B-lister gets chummy with A-listers on Busy Tonight

Busy Philipps (far left) interviewing actress Kristen Bell on her late-night talk show, Busy Tonight.
Busy Philipps (left) interviewing actress Kristen Bell on her late-night talk show, Busy Tonight.PHOTO: E! ENTERTAINMENT

Who needs professional interviewers? Hollywood stars are increasingly interviewing one another in the media, bypassing reporters and TV presenters to promote themselves and their work directly.

The latest example is a new late-night talk show, Busy Tonight, which airs on Mondays at 10pm on E! Entertainment (StarHub TV Channel 441) and features chummy conversations between host and actress Busy Philipps and a slew of A-list celebrity guests.

Philipps, who appeared in television comedies such as Cougar Town (2009 to 2015) and Vice Principals (2016 to 2017), went from B-list performer to social-media star because of her hugely popular Instagram Stories.

Speaking to The Straits Times and other press in Los Angeles recently, she says she hopes to replicate the informal, intimate quality of those posts in her chats, which take place on a set that looks like it could be her living room.

The idea is to offer something different from the usual late-night American talk-show format, so do not expect her to grill or get confrontational with any of her guests.

The 39-year-old, whose Instagram posts offer a seemingly unfiltered look at the highs and lows of her life as well as encounters with her famous friends, says: "I don't want it to be stressful for the celebrities and guests coming onto the show - I want them to feel as comfortable as the people at home watching.

"It was definitely a thing that we were trying to crack and figure out the entire time: How do we make it intimate? How do we make it authentic?" adds Philipps, who is executive producer of the show together with actress Tina Fey, who created the cult sitcom 30 Rock (2006 to 2013) and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015 to present).

Busy Tonight continues the growing trend of celebrity-on-celebrity interviews in recent years.

What began as a marketing gimmick gathered steam as entertainers began expressing and promoting themselves directly through social media.

This soon spilled over into other media, with magazine profiles and podcasts where one star interviews another.

Last month, for instance, actress Gwyneth Paltrow chatted with fellow Oscar winner Julia Roberts in a podcast for her lifestyle brand, Goop.

Philipps - whose numerous Tinseltown connections date back to her stints on star-making TV shows such as Freaks And Geeks (1999 to 2000) and Dawson's Creek (2001 to 2003) - sees this as a good thing.

She believes she gets her famous guests - who have included actresses such as Roberts, Kristen Bell and Mindy Kaling as well as model Emily Ratajkowski - to open up more than they otherwise would, even when she does not know them that well personally.

"Like with Emily Ratajkowski - I know her a little, but I don't have her phone number or anything. But when she left, she was like: 'That was so great! It was like sitting and chatting with a friend.'"

The celebrities might also trust her more than they would a reporter, Philipps says.

"I think that tabloid culture is really unappealing to celebrities, but one thing that has happened with the boom of social media is that more celebrities and actors are more open now to sharing than they've been before.

"I think also, because of my reputation in this business and what I have projected into the world in my social media, (they know) I'm not out to get someone and trick someone into saying something mean about someone else.

"So they're not coming in with their guard up. 'Busy's not going to ask me about the guy that I dated or that dumped me,'"she adds.

"My goal is to put only positivity into the world, and so I think celebrities and actors respond to that and respond in kind."

• Busy Tonight airs on E! Entertainment (StarHub TV Channel 441) on Mondays at 10pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2018, with the headline 'B-lister gets chummy with A-listers on Busy Tonight'. Print Edition | Subscribe