- The new dark comedy “Kevin Can F**K Himself” is a new take on classic American sitcoms.
- Creator Valerie Armstrong took the “sitcom wife” trope and showed the darker underbelly of her life.
- We spoke with Armstrong and stars Mary Hollis Inboden and Eric Petersen about making the show.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
AMC’s new dark-comedy series “Kevin Can F**K Himself” swings between two realities, first showing its audience a multi-camera TV sitcom that takes place in a brightly lit home where a husband (the titular Kevin) is the constant center of attention, often at the expense of his wife Allison.
But when Allison walks out of the staged living room, the show’s entire production switches to a darker production space, one where she’s being emotionally crushed under the weight of a spouse who never considers her needs and the laugh-track audience that supports his gags every step of the way.
“I was so excited when I saw what the show was and what it was saying and what it was trying to be,” Eric Petersen, who stars in the show as Kevin, told Insider over a recent Zoom interview.
“I love multi-cam sitcoms and I was really excited to play a character that falls into those archetypes of Archie Bunker and Ralph Kramden and Tim ‘The Tool Man ‘Taylor and all these types of classic sitcom husbands,” he added, referencing the star characters from “All in the Family,” “The Honeymooners,” and “Home Improvement.”
Petersen’s acting career has included roles in sitcoms like “Kirstie” and “The Big Bang Theory,” but “Kevin Can F**K Himself” is a whole new twist on the genre. So he wasn’t just thrilled at the chance to take on the role of a stereotypical sitcom husband, but also to “be a part of a show that was going to put that on its head, crack it open, and show you the truth of it.”
“The problem with so many sitcoms for years, is it was just from really one point of view,” Petersen said. “And our show is showing the opposite [view] and the effects of that.”
Insider spoke with Petersen, costar Mary Hollis Inboden, series creator Valerie Armstong, and showrunner Craig DiGregorio about how “Kevin Can F**K Himself” is needling the classic genre by finally giving the sitcom wife her time in the spotlight.
‘Kevin Can F**K Himself’ was first conceptualized thanks to a podcast episode about sitcom auditions
Series creator Valerie Armstrong was a self-described “very low-level writer” working in a writers’ room at AMC when she happened upon the inspiration for a new type of dark comedy; one that would deal with the consequences of sitcom genre familiar to every TV-watching American.
“I was listening to a podcast with these women comedians who I loved and would have killed to write for,” Armstrong said during a recent press event. “I was an assistant at the time and they were talking about pilot season and going out for the sitcom wife and how every year it’s the same meeting.”
Armstrong said the two women on the podcast explained how people would tell them that “a really funny woman” was needed for the role of a sitcom wife. But when they’d get the sides (the script pages sent to actors ahead of auditions), all the lines written for women were just reactions to the men’s jokes, or made it so the women were “set-up machines” for the men in the room.
“I was so mad that that was still happening, and that these women were going out for that role and not getting it,” Armstrong said. “So I thought, ‘Well, where’s her show? I wanna follow her. She must be so angry.'”
Armstrong had the visual idea of a woman walking out of her sitcom living room, where her funny husband and laugh-track audience were positioned, and into her kitchen.
“And for once we follow her and we see that she’s miserable, that this house is actually not bright and fun, but dank and dark and small,” Armstrong said. “And I always imagined her looking into the camera and saying, ‘I f—— hate my husband.'”
That particular moment changed by the time the final pilot was filmed, but the “germ of the idea has really stuck.”
“I just wanted people to look a little bit more closely at this woman we’ve been laughing at forever,” Armstrong said.
The show not only brings the ‘sitcom wife’ into the spotlight, but focuses on a budding friendship between two women in spite of the men in their lives
Allison (played by Annie Murphy) isn’t the only character in “Kevin Can F**K Himself” who gets to reveal new nuance and depth. Allison’s neighbor (and the sister of Kevin’s best friend) Patty, played by Mary Hollis Inboden, is slowly brought into Allison’s darker world.
“I read it and I thought it was too good for me,” Inboden told Insider over Zoom of her first reaction to the script. “It took me about five reads or so to realize that this was the story that was going to free up this woman [the sitcom wife] that we all thought that we knew. It was going to let her speak for herself instead of being spoken for, and it was going to show you what she’s up to. I never thought to ask what she was up to.”
Inboden’s character, Patty, starts out in the show with a rather frosty attitude towards Allison. While in their sitcom universe, she’s usually trying to be “one of the boys” at the expense of Allison’s feelings.
“For the longest time while sharing space in Kevin’s universe, where he sucks all the air out of the room and everything revolves around him, they’re pitted against each other,” Inboden said. “And I feel like in a patriarchal society, that happens to women all the time. We don’t have discussions because we rule each other out as like, ‘You’re that kind of girl and I’m this kind of girl.'”
But by the end of the pilot episode, Patty and Allison are finally starting to open up to one other.
“They realize that they can talk and then help each other,” Inboden said. “And when women do that, it’s a very powerful thing.”
Both Inboden and Petersen say that working on ‘Kevin Can F**K Himself’ has made them watch sitcoms differently
“I think when you know better, you do better,” Inboden said. “The male-led sitcom is an old model, and oftentimes, from my understanding, writers get jobs based on old scripts that sometimes were very misogynistic.”
Inboden says it’s time to break that mold and get to the point where more people want to have bigger conversations about inclusivity and realize who is actually the butt of many jokes we see on sitcoms.
“And if it’s a woman, a person of color, or a member of the LGBTQ community, then we can do better than that,” she said.
“I definitely watched sitcoms differently after shooting this show,” Petersen said. “It’s not that we have to scrap the art form of multi-cam – it just needs to be written more inclusively. More people need to have input in the writers’ rooms and in the directing and producing and making of it.”
He continued: “Because if you have an old-white-man-dominated crew, then a lot of the jokes are going to be for the people that you’re around. But if we make the whole industry more inclusive, you can still tell hilarious stories.”
The first two episodes of “Kevin Can F**K Himself” are available now via AMC, with new episodes airing weekly on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.