Jane Krakowski & Tituss Burgess Bring Laughter to D.C.

The “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” stars open the second annual District of Comedy Festival at the Kennedy Center.

and (Photo by Margot Schulman)

Two of the funniest people in your Netflix queue also happen to be Broadway vets. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” stars Jane Krakowski and Tituss Burgess will return to the stage and showcase their singing chops for one night only at the second annual District of Comedy Festival at the Kennedy Center, sponsored by Capital One. I grabbed a moment with the hilarious duo to chat theater, Netflix and Real Housewives.

Washington Life: Tell me about the show at the Kennedy Center. What can we expect?
Jane Krakowski: Titus and I are thrilled to be performing with the National Symphony Orchestra Pops to open the second year of the Kennedy Center District of Comedy Festival. It’s unique for them to start the festival off with a musical evening and it’s the first time they have partnered with the NSO so we are honored to be the people who are bringing that first show to the city and for the festival. We’re going to be doing a mix of standard songs from Broadway musicals that we love. I’ll be doing a Tina Fey-written comedy song. It’s a pu pu platter of musical and comedic stylings.

WL: You both have a stage background. Do you make sure to stay in theater even when you’re filming?
Tituss Burgess: We always have one foot in the theatrical door. We don’t get to do it nearly as much as we like, given our shooting schedules but when we’re off, even if it’s just a concert, it’s still theatrical and kind of scratches that itch.
JK: Exactly. It keeps that muscle going if you’re not in a Broadway show at the time. I still get the exhilaration and the fear of a roller coaster ride every time we do one of these shows, which I think is good for you too.
TB: Your organs are turning. [laughter] I always think, why did I do this to myself! It’s the worst sinking feeling, ugh.
JK: And then when it’s over you’re like, let’s do it again! It’s so great!

WL: What are you planning to do in your time off between seasons?

TB: Filming a couple of movies. I have to film a documentary. And I’m working on a musical that I wrote. It’s called “The Preacher’s Wife,” based on the movie that Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston did. And then raising my two children [laughter all around]. I don’t have kids.
JK: That’s so odd because that was exactly my answer [laughing]. I hope our two musicals about The Preacher’s Wife don’t open at the same time.

WL: You’ve had stars from “30 Rock” and other celebrities make guest appearances on the show. Is there anyone who hasn’t been on that you’d want to be on?
TB: I want Carol Burnett to be on our show.
JK: My ideal guest star to work with, and it’s just purely selfish, but it would be fun to have Tina Fey be in a story line with Jacqueline because I would love to reunite and act with her again in scenes on the show. I think that would be a really fun chemistry test to re-work together as different characters. She has guested nearly every season on the show but I have not been in scenes with her, I think on purpose to keep that divide, but I think it would be really fun to act with her again because we have a thing that’s joyous and fun.

WL: The two of you obviously get along really well. Did you hit it off from the beginning?

TB: Yeah, we have similar senses of humor and I think for me, that’s kind of where it started and then the whole work ethic and the process all came later. But it’s because of where we meet on how we see the world. I feel that’s why we mesh so well together.
JK: And our basis of reality. [laughter]
TB: And our love of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
JK: The housewives of anywhere.

WL: Do you watch “The Real Housewives of Potomac?”
JK: Yes! We were just talking about it.

WL: Was the role of Jacqueline modeled after a housewife or particular New York socialite?
JK: I don’t think it was ever modeled after the housewives or one particular person but I do get incredible research basically from my prescription to Bravo. I get endless character research by watching all of these women. Certainly in this character there’s a way to have a nod to them.

WL: Do you have a favorite “Housewives” show?

TB: They offer such different things.
JK: They really do. I really loved Beverly Hills this past season. Erica Jane!
TB: I live for Erica Jane.
JK: I did have one scene where we made the lost audition tape of Jacqueline to be on The Real Housewives and that was my ode to Erica Jane. I also love [The Real Housewives of] New York.
TB: Bethenny Frankel’s a buddy of mine. She’s so funny.

WL: I know people binge watch your show. Are there any that you like to binge watch?

TB: Most of my binge watching shows are on Netflix. “House of Cards,” “Daredevil.”
JK: I just watched “The Crown.” Did you watch “The Crown?”
TB: Burned through it. The whole show is so great. I don’t know how they afford it. It’s so massive and cinematic.

The District of Comedy Festival runs through July 22. Visit the Kennedy Center website for tickets.

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