When I travel, what I see and experience is so inspiring to me—and often ends up in my show. Take this story from last year, when my friends Darren Criss and Mia Swier invited me to their wedding in New Orleans. I’d never been to a destination wedding before, but my two gay besties, Maneesh and Andrew, were gonna be there, so I decided to do it, even though I had to be in some place called Chillicothe, Ohio, to shoot the movie Holler two days later.
This was my second time in New Orleans, and the whole experience was magical. We got there on the night of Krewe du Vieux, which is this big Mardi Gras parade, and then we had the wedding, which was spectacular. It was in the garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art, and after the ceremony they had a second line lead us to the back of the museum, where they were serving oysters. When the bride and the groom came out, they came down opposite stairs, and Darren grabbed a mic and Mia strapped on a bass and they broke into “The Ballroom Blitz”—it was unbelievable.
The next day, Maneesh and Andrew and I went to Commander’s Palace for brunch, but they turned us away because the boys weren’t wearing collared shirts. So we had to go shopping. (I bought a belt, because I didn’t want to be left out.) When we finally sat down, we had a three-and-a-half-hour brunch. I was like, “OK, this is what brunch is supposed to be!” I was so on board.
All of the other wedding guests left the following day, so on the advice of my friend Diane, I went to this place called Napoleon House, in the French Quarter. At the restaurant, I saw a little nook with all this writing on the wall, and I was like, “Oh, I have to sit in that nook.” The hostess recognized me, so she put me in this beautiful spot in this gorgeous, legendary place, and I sat there and opened my computer and wrote for four hours—something I hadn’t done in a long time, not since I had written season three of Better Things. I was super-inspired by the city. I was blown away by the art and the history, and also just the trash. (If you drop something on the street in the Quarter, you’ve got to burn it.) I loved walking around with a beer in my hand; I think that’s just the greatest thing ever. And I was so inspired by the people—especially the cab drivers, who were mostly women, single moms. How hard do you need to be to be a female cab driver in New Orleans? They were hard as nails. I was writing down every single thing that was happening to me, and I ended up writing an episode of the show in that four-hour window at Napoleon House.
While I was sitting in that nook, these two gentlemen came over. “It’s surreal watching you sit there and write,” one of them told me. “It’s like we’re watching your show!” We laughed, but what’s really funny is, they basically were, because I came back later and shot a New Orleans episode, which was an amalgamation of all those experiences. I always tell people who are trying to write, even if you’re not traveling, don’t sit at home or at your office. Pick up your computer and go to the train station or the airport and watch people coming in and out, greeting each other, just like that scene in Love Actually. Now, that’s inspiration.
New episodes of Pamela Adlon’s show Better Things air on FX every Thursday at
10 p.m. and stream the next day on FX on Hulu.