Behrs serves up laughs as one of '2 Broke Girls'

Beth Behrs stars as riches-to-rags waitress Caroline.
Beth Behrs stars as riches-to-rags waitress Caroline.
Posted: September 26, 2011

* 2 BROKE GIRLS. 8:30 tonight,

CBS3.

IT'S WEIRD to think a television show that includes the line "This is the sound that dries up my vagina" within the first five minutes could be considered retro, but that's exactly what "2 Broke Girls" is.

Unlike the mockumentary sitcom style of "Modern Family" or "The Office," "2 broke Girls" shoots in front of a live studio audience with multiple cameras. To Beth Behrs, who plays the riches-to-rags Caroline, the familiar sounds of real people laughing at the jokes reminds her of the shows she used to love, like "Friends" and "Will and Grace."

"It feels like you have opening night every week," said Behrs, who debuts as a TV-series regular in "2 Broke Girls" but comes from a musical-theater background. "You wait backstage for your 'entrance,' and it's fun to hear reaction to the jokes because you're not in living rooms with people watching, hearing that they laugh."

About 19.1 million viewers tuned in for the laughs (and the laugh track) last week when "2 Broke Girls" premiered. They met Behrs' Caroline, a rich and pampered socialite who is left penniless after her father is arrested for Bernie Madoff-esque crimes. She takes a job in a Brooklyn diner, where she meets mean waitress Max, played by Bryn Mawr native Kat Dennings.

Behrs, born in Lancaster and raised in Virginia, was in Philly last week to appear at an event at Penn's Wharton Business School. That's where her character matriculated (with a wink and a nod from "2 Broke Girls" co-creator Whitney Cummings, Penn '03). Although it seems ridiculous that a woman with an MBA would be stuck waitressing at a diner, Behrs justified the plotting. "[Caroline] is so well-known that her name has been ruined," Behrs said. "I don't think the business degree matters."

But the degree does make sense in terms of Caroline's character: She may be blonde, beautiful and naive, but she's not stupid.

"We're not going 'dumb blonde' at all, which is one of the things I loved when I read the script. How often do you get to play that?" Behrs said. "That's all thanks to [co-creators] Michael [Patrick King] and Whitney. They wanted to write authentic women. He did that on 'Sex and the City,' as well."

Besides playing a fully realized comic female, Behrs is also grateful that she's not simply a straight (wo)man, a launching pad to make the men in the show seem funnier. She and Dennings are the ones making the jokes.

And the jokes are frequently edgy, as evidenced by the aforementioned vagina line. "You have to push some sort of barrier. Comedy is real situations that kind of shock you, too," Behrs said about the show's humor. She sees "2 Broke Girls" as part of a long tradition of women breaking barriers in comedy, from grand ladies of comedy Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett to those in the raunchy summer megahit "Bridesmaids."

Although "2 Broke Girls" has earned kudos for its fully realized portrait of funny women, the male supporting cast suffers from ethnic stereotyping, from the lecherous Russian cook Oleg (Jonathan Kite) to the Asian diner owner Han Lee (Matthew Moy) to "Saturday Night Live" alum Garrett Morris as the diner cashier, who plays like an extra in a blaxploitation flick. But Behrs promises that the show fleshes out these one-dimensional characters as the show progresses. "How much can you do in 22 minutes?" Behrs said. "We need time to develop. You'll see a lot more as the episodes go on."

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