before we were involved with them, we really didn't know about FLN either, and it's amazing how many people watch that network, and they are so nice. They're great.
Stewart: And surprisingly tolerant of us and all of our dirtiness.
Jennifer: Oh yeah! It's shocking.
What TV shows do you watch?
Hutt: "Curb your Enthusiasm," "Mad Men," "30 Rock."Stewart: I can't watch "30 Rock," but the other two I like. I don't watch that many shows. But those two are good.
With the TV show, now you must get recognized a lot more on the street. What do people say to you?
Stewart: They leave me alone.Hutt: They talk to me. They know to leave Alexis alone, because she's scary. People come up to me and say, "Wait, I know you. You're that girl on that show. Martha Stewart's daughter ... you make fun of her. I love you. You're so funny. What's your name again?"
Stewart: With the red hair you don't see that every day.
Do you feel a lot of pressure to have your friendship be so public?Hutt: Alexis and I have a really solid relationship. We work together. We don't socialize all that often because we're together --
Stewart: We've been together for four years --
Hutt: We're together 20 hours a week, intimately involved every week for the last four years. What else are we going to do? Not to mention that Alexis has a life in the city and I have kids and a husband in the suburbs. I don't really do much outside of work and spending time with my family and kids. No, I don't think there's any pressure because we get along --
Stewart: We don't have a problem. We fight because we don't care. And then it's fine. I can say all those things to Jennifer that you can say to any good friend that you can make fun of -- it's not a problem.
Hutt: We're very aware that we have mood swings and they have nothing to do with one other. I think girls take eveything so personally: Like sometimes your friend feels crappy and it has nothing to do with you. If you make it about you, (a) you're a jerk because it's about her; (b) It's just a waste of your emotional energy because it has nothing to with you.
Is there anything in the works for additional projects?Stewart: We're working on a book -- that'll be fun. We're always trying to do something else.
-- Claire Zulkey
Photo: Hosts Jennifer Koppelman Hutt and Alexis Stewart on "Whatever, Martha!" Credit: Anders Krusberg / "Whatever, Martha!"/Fine Living Network/Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia