Jackie Woodman dreams of taking Hollywood by storm with the screenplay she talks about finishing.
In her favor: She’s bright, witty and (however dismal her romantic life) highly presentable.
Her problem areas: discipline and drive, found only as trace elements in her personal makeup.
Speaking of drive, she doesn’t. Best friend Tara, a ditzy underling at a film production company, is usually willing to haul Jackie around.
But how can anyone live in L.A. and not be a motorist?
“I was born without the use of a car, so, to me, it seems normal,” Jackie might explain, witheringly deadpan.
On “The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman,” a buddy comedy set against the vanities of Tinseltown, Jackie is seldom at a loss for words — unless they’re for her screenplay.
Her workday is always subject to be halted for a few cocktails or a nap. But even shirking in a bubble bath, she has plenty to say.
“With an open heart,” she petitions from her tub, “I ask the universe for the focus to finish my ... screenplay, the patience to tolerate my boss and her sycophantic assistant” — Jackie makes ends meet writing for a cheesy celeb magazine — “and for the gift of a week without adult acne.”
The eight-episode “Jackie Woodman” premieres at 11 p.m. EDT Friday on the IFC channel. And it poses an inevitable question for Laura Kightlinger, its star (also its creator, executive producer and co-writer): How much of Jackie did she borrow from herself?
“Oh,” she laughs during a recent interview, “I’d say 90 percent.”
Could that be?
The 37-year-old Kightlinger, while not exactly a household name, can point to more than minor accomplishments. She’s a standup comic with HBO specials to her name. She was a writer-producer on “Will & Grace,” with a recurring role as Nurse Sheila. She logged a season at “Saturday Night Live.” Besides “Jackie Woodman,” she’s currently appearing on the Louis C.K. sitcom, “Lucky Louie” (Sundays on HBO).
On the personal front: After a long relationship and amicable parting with Jack Black, the 5-foot-10 brunette has recently been dating another guy who, presumably, can keep her amused: “He’s a Groundling,” she reports.
One more thing: In real life, she drives.
“Although I really hate it,” Kightlinger admits. “When I first got to L.A., I was having a really hard time staying awake at the wheel. I have been diagnosed as having sleep apnea.”
Not another ‘Entourage’So she originally pitched her series to another network as “Asleep at the Wheel,” which was going to be about someone who had narcolepsy. “This is 99 percent gonna go,” the network told her. Then a week later: “No, we’re not gonna do it.”
“But IFC bought it, and we took out the narcolepsy part and made Jackie a drug abuser.”
Bingo! Especially since, for Jackie’s car scenes with Tara, co-star Nicholle Tom is at the wheel.
“It’s Nicholle who has to talk AND drive,” says Kightlinger, clearly pleased by this arrangement. “But she’s so upbeat and ready for everything. She leaves the sarcasm to me.”
Although comedies set inside the show-biz industry are hardly unique these days, the focus of “Jackie Woodman” is mainly the two childhood chums as they battle their outsider status.
“I hope there’s more to it than a gee-it’s-hard-to-make-it-in-the-business kind of show,” Kightlinger says. “I don’t want it to look like a cheap ‘Entourage.’ Anyway, it’s about two women NOT making it, instead of young guys who are being handed the world.”
If any comparison to “Jackie Woodman” applies, it would be the tart nihilism of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” where the monstrously successful Larry David dedicates himself to never leaving well enough alone. On a similar track, even when Jackie catches a break, she is sure to sabotage it.
Kightlinger, by contrast, seems to have made the most of difficult circumstances.
She grew up in Jamestown, N.Y., on food stamps, the child of a single mother who sent flowers to herself on special occasions. She recalls being the sort of kid predisposed to making wisecracks that spurred the other kids to say, “You’re weird!”
But at Emerson College she found kindred spirits in a comedy troupe called This is Pathetic.
Then, after graduation and a quandary over what should happen next, she chose standup as her profession. “It seemed like the most frightening, self-abusive thing I could do.”
Sizing up her career since then, she acknowledges, “I’m all over the place, and I consider myself a bit of a scrounger: ‘What will I do next, so I’m not broke?’
“But considering I never really had a plan, I think it’s worked out well. And now I’ve got this show — a place on the dial to do something with a little bit of freedom. I’d love to do this show for five years, and make it better and better.”
Sounds like she’s at the wheel, wide awake, and loving it.