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The Katydids, a Chicago-grown iO improv group with members that all bear some variation of the name "Katherine," star in, write, and executive produce Teachers, which is based on their hit web series of the same name. The group has two sets this weekend at the annual Chicago Improv Fest. We phoned up two of the six "Kates," Caitlin Barlow and Katie O'Brien, to talk teaching, iO pride, and being the new face of TV Land.
The show sort of serves as a teachers-lounge megaphone. Caitlin, you're the only one in the group who's actually been a teacher. How much of your own experience did you draw on?
Caitlin Barlow: Oh, all of it. A lot of it has to do with the fact that when you are a teacher a lot of your coworkers are young women. And so it's not even just teaching, it's you being a woman trying to get your life figured out while also trying to be very professional at the same time. In terms of teaching, I think there's a lot of material I drew on. The plot of the ubiquitous parent who thinks their child is gifted when their child is average. There's nothing wrong with being average. It's great to be average. But there's some parents who can't let go of thinking their child is gifted. And you have to be like, "No, they're not. They're still great, but not everyone's gifted."
Katie O'Brien: Caitlin always says this and it's something we really believe: our biggest thing is we want teachers to relate to this show and look at it and go, "Oh my gosh, that's what it's like." And it was great when we did the web series because a lot of teachers responded positively and they were like, "Yes, I've come to school hung over. I've totally had that conversation in the teachers lounge; I've totally thought that that kid was going to be hot when he was older."
Former TV Land President Larry Jones—who just stepped down in February after 28 years—said the tone of Teachers would be "unlike anything" the network had aired previously. Are you apprehensive at all about audience response?
Barlow: We understand that the traditional TV Land demographic right now might not like our show because it's a lot edgier than most of the shows they've shown on TV Land before. And you know, we've been given so much creative license, so it's a hundred percent our voice. And our voice is that of edgy writers.
You guys got your start at iO some six years ago. Now you'll be playing at the theater's new Lincoln Park space for the first time. What will we see from you guys? What does having a comedy base at iO mean to you?
Barlow: You're gonna see the Katydids you saw in Chicago before. And you're also gonna see an awesome group [called] Wild Horses, a fantastic group who are really successful with web content as well. They've had a lot of videos on Funny or Die, and Lauren Lapkus from Orange is the New Black performs with them. It'll be a really cool night.
O'Brien: iO really gave us a great home. A lot of the people that are still at that theater, people like Cesar Jaime and Jason Chin, who recently passed away. Those people really supported us and gave us a platform.
Summarize Teachers for someone who's never seen the web series.
O'Brien: It follows a bunch of young twentysomethings trying to navigate their way through this profession that's held on a pedestal. Teachers are so idolized and held to this idealistic moral standard, but a lot of them are just trying to figure their own shit out. It's just very realistic towards what it's like to be a young twentysomething trying to raise the youth of America.
The Katydids perform with Wild Horses on Saturday, April 25 at 8 and 10:30 PM in iO's Mission Theater, 1501 N. Kingsbury.