Casey Wilson Chats with Jessi Klein and Andrew Rannells – A Chicago Humanities Festival Event

Jessi Klein, Casey Wilson, and Andrew Rannells - Photo courtesy of Chicago Humanities Festival
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The Chicago Humanities Festival presents Casey Wilson discussing her memoir with Jessi Klein and Andrew Rannells, both familiar with the rewards and pitfalls of publishing a memoir themselves. The trio will present their views on YouTube on May 12 as part of a full house of Chicago Humanities Festival events running from April 20 to May 27, 2021 and featuring authors, academics, rockstars, socially aware activists, scholars, and journalists.

Memoir Book Jacket – Photo courtesy of Chicago Humanities Festival

The May 9 event focuses on comedian/actress Cathryn Rose “Casey” Wilson as she shares her ideas with writer/comedian Jessi Klein and actor Andrew Rannells. An American actress, comic, and screenwriter, Wilson is perhaps best known from her role as Penny Hartz on the ABC comedy series “Happy Endings.” But you might also recognize her from supporting roles in “Gone Girl” and “Julie and Julia,” to name a few. Wilson’s first major TV appearance was as a cast member for two seasons on Saturday Night Live (2008-2009). Wilson dates her burgeoning interest in acting from the age of nine, when her father built her a homemade stage in the family backyard. From that point, it was all uphill for this performer – and now she will delight audiences with her memoir.

Casey Wilson – Photo by Mike Rosenthal

American actress and stand-up comedian Jessi Klein dates her first live appearance as a panelist on NPR’s 2011 comedy-news-quiz show, “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell me!” She was the director of development for Comedy Central and head writer and executive producer for “Inside Amy Schumer.” In 2016, she released her debut book, “You’ll Grow Out of It,” which quickly became a New York Times bestseller.

Jessi Klein – Photo courtesy of Chicago Humanities Festival

Film, stage, television, and voice actor Andrew Rannells is best known for a role he originated on Broadway – that of Elder Price in the 2011 musical success, “The Book of Mormon.” Rannells was nominated for a Tony Award for best performance by a leading actor in a musical, a well-deserved accolade for his excellent work in the play. He received a second Tony Award nomination in 2017 for his performance as Whizzer in the 2016 revival of “Falsettos.” Rannells also published his memoir, “Too Much is not Enough” in 2019. His series of essays begins in his childhood in Omaha, Nebraska, and continues up to 2005, when he made his Broadway debut in “Hairspray.”

Andrew Rannells – Photo by Luke Fontana

The extraverted group clearly have a lot of common, not the least of which is their entry into memoir writing. Questions and observations abound as the trio discuss subjects like “Did you hesitate about including anything in the memoir?” and “What was your favorite essay/chapter?” Wilson brings her mother to life in the pages of the book, from playing games with the kids as Wilson was growing up – and lightly sloshing around in her waterbed. Family plays a major role in her memoir – but she cautions that she is careful to present material from her perspective alone. Her relationship with her husband is another important focus in the memoir. From light-hearted and nostalgic to darker and raw, Wilson tries to convey to the reader a real sense of who she is. As her guests note in the closing moments of the piece, “You speak of your grief very honestly…it’s inspirational…to see how things work out.” Wilson quietly adds, “It was cathartic to write this.”

Chicago Humanities Festival events are all virtual and run on YouTube from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. (CST) on April 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29, May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, and 27. The segment with Casey Wilson, Jessi Klein, and Andrew Rannells airs on May 12, 2021 at 7 p.m. (CST). For further information, go online.