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'Will & Grace' Actress Megan Mullally Visited Us With Her 'Punk Vaudeville' Band

Nancy and Beth perform at KPCC in Pasadena on April 17, 2019. (Ruth Calichman/KPCC)
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By Andrea Gutierrez with John Horn & Jonathan Shifflett

Musical duo Nancy and Beth -- aka actresses Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt -- got their start in a pickup truck in Austin.

"There was also a ukulele involved," Hunt told The Frame.

While Mullally was in Austin shooting a film with husband Nick Offerman in 2011, Hunt showed Mullally around town. On a sweltering day, Hunt decided to play some music for Mullally. She parked the truck, turned on the AC, and asked Mullally to sing with her, while she strummed the ukulele.

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The two were taken by their own harmony, instantly. "I think the timbre of our voices goes really well together," Hunt said.

"You can hear from our annoying speaking voices that that might be the case," Mullally said (no judgment on our part). "We also have a kind of a psychic twin-ship, so that helps."

The duo -- they describe their style as "punk vaudeville" -- performed recently before a live audience at KPCC headquarters in Pasadena (which also happens to be LAist's headquarters). Their style is fitting for musicians perhaps better known as actors with a knack for comedy. Mullally catapulted to notoriety as Karen Walker in Will and Grace, as well as being known for her role alongside husband Offerman on Parks and Recreation, while Hunt was on Friday Night Lights.

Nancy and Beth perform at KPCC in Pasadena on April 17, 2019. (Ruth Calichman/KPCC)

In some ways, both Hunt and Mullally were destined to become performers. Singing was Mullally's first love. She memorized songs from the radio and her parents' vinyl records.

"My mom and dad had quite a good collection of Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland albums," she said. "Apparently, my parents were a gay couple. I just didn't realize it at the time."

Mullally went on to study ballet. She didn't get into acting until college.

Hunt grew up in a musical household. Her father, born and raised in New Orleans, had a master's degree in classical guitar and played in several bands over the years. Her sister, Phoebe Hunt, is a performer and musician in her own right. Their mother may have been the only non-musician, but she was also a salsa dancer.

Nancy and Beth have covered songs by musicians like Lou Rawls, Dinah Washington, and Rufus Wainwright. How do they select their material?

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"We have a thing called 'the freakout list,'" Mullally said. "The song has to make it onto the freakout list."

They look at the list and ask themselves, What have we not done yet? What could it be conceptually? What is the tone?

Mullally comes up with the choreography -- "You'll see some choreogs... or 'ogs' for short," she joked on stage -- while Hunt films her so they can rehearse the steps later.

"In the final stages, Megan just lets the spirit move through her," Hunt said. "It's a very serious, delicate process."

Their self-titled LP was released in 2017 and features a nearly nude photo of Hunt and Mullally.

"We couldn't afford money for wardrobe," Mullally quipped. "It was between the Will and Graces."

Beth and Nancy are on tour now. You can get tickets here.

Editor's note: A version of this story was also on KPCC's The Frame.