Each week our listeners send in questions about how to behave (you can check out more each week by subscribing to our podcast). Answering them this time around is actress Kristen Bell.
She’s starred in series like “House Of Lies,” the cult hit “Veronica Mars,” and she was the off-screen narrator of the scandalous teen drama “Gossip Girl.” Bell also voiced the sweet princess Anna in the mega-hit Disney film “Frozen.” If you have a child, they are probably still singing songs from that.
This week, her new film “Bad Moms” hits theaters. She stars alongside Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, and a slew of other funny people. Check out a preview below:
Rico Gagliano: Kristen it is an honor to have you on this show.
Kristen Bell: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I can’t believe you had time to be on our show!
Kristen Bell: You know, for you guys, I will make it work.
Rico Gagliano: Oh my Gosh!
Brendan Francis Newnam: And not only are you a busy actor though, you yourself are a mother.
Kristen Bell: Yes.
Brendan Francis Newnam: This is a movie about a group of overburdened helicopter moms who decide to live a little bit. And they maybe end up living too much. To the point where they’re drunkenly trashing supermarkets.
Kristen Bell: Do they though? How much is too much?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, I don’t know. Maybe that’s a good mom thing to do.
Rico Gagliano: Well, how about you? How do you let off steam from being a mom?
Kristen Bell: I will say I have trouble staying up past 10:30. So mine would not be night of partying, but it definitely would be [sighs] sadly, it’s so much more similar to my character, who is just a mousy little overburdened mom where I have a monologue about my dream day, which is where I get in a car accident — but not a car accident with, like, fire — where I just get slightly injured and I get to go to the hospital for two weeks and everyone comes to visit me and the nurses pamper me and it’s all covered by my insurance. That’s not far off from a dream scenario.
Rico Gagliano: But what would trigger that fantasy? What’s a bad day at the Bell household?
Kristen Bell: Well it’s mostly when everybody’s screaming. Everybody just screams. And if that’s also a day where they’ve woken up really early because… everything about kids is awesome. But the one thing that sucks about them is they wake up so early. That’s really the one thing that sucks.
Because everything else you can justify. Sure, you have to bathe them and wipe their butt. But their skin is so soft and they smell so yummy. It’s like your own personal heroin. But the thing that I can’t find the joy in is when they wake up.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I don’t have a kid. Is it possible to trick them with black out curtains?
Kristen Bell: Somewhat, yes. If you set the scene perfectly, and you’re militant about it like we are. We have blackout curtains. We have a white noise machine. The problem is the three-year-old now– the white noise machine is like an old tablet, and so now she knows how to use it.
So the other night, it was 11:30, and we just hear blasting from her room Waylon Jennings. Blasting! And we run in there, the lights are on…
Rico Gagliano: The three-year-old?
Kristen Bell: Yeah. And they share a room, the one-and-a-half-year-old and the three-year-old. The three-year-old is blasting Waylon Jennings and she’s screaming “It’s for daddy! It’s WayJenns!”
Rico Gagliano: That’s beautiful. But I do love the idea that you would put parental controls on that tablet so she’s not allowed to access Waylon Jennings. Not pornography.
Kristen Bell: Like I know how to use anything on that tablet other than the white noise is cute of you to think.
Brendan Francis Newnam: She would be great at karaoke, it sounds like. A great companion for that.
Kristen Bell: I certainly hope so.
Rico Gagliano: Well, actually, speaking of singing we would be remiss if we didn’t mention “Frozen.” Both of us have friends with young daughters who basically never stop singing the songs from this movie.
Kristen Bell: Please apologize to them for me. I’m so sorry.
Rico Gagliano: Oh, nonsense! But you yourself grew up kind of a musical theater nerd. You studied musical theater in school. What was your “Frozen”?
Kristen Bell: Uh, I think it was “The Little Mermaid.” I was very into “The Little Mermaid.” It came out around ’89. I was prime time for that. I also really like “Aladdin.” But really all those movies. It’s funny because growing up I was obsessed with Disney animation and I dreamed of being a part of it. That was kind of like the first thing on my bucket list when I was six or seven years old.
I remember having my old boom box and putting “Little Mermaid” on in the background so I could hear the orchestration and pressing record and singing all of her songs into the boom box. I didn’t really know why. And then, of course, my friends in high school found those tapes and, you know, embarrassment ensued, but it really was a lifelong dream fulfillment for me.
Brendan Francis Newnam: What’s interesting is you sang “Little Mermaid,” but your daughter sings Waylon Jennings. Are you concerned about her future?
Kristen Bell: No.
Brendan Francis Newnam: She might be an outlaw.
Kristen Bell: You know what? If she’s an outlaw, more power to her. My husband always makes this comparison with us, because we grew up about 20 minutes outside of each other in Michigan. And he was very into drugs for a very long time, and I was very straight and narrow and studied musical theater. And he came to L.A. and just drank a lot. And we have very, very different perspectives on the world.
