Tawny Newsome is one of the hardest-working funnywomen in show business, starring on Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ and Brockmire, cohosting the podcast Yo, Is This Racist?, and touring with the band Four Lost Souls. If you’re not familiar with the Second City vet yet, you will be soon: This week sees the premiere of Netflix’s new workplace comedy Space Force (from The Office creator Greg Daniels), in which she stars alongside Steve Carell, John Malkovich, and Ben Schwartz as helicopter pilot Angela Ali. Here, Newsome takes on our travel questionnaire, telling us about the joys of solo walking, where she’d like to go in Japan, and the thing that would make her Nana “jump out of her grave and smack [her] across the mouth.”
1. Which of your Space Force costars would you most want to travel with?
I think Diana Silvers and I should go do the W trek in Patagonia. She’s an avid hiker and adventure-woman like me. We bonded right away talking about solo hiking and her time on the PCT [Pacific Crest Trail]. I think we’d have an absolute blast. We’d also know when to leave each other alone and read books in our tents.
2. You’re a fixture in the podcast world. Which ones do you always have loaded on your phone for a flight?
Usually Nicole Byer’s Why Won’t You Date Me?, because it feels like a fun hang with friends—who are usually strangers, which I have to remember when I run into them at industry events.
3. Which place has the naturally funniest people?
England. Most folks there run circles around us in the wit department. I’ll spend two hours in a pub with friends of people I know there, just nodding and losing my mind, barely able to get a word in, much less keep up. When they finally ask what I do, I just slowly die as I’m forced to tell them “professional comedian.” Absolutely devastating.
4. Where’s the first place you want to go when social distancing is over?
Japan. Tokyo is my favorite city, and I was lucky enough to spend a month wandering the country back in 2016. I think when I go back, I’d take a good amount of time and maybe get a cheap apartment someplace like Koenji or Shimokitazawa, making sure to weekend it up to the Alps at least once. I’d probably end the trip with a flight down to the islands. I’ve always dreamed of walking the gnarled forests of Yakushima—seems like a good place to get reasonably lost for a little bit.
5. Have you been supporting any small businesses during this time that you want to give a shout out to?
Amoeba Records! They were my first real record store growing up and hold such a special place in my heart as a musician. I have fond memories of going there to spend my allowance money on Hootie and the Blowfish CDs (are you… blown away at how cool I am?) and just-as-fond memories playing in-store events there with my band, Four Lost Souls. They’re trying to stay afloat. Please check out their GoFundMe if you can, or order some records online!
6. When you travel, do you dress for the occasion or choose comfort?
I’d like to think I’ve mastered the art of doing both. It’s important to be comfortable, but my Nana would jump out of her grave and smack me across the mouth if she saw me get on a plane in pajama bottoms. (No shade if you, reader, are currently wearing pajamas. Do you. You didn’t have my Nana.) Athleta has great joggers in nice fabric that doesn’t look too loungey.
7. Are you watching any shows that are feeding your wanderlust?
Giri / Haji on Netflix. It satisfies my wanderlust for two of my favorite places, Tokyo and London, with a bit of English seaside thrown in there.
8. What’s the most transformative or meaningful trip you’ve ever taken?
If you’ve never solo walked, I highly recommend it. My first solo walk was down the Rota Vicentina, in the Alentejo region of Portugal. You walk north to south atop stunning coastal cliffs, with the Atlantic at your right, and stay in these pristine, inexpensive hostels along the way. I met a German mother and daughter on that trip, and we all walked together one of the days. I was quickly picking my way across a tricky, rocky crossing, wearing this overly heavy pack, when the mother called out to me, “Tawny, wow! You are quite a fine alpinist!” I mean, a German, giving props to an American for being a good mountain walker? I’ve been absolutely living off that compliment for years. I even named my production company and indie record label after it: Fine Alpinist Records.
9. Is there one meal from a past vacation that you can’t stop thinking about?
Clamato. Paris, France. I was in Paris shooting a commercial, which was an extremely busy few days, so I made sure to tack on three days in the city to eat and drink and wander. I tried to get reservations at Septime, because my chef-friend back in Chicago had recommended it (always go where chefs tell you!) but couldn’t get in on short notice. I ended up at their sister restaurant, Clamato, with bar seats (my favorite way to fancy-meal), a bottle of something bubbly, and the best meal I’ve ever had. I remember this perfect dish with basil oil on sardines on toast, maybe? And now I love sardines. I’m a sardines person now!
10. What’s one thing you can’t leave home without?
Bathing suit. Even if you think you’re going someplace cold. I once went to Cuenca, Ecuador, which, because of its high altitude, can be pretty chilly—only to discover a perfect little natural hot spring in the nearby, aptly named town of Baños. Always bring a suit. Or at least a sports bra and some shorts and no shame.
11. Are there any songs, albums, or artists that are always on your travel playlist?
Teen Dream by Beach House. I listen to it usually during takeoff. It’s become the sound of flying for me.
12. If you could travel back in time, when and where would you go?
I’d just go back to, like, NYC in the ’70s and get a hold of more wide-leg Levi’s in my size. The vintage ones are hard to find in my inseam, and they just don’t make denim like they used to.
13. Which famous person—living or dead—would be your dream seatmate?
I’d snag Wilbur or Orville Wright. Okay, so the obvious reason, of course, is to basically be like “How does this thing stay up here, dawg?” But also, to settle something personal. There’s some family lore on my mom’s side that we’re actually related to the Wright Brothers. My great-grandma Vinnie’s last name was Wright, and I have a handful of aunts and uncles who swear up and down that they’re kin. However, when another family member recently looked into it, she could find no such link. I’d love to know once and for all. And before you ask, no, I’m not going to do one of those ancestry.com things, because when this country goes full-on Gattaca, I don’t want them having my DNA, ok?
14. What’s your favorite way to stay entertained in-flight?