In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
With over 25 movies and about a dozen TV appearances under her belt, Lake Bell could be considered a Hollywood veteran. And unlike so many actors, Bell doesn’t seem to specialize—she’s just as happy playing a doofy camp counselor in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp as she is running for her life alongside Owen Wilson in the recent No Escape. Bell also directs; her most recent film, In A World… made its debut at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Lake Bell: I was a commercial girl. In drama school, I was a mediocre model occasionally to pick up some extra cash and because clearly I’m not six feet tall and I had baby weight, I would mainly just would do promotional stuff. Sometimes I would do little print work, but—this was in London—I got asked to do something for some sort of technology company. They were launching something and they hired a bunch of models to stand around in silver sexy robot outfits and show people where the toilet was and stuff. That was the worst job I ever had. I just like sat around and it was like, “This is a cell phone and this is also where you can pee if you need to use the restroom.” It was kind of demoralizing.
The A.V. Club: Did you at least get paid well?
LB: No, not at all. I got paid horribly. It was the worst job. I did not feel empowered.
LB: I certainly felt like my life had been enriched and had also changed forever when I took In A World… to Sundance.
AVC: Why do you think that was?
LB: Because I wrote, directed, and produced it.
AVC: It was all yours.
LB: It just felt like the ultimate, and Sundance was something that… I vowed not to go to Sundance until I had a damn good reason. And there I was. Sundance was, for me, always an institution in the world that, when you’re an adult, you actually want to make proud. You think about that that in college maybe. If you enjoy your professors or your teacher, you go, “Oh, God, I want to work hard to make this person proud.” Or “I want to make my parents proud,” or whatever it is. You don’t have that sentiment when you become an adult. It goes away a little bit. You’re like, “Well, I’m an adult. I’m going to do things the way I want to do things and I don’t give a shit.” But Sundance is an institution that I always held great respect for and to be a part of their canon of creativity felt like a real goal for me. In A World…, something that couldn’t be more infused with myself, got accepted by that institution. I felt that was a pillar of success in some ways.
LB: I’d be the Mute-tator where I could mute people’s mouths while they are speaking. And then I would silence the world’s most flagrant misogynists while wearing overtly scant but effective armor, but with sneakers.
LB: I was definitely precocious and I’m sure it was annoying to some people. I always had a lot to say. I definitely had a vivid imagination. My brother and I, we would anthropomorphize anything. So, for example, he would guilt trip me if we were eating. I’d be like, “I don’t like those potatoes.” And he would be like [Puts on a voice.] “Oh, you don’t like those potatoes? But they love you so much.” He would guilt trip me into doing anything stupid.
My brother and I had many games. We were inseparable. We had a little team going on between us. We had even a language that was kind of like pig latin. So we’d speak in the language. It’s called Op. Maybe you’ve heard of it.
We definitely had our own world of imagination. We had our own world that we ran around in.
AVC: Can you still use Op?
LB: Oh yeah. We still use it. If someone strange walked in, now the thing most people would do is text. You’d be like, “Oh, did you get that text I sent you earlier?” But like what you really mean is like, “Did you see that woman who just walked in? Who is carrying a python?” But if you have Op you can say, “Oh my god, there’s a woman behind you carrying a python.” You could say it just like we’re talking right now [Says same sentence in Op]. So if you were my brother, you’d turn around to see the woman behind you with a python.
AVC: I have a brother too, and I always think it is amazing how they both know you find the funniest and what you find the most annoying. And they can quickly harness both.
LB: It’s so funny, because my brother at one point was like, “Hey, I have a bone to pick with you. You laugh at all my dumb ass jokes and I’ve gone out into the world thinking that I’m actually pretty funny and it’s a problem. I’m not funny. The stuff I’m saying is straight-up cheesy and not that good. But you as my little sister growing up, would stupidly laugh at everything.” The point is that I’m a good audience.
LB: Axl Rose.
AVC: Axl Rose, really?
LB: Oh, yeah. Easy.
AVC: Why Axl? The “November Rain” video?
LB: I was a huge GNR fan when I was a kid because I had an older brother. I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV or anything. But I had an older brother who had a small TV in his room, so I would go in and watch that. I remember being entirely too young to see Guns N’ Roses videos, and it was a brand of naughtiness and sexuality that I couldn’t comprehend at that age. But I just remember looking at Axl Rose and even at a young age, I was like, “That’s all wrong and therefore, it’s all right.”
AVC: He’s one of those dudes who unfortunately hasn’t aged super-well.
LB: I went to see him. My husband took me to see GNR in Jersey at one point. It was just Axl and the rest of the team.
Look, I was thrilled. I mean, [my husband] has a picture of me just jumping up and down because I never got to go to a GNR concert when I was a kid, obviously. It was very sweet, because my husband is not a GNR guy. He grew up being a goth kid. So he was indulging me.
It was a little bad, because Axl didn’t move quite the way he used to. But then again, I was like “all right, that’s okay. I will accept that this is my version of seeing them.” People age. It’s all right. I had to go to that place.