And yet, somehow, we exited the freeway at the same stop. You know, we’re living in the same house, we have the same kids. So I don’t really subscribe to feeling like any characteristic of anyone’s personality can define them. Anybody can end up anywhere.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And for those who don’t know, your husband is Dax Shepard, who is also a very successful actor.
Kristen Bell: Cutest one there is.
Brendan Francis Newnam: You’re not biased. [Everyone laughs.]
Rico Gagliano: That is the sweet wisdom that we hope you’ll bring to our listeners’ etiquette questions. You ready for these?
Kristen Bell: Let’s do it.
Is “XOXO” too casual now?
Brendan Francis Newnam: This first on comes from J.R. in L.A. and JR writes: “I work with someone who used the letters XO in some of her emails to colleagues. As in ‘XO, Janet.’ I feel like that phrase is becoming more casual and less like, ‘Love You!’ But still it strikes me as weird. Is it OK in your book? I figure you would know if anyone.”
Rico Gagliano: Yes, and of course “XOXO” is how your character in “Gossip Girl” signed off in every episode.
Kristen Bell: Well, I have strong feelings about this one and it might surprise you. I feel like because text and email, it’s so difficult to establish tone. I use emojis, and XO’s, and I end almost every sentence in a smiley face. So, I abuse them left and right.
That said, I think if you’re genuinely trying to say, “I love you,” maybe you should be doing it face to face. Or you can elaborate a little so the reader knows that it’s more than just a casual XO.
Rico Gagliano: So it’s like, “Real talk, XOXO.”
Kristen Bell: That would get the point across.
Brendan Francis Newnam: “Real talk, heart emoji.”
Car share etiquette
Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Bob in Chicago. Straight forward question: “How long is too long to borrow someone’s car without paying them?”
Kristen Bell: Ooh. Well, there are a couple factors in this I think, Bob. It depends on the financial stability of the person you’re borrowing from and the borrower. But I think let’s say both people were equal, I would say at two weeks, you should probably throw something down.
Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s generous! I was gonna say, that’s like house guests are like fish, after three days they stink. I was gonna apply the same thing here, which is: three days is probably tops. Because otherwise… you know, the infrastructure of keeping up a car like insurance and money.
Kristen Bell: Yeah, that’s true. Well, you know what? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news guys, but honesty is the best policy. You ask the person, “How long are you comfortable with me borrowing this car before you feel a resentment if I weren’t financially kicking something in?
Rico Gagliano: I don’t know. Honesty sounds like crazy talk. Just slow simmering…
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right you guys can sort that out.
Bypassing passive-aggressive people
Brendan Francis Newnam: So here’s our last question and this one comes from anonymous in Minnesota. Anonymous writes: “I’m from the Midwest and I feel like I’m constantly fielding passive aggressive comments from family. When my partner and I share news of what we’ve done or upcoming plans, a couple of his family members just say, ‘Ooh that’s expensive!’ Or, ‘Well, if you can afford it…’ in that certain tone. I don’t think they realize the way it comes across. What would you say to them?”
Kristen Bell: Hmm…
Rico Gagliano: You, a Midwesterner.
Kristen Bell: Yeah. Well, I’ve been in this position before and it’s… you have to be honest about how something makes you feel if you want anything to change. My therapist once told me something brilliant. He said, “You plus this problem equals chaos. So which is gonna change? What in the math is gonna change?”
Brendan Francis Newnam: Interesting.
Kristen Bell: You have to say to yourself, “It’s simpler than you think.” You have to say, “I know you might not mean it this way.” Give them the benefit of the doubt. Say, “When you say things like that, it makes me feel like you’re making a comment on how I spend my money, or how I live, and it make me feel like you’re judging me.”
Rico Gagliano: Kristen, it strikes me, you’re an incredibly honest person who’s telling us to say a lot of honest things. And your job is to pretend to be other people for a living.
Kristen Bell: Yes.
Rico Gagliano: How does that work?
Kristen Bell: [Laughs.] I don’t know. I think maybe there is such a thing as too much honesty. So when I’m too honest in my real life, I just jump into another character and lie for a while.
Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s right.
Also, my strategy for passive aggressive people is to answer them as if the question was literal. So if they were like, “Well, if you can afford it,” you would say, ” Yeah, we can.” Or “Oh, that’s expensive,” you’re like, “You’re right, it kind of is expensive.”
Kristen Bell: By the way, I don’t hate that idea.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right see. And I can’t tell if that was passive aggressive or not, but I’ll take it at face value.
Kristen Bell: No, it wasn’t!
Rico Gagliano: All right, Kristen Bell. Thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave passive aggressively.
Kristen Bell: Of course! Thanks, guys.