A Quickie with Joni Lefkowitz

With a new web series, a pilot for HBO in post production, and a “Reality Bites for the MySpace
generation” project in development, out writer-actor Joni Lefkowitz is one
of the women to watch in 2009.

Lefkowitz and her writing partner and co-star, Susanna Fogel, first gained notoriety
with their wry YouTube videos in which they filmed themselves looking for
parking, going for fast food, and complaining about the early picket line hours
during the WGA writers’ strike.

Less than a year later, Lefkowitz and Fogel came up with the eponymous
series, Joni & Susanna which is now a part of the original
programming line up on TheWB.com, Warner Bros’ video-on-demand

Lefkowitz talked to AfterEllen recently about her new show and its depiction
of the darker side of women’s friendships; lesbian films; and why being gay
isn’t interesting enough to be the focus of her work.

AfterEllen: Congratulations on your
new original web series Joni & Susanna. What’s it about?
Joni Lefkowitz:
It’s basically about two co-dependent best friends who
secretly don’t want the other one to be ahead of them in life. So, there’s a
lot of passive aggression and subtly sabotaging of the other one, so that
neither one of us is ahead in life. But at all times, we’re like: “This is
my best friend. I love her!”

AE: Well, that’s healthy. Please tell
me you’re commenting on the stereotype that women don’t support each other, and
not just acting like two bitches.
Yes. Unfortunately, I think that stereotype can happen a lot. Usually, when you see it on TV, it’s very
obvious. But I think it’s a little more subtle than that in real life. It’s
usually about the jealousy we have with each other and an underlying competitiveness
in real life.

AE: How long have you been
collaborating with your frenemy/co-star/writing partner, Susanna Fogel.

JL: We met at a sketch comedy class at Second City
in LA in 2002. We sort of bonded by making fun of the other people in class, as
we do on our show. That was where I discovered that writing was what I wanted
to do.

AE: And Susanna is straight. How much
of a gay-straight alliance is the show?
It’s not made into a huge deal. We wanted to make a point of not
calling much attention to the fact that I’m gay on it. We have one episode
where I come out to my mom, but other than that, it’s dealt with very casually.
We wanted that to be one thing about our friendship that we don’t really have
an issue.

AE: Lesbian-straight girl friendships
haven’t been explored as frequently as the Will
& Grace
Lesbians and straight girls are the perfect marriage because the
lesbian isn’t a threat to the straight girl’s game, and the straight girl gets
validation from the thought that if she were gay, the lesbian would want to be
with her.

AE: They don’t bother imagining
they’re gay – deep down, they think we want them. I think it’s the other way
I guess it’s just perfect for the straight girl, actually.

AE: Do you think Susanna wants you?
Uh, I’m not going there.