Comedian June Diane Raphael On Why She’d Rather Be Called A ‘Bitch’ Than ‘Nice’: BUST Interview

by Courtney Bissonette


Whether it’s bringing other characters back down to reality with her biting wit on Grace and Frankie, or throwing in her two cents when questioning how your favorite bad movies made it to the big screen on the podcast How Did This Get Made, June Diane Raphael often has the last word. With the second season of Grace and Frankie under way and her new role in Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite, BUST was lucky enough to catch a few minutes with June. We talked to June about her Lady Dynamite role as one of many Karen Grishams, what’s in store for her character Brianna on Grace and Frankie, and what it means to be a part of a sitcom that celebrates women in ways we haven’t seen before. 

On Grace and Frankie, you smoke weed with Lily Tomlin, call dogs assholes, and Sam Waterston is afraid of you. That’s everything I want to be. But first things first, what is it like to play Jane Fonda’s daughter? 

Everything I want and more! It’s everything you might think it is. It’s a total dream come true. I stare at her. I watch her creepily. I watch her every move. She is a total joy to work with and to be around and to play her daughter is so awesome. I can’t believe I’m in a show where I pretend I share genetics with her. 

What does it mean to you to be a part of this show that celebrates not only women as main characters, but women over the age of 70 who are still allowed to be sexy?

It’s amazing. I just am really proud to be a part of it. I feel there is so much subversive stuff from the show from the older women and how they’re perceived. Men can pretty much become grey and distinguished and sexier, and women become a punchline and have their sexuality stripped from them. They become less intelligent, less appealing as they get older, and the show is really kind of flipping the script on that. I’m so proud to be a part of it. And I think it’s true, women age and we get better. We get more in touch with our sexuality. We come into our own as we get older, and our society has historically really only valued us when we are in our childbearing years. I think this show puts such a beautiful emphasis on our value as we age. And that’s the thing I am truthfully so proud to be a part of. 

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What does season 2 have in store for your character? 

I have a storyline with Frankie that has to do with her lubricant from the first season. Brianna, my character, takes the product on and we really go into business together. That is all I can say about that. It’s challenging, and I think there is a lot of comedy in what she wants out of the business because she is a hardcore business woman. You also get to see more of my character’s work environment and see how I’m trying to manage and deal with Frankie as we go through this process together.

You have so many projects in the work. Can you tell us about them? 

Casey Wilson and I are working on another feature together. We are kind of in the throes of that, and we are working on a TV idea together, which will be for us to star in once it’s done and ready. But the Maria Bamford show Lady Dynamite is so insane and brilliant and so different from Grace and Frankie, it’s sort of surreal and bizarre. I just think Maria Bamford is such a… I know people say this all the time, that she’s got a really singular voice and she’s really unique. No, no, no! No one else is unique. Marie Bamford is unique. That is someone who is actually very special and serious. To me, I love weird alternative comedy that is actually funny and not so alternative that its no longer comedy, and I think she is just so damn funny. She makes me laugh so hard. And her show, that I did a bunch of episodes of, is really special. I can’t wait for people to see it. 

Who do you play in Lady Dynamite?

Well, so much of the show takes place in Maria’s mind. There is a character called Karen Grisham that a bunch of us play. I play Karen Grisham the real estate agent, Jenny Slate plays Karen Grisham the life coach, and I believe Ana Gasteyer’s Karen Grisham is her agent. We are all the same person, the three of us play different parts of her life. It’s insane and amazing and there is one episode where the three of us come together, but it’s just bizarroland in the best way, it’s so funny. I just play the worst person you’ve ever met, the most despicable human. I’m trying to constantly get her to buy things that she can’t afford, and she is terrified of me.  

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That sounds hilarious. Is it fun to play despicable people more than nice people? 

You know what, I think I’m pretty bored by…. I just would never want someone to describe me as nice. I think that would mean I have no personality. And that would be really sad, even though I do think I’m a very nice person, and I’m a good person. I just would never want that to be the descriptor. So this particular character, Karen Grisham, is a heightened character in a heightened world, but that’s sort of different. But overall, the characters I’m drawn to I would never describe as nice. That would be so more boring. All people are really nice at the end of the day, of course, but if that’s what you’re leading with… I mean, look, I think that we are all nice, and we are all not nice.  I can also be a bitch about things that I really care about, and I’m really passionate about, and that’s okay too. I just feel, especially for women, that word really scared me. I would rather be called a bitch. 

That’s great because, as you know, this is for BUST magazine and we usually end on the question, “Are you a feminist?” 

I think I’ve answered that. Yes, of course, and I love the word. Yes, 100%. And to do a show with feminist icons is pretty unbelievable. I am very proud to be a feminist and don’t shy away from the word. 

But like, a bitchy feminist, and not a nice feminist? 

Yeah! That would be the best thing you could call me. 

Speaking of feminist icons, is there any chance we would be seeing a 9 to 5 reunion?                                                  

Not in the second season. Major spoiler alert. I think Netflix would get shut down. 

Season 2 of Grace and Frankie is out now and Lady Dynamite premieres on Netflix May 20th. You can also catch June on the brilliant podcast How Did This Get Made? 

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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