“We had to drink them. For many takes,” Geere reflected, nauseated, when I asked about the scene in August. “I finally was like ‘I’m not drinking mayonnaise!’ and they used yogurt to simulate the mayonnaise. It’s still gross, but not as gross,” Cash chimed in. “It was warm and rank,” Geere shuddered. “It was horrible,” Cash agreed.
On another series, this might just be another tale from the set, a reminder that acting is a job, not just a lark. But food is one of the defining elements of “You’re The Worst,” and so Jimmy and Gretchen’s failure is about more than simply a tough shoot for the actors who play these lovable train wrecks. Their horrible cocktails are an example of all the ways the pair are trying, and failing, to care for each other.
Jimmy and Gretchen aren’t alone in being defined by food. Edgar, a veteran struggling to define himself in terms other than his post-traumatic stress disorder, shows his love for Jimmy by cooking him elaborate meals; when Jimmy started dating Gretchen in the show’s first season, Edgar encourages the relationship by coming up with special dishes for the couple. Gretchen measures her comfort in her relationship with Jimmy by whether she’s willing to be seen with him at a fancy restaurant. Gretchen and her best friend Lindsay (Kether Donohue) mooch free samples from a frozen yogurt shop and meet regularly at a diner, and the show gives each woman her own, distinct style of eating. Gretchen’s constantly trying to stuff more food into her mouth than will actually fit, while Lindsay often ends up eating with her hands, particularly in moments of despair. And when Jimmy discovers that Gretchen has been lying to her parents about nearly every aspect of her life and reveals to them that actually she’s a hard-drinking rap publicist, Gretchen’s father punishes her by forcing her to polish off an entire glass of milk all at once.
“Our characters eat a lot. I think at the end of the day, food is probably near the front of everyone’s mind nearly at all times. We’re animals, and we need to feed in order to live,” series creator Stephen Falk told me when I asked him about this aspect of the series in August. “And we’re also sensualists, and the characters in ‘You’re The Worst,’ they’re hedonists. And so they have big appetites for sex, for booze and for food.”
For Desmin Borges, who plays Edgar, using food as a means of caretaking was a natural outgrowth of his own experiences.
“I cook a lot, some … of my favorite memories as a child are cooking with my grandmother in the kitchen,” he recalled. “That’s how I learned to cook. I learned how to tie my shoes in that kitchen, I learned to put money away into a savings account and a checking account. So I equate food, cooking food, with love and teaching and being part of … a family. For me, it’s a very natural impetus for Edgar to do that. I have a lot of memories to use.”
Donohue sees Lindsay’s lust for food and sex as just one of the ways in which “You’re The Worst” treats women with bodies like hers differently than a more conventional sitcom might.
“I must say, I think more women in television need to be shown eating,” she told me. “And I think what’s great about playing Lindsay, and one of the things that excites me and inspires me as a female and as an actress, I think it’s nice to represent a curvy woman on television who can eat and be funny and sexy and gross at times. On television, especially with sitcoms, things are so cookie cutter. You either have the cute skinny little actress who isn’t funny, or in male-dominated comedies, you see the pretty girls that don’t get to make jokes. Or you get the bigger girls that are funny. It’s one or the other.”
The feminist element of the show’s approach to food is important to Falk, too.
“It’s really important to me to show that side of them, show that they’re passionate human beings who like to consume things, and particularly to show the girls eating,” he reflected. “I think that’s important. I’m about to have a girl, about to be a father to a girl. I think it’s important for me to try to make a world where she doesn’t feel ashamed of her appetites.”
As for the couple at the core of “You’re The Worst”? “[Edgar] has his own stuff going on this year, which distracts him from the house situation. So we have to start doing it ourselves,” Geere explained, suggesting that the pair have to start truly taking care of each other. This being “You’re The Worst,” disaster is inevitable. “We don’t do a very good job of it,” Cash cautions. But whatever else happens between them, “You’re The Worst” will continue to be one of television’s most truly delicious shows.