LB: Maybe “Alone” by Heart. I don’t know. Some ballad.
LB: I don’t know. It’s the kind of song—like I heard it in a sandwich shop the other day and I erupted into head banging. That kind of hair-flipping dance. And my assistant was like, “I don’t feel comfortable right now.” And I was like, “Well, I feel super comfortable. I feel that we are on a different plane.”
That’s just something I’ve been rocking out to lately. It would either be that, or look—I mean, Jesus. “Welcome To The Jungle” might be a good throwback for me. I’ve always enjoyed walking to that.
LB: I was up at 5:30 because my baby woke me up at that time. I was in hair and makeup at 6 a.m. and then I did Morning Joe on MSNBC, so I was at 30 Rock. Then I went home and fed my baby and had some lunch. She was moderately interested in lamb, more interested in beets. Then we did the game where you face plant on to the bed. That was pretty fun. She thought I was hilarious. I killed with that. And then she went down for a nap, so I took a nap because I knew I had an afternoon of electronic press tour stuff and that leads me to now.
LB: Oh yeah. I get Amanda Peet all the time. I’m sure she must get it, because I get it. And she’s beautiful, so I’m like, “Great. This is working out for me in multiple ways.”
Usually I’m just like, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m Lake.” Or they’re like, “I loved you in The Way Way Back,” and I’m like, “Thank you.”
I try to be nice on behalf of her so that they’re not like, “God, Amanda Peet was a real asshole.” I want to make sure that I’m representing well if someone really thought I was Amanda Peet that I’d be really nice.
AVC: Have you met her?
LB: Briefly. I don’t know her, but she was really, really cool to me.
Oh, I also get Ivana Milicevic. I used to get her all the time. She and I actually know each other.
LB: I’m a good dog cuddler. I’m a moderate chef. I enjoy taking to the pen. I’m okay at it.
AVC: Does that mean writing?
LB: Yeah. I could take to the pen. I would cuddle furry animals. I do enjoy cooking.
I am also a tremendous organizer, so I could organize people’s lives or something. I’m a good pep talker, so I could maybe get into that. Maybe life coaching. Not that I’m an authority, but I have a lot of brothers and sisters—I also have two younger sisters—so I’m sort of a go-to for pep talks. I could say, like, “Do Pep Talks With Lake Bell.” Maybe like a pep talk where you could come in some sort of non-denominational booth. Any religion. It would be a pep-talk booth.
AVC: That seems marketable.
LB: It could work. We’d just break it down. And we could call it, “Let’s Get Into It With Lake Bell.”
LB: I do. I collect handkerchiefs. I know that’s sort of old-timey, but my mom started the collection for me and I now I have a bunch. Basically, I have a myriad of beautiful handkerchiefs and I carry them like a grandmother in my purse. And I opt for hankies in any situation.
AVC: That probably comes in handy with a baby.
LB: It is. You always have hankies for spit up. They’re also cool-looking to them, so it’s like, “Okay, why don’t we make it into a knot or a bow and then it becomes a toy.” It’s really helpful. Or “This is dirty, let me wipe it down.” It’s multi-faceted.
LB: I probably would have a chicken parmesan sandwich from Parm. Have you been to Parm?
AVC: I haven’t, but it sounds delicious.
LB: Oh my Jesus Christ.
AVC: Where is it?
LB: It’s in Manhattan. I would have that from Parm. And I’d also get the side salad they have. They’ve got an Italian side salad and it’s amazing. It’s part of the experience of having the Parm sandwich. I get that you’re like, “Death row, why salad?” But it works. And then for dessert… God, I’m getting hungry. Let me just think about that. I think I just want really sumptuous, gooey chocolate chip cookies that are fresh out of the oven.
AVC: Crispy or soft?
LB: Not crispy. No, no, no. Soft. Just like so sumptuous. Just gooey and dangerously soft, like it’s going to fall apart.
AVC: What would you want to drink?
LB: With my Parm sandwich, I would probably have an Aperol spritzer. And then, with dessert, I would have a frozen hot chocolate from Serendipity. That’s from my childhood. If my life was ending, I would want to regress a little bit.
Bonus 12th question from John Hodgman: “If you had to live in only one United State or Canadian province for the rest of your life and you couldn’t leave that state or province’s borders, what would it be?”
LB: One state?
AVC: Yeah. So if you say New York, you’re in New York forever. No leaving.
LB: I guess it’s sort of obvious, but I’m going to say California. You’re covering a lot of territory. You’ve got the beach, you’ve got deserts, you’ve got snow, you’ve got quasi-multicultural environments where you kind of feel like you’re in Mexico, but you’re not, but you feel like you’ve traveled to another country. You’ve got sea lions. We’ve got a lot here. There are many reasons to be in California. I know half of it’s going to fall into the ocean and all that stuff, but I still feel like there’s enough to go around. Also, all my friends are there.
AVC: And what do you want to ask the next person?
LB: What’s the best advice you never got?