Before working on the HBO comedy series Insecure, writer and comedian Natasha Rothwell performed comedy in New York City, Washington D.C. and Tokyo. In 2014, she was hired as a writer for Saturday Night Live's 40th season and later, Rothwell wrote and starred in an episode of the Netflix sketch series, The Characters.
Rothwell was hired as a writer and actor on Insecure, created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, during its first season. She plays Kelli, main character Issa's boisterous friend who never hesitates to speak her mind. The series is currently in its fourth season.
Recorded remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, NPR's Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg and house musician Jonathan Coulton talked to Rothwell about Insecure, writing for Saturday Night Live, and performing comedy in Japan.
Later, Rothwell plays a game about real and fictitious home improvement shows called "Renovation or Fabrication?"
On Getting Cast As Kelli On Insecure
(Rothwell was hired as a writer on Insecure before getting the role of Kelli.)
"[The writers] do internal table reads, so we'll write a script and we'll read it as writers in the room just to hear it out loud. [Co-creator Issa Rae] kept having me read Kelli. They all knew I was an actor...but I had no ambitions to be on the show because it was my first scripted television show that wasn't [a sketch show]. [Executive producer Prentice Penny] and Issa called me into their office and I was like, 'I am in trouble, I've done something terrible.' ...That's when they asked me to play Kelli."
On Performing Comedy In Japan
(Rothwell spent a year performing comedy at the Tokyo Comedy Store.)
"It was really cool to do because, for me, it sharpened my ability to tell a joke that wasn't very niche. I came there from D.C. — the comedy I was doing was about Summer Associates and what's going on on the Hill. The things that would be really hilarious in D.C. didn't work in Tokyo so it made me think about what are the universal truths that we could subvert and make funny that are hilarious to anyone because it's recognizable?"
Heard on TV Face-Off: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Superstore, Parks & Rec, Silicon Valley & Insecure