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Lisa Kudrow, Comeback Queen

Lisa Kudrow, Comeback Queen

Photography by Paul Jasmin

Before Tori Spelling, before Lindsay Lohan, before Khloé and Lamar, there was Lisa Kudrow’s Valerie Cherish, reality TV’s original punching bag. Her journey to self-realization was abruptly halted when HBO pulled the plug on the satirical comedy after a single season, a decision that proved premature. A comeback for The Comeback has been in the cards for as long as the show has been off the air, and its heralded return to HBO reunites fans with Cherish 10 years after her infamous double-vomit scene, in which she and her misogynist director, Paulie G., both throw up after she punches him while dressed as a giant cupcake. Cherish is now older, but don’t expect her to be much wiser. “She’s still herself, and thinks she’s something of a gift,” says Kudrow. “But that’s what’s fun about being Valerie Cherish. She just has decided that she’s worthwhile, no matter what.”

On Mistaken Identities
“Back then it didn’t even dawn on me that anyone would think Valerie was me, because she has red hair. Then when it aired, my sister went to a party and some people from Texas went, ‘Oh, we like your sister’s new reality show—her husband is darling.’ And she replied, ‘My sister’s not on a reality show.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, with her husband, Mark…’ And she said, ‘Her husband’s name is Michel. He’s French.’ That was the first time I went, ‘Uh-oh.’ ”

The New Valerie
“This season, things are just a little bigger. Valerie’s not in a four-year marriage—it’s a 14-year marriage. Also, her mind-set about reality and dignity is a little different, because we’ve all since accepted, Oh, there’s probably a camera somewhere. You know, someone flips a table: ‘Well, I guess that’s good TV.’ Back then, she really thought everything about her was fantastic, and the only time she started to crack was when she began to suspect she’d been taken advantage of. We have a little more of that earlier on this time around.”

On Joan Rivers
“The thing about Joan Rivers is that she was so fearless, so early on—that was a real inspiration. You have to be fearless in this business anyway. It’s like there’s no choice but to jump off the cliff, and she did it every time she opened her mouth.”

Harsh Reality
“My husband has a hard time watching The Comeback. When we were first making the show, he came to visit the set and saw a scene and said, ‘Who wrote that? Who’s making my wife do that?’ And they replied, ‘Uh, your wife wrote it.’ A couple of years ago, I watched all of them again. And with the first two, I thought, Wow, this is brutal. There was no violence and no sex, and yet it was really uncomfortable. But that’s how it is everywhere. Everyone has to suffer some kind of indignity to get along in his or her professional pursuit.”

The Comeback premieres Nov. 9 on HBO. Watch the trailer below:

Tags: Television

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