That kind of layered emotion is important for Schaal's developing style, taking inspiration as it does from the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Ricky Gervais. "I love characters who are very funny but can also make you cry, they're so real and vulnerable."
Like Gervais' hapless captives, Schaal has put in serious time in some less-than-stellar workplaces, including a stint as a paralegal -- "It's mostly making copies, you're just doing this," she says, mimicking mind-numbing page turning "as life passes you by." There was also her brush with Sedaris-level department-store drama.
"I worked at FAO Schwarz for a while as a character called Miss Peppermint Twist. . . . I had to wear a pink wig and tights and glasses, and I started to drink on the job to get through it. Luckily, I was laid off after six months."
"There were dark days," she intones. "I got the stories. You know people who are like 'I got this job right out of college'? I hate those people."