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Southern Dish Meredith Riley Stewart Discusses Her Web Series, Southern Dish

04/09/2015 08:53 pm ET | Updated Jun 09, 2015

Have you heard about the Southern gal who moseyed on up to New York City and started causing a considerable stir? You will. "Krystal" is a character in more ways than one, brought to life by Meredith Riley Stewart, creator of the Southern Dish web series, which has just launched its first season. Both "Krystal" and Meredith are funny, sassy, and know from beer.

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Meredith Riley Stewart, as "Krystal"

Myself, I'm an herbal-tea Northerner and prog-rock aficionado whose exposure to the South has been mercifully limited to a vaguely-recalled trip to Disney World, which may have been a dream, as Pat Boone made an appearance. In short, the South and its ways represent alien territory to me. Nonetheless, I like a challenge, so I interviewed both of these women -- who coincidentally inhabit the same body. "Krystal" responds in italics. Behold:

First off, could you please relate the history and etymological origin of "Catchatubbee"? For instance, how is the place different from, say, Tokyo? Or New York City?

In short, I made it up. I grew up near a little bitty town called Hatchachubbee, and it always made me giggle to say it. So for this, I got out a map of the South and took syllables from different Native American names until I found one that wasn't actually a city name. 

(Adds "Krystal":)

Well like most small towns in the South, Native Americans first settled there 'cause it was so beautiful, then the white folks smashed all the beauty with the Wal-Marts. I think it actually means 'fat gator in a skinny creek,' and boy, do I know about that!

I shudder. Is there electricity in the South?

'Course there is, you damn Yankee.

And fiercely proud of it. What leads a simple country girl to a wild and crazy city? Or were you ever a simple country girl?
 
Where I come from, 'simple' means you ain't the brightest bulb in the chandelier. And I have always been extra bright and sparkly. Plus, two things about me have always been BIG: my hair and my dreams! 

My primary experiences of the South involve glancing at The Dukes of Hazzard in the North. What do the uninitiated need to know before venturing below the Mason-Dixon Line?
(Notably, I add that this is not a euphemism.)

OMG I so wanna be naughty with this one! But I'll behave.
First of all, don't paint a damn Rebel flag on your car before you go. Second -- well, shit, I got out while I could. Just go to New Orleans and pretend you seen it all.

Dialect! Nice. Regarding Southern Dish, how did this come to be? Is it a reality show? Is it staged in any way? Is the part of 'Cute But Stupid' largely interchangeable among a variety of men?

I was in a play, Steel Magnolias (how Southern!), and had the idea while chatting with the other cast member near my age, Nicole Lowrance (who has since starred on Broadway in Peter and the Starcatcher). Living in NYC, we percolated ideas and I kept running with it until I decided to raise funds to just make some new, fun content. I like to say it's as if The Beverly Hillbillies met the gals from Broad City. It's a scripted comedy, but single-cam style, and it's definitely mature in content. I mean, we had craft breweries give us swag to use, and we drop an f-bomb or two. So anyone who likes smart-mouthed women will get a kick out of Krystal and her crew. 

In the meantime, I moved to L.A, and so did the production. We shot exteriors in NYC and interiors in L.A. I was able to bring together a team of women to bring this project to life, from the three writers to the director, DP, producer, casting director and stars, so I'm really proud of that.

And as far as 'Cute But Stupid' representing all men, you said it, not me!

Hey, I'm equally forced to inhabit a world of 'Justins.' Anyway, the character of 'Darlene': please elaborate. And is okra a Southern aphrodisiac?

Darlene is my best friend, we grew up together in Catchatubbee; She left her sorry-ass husband back in Catchatubbee recently and hightailed it to NYC, where I was happy to take her in. Now she's sowing her wild oats all over the city, and I'm doing my best to teach her all about craft beer -- but honestly, she's more into pie.

I can relate. Oh, here's this:

As for okra, okra is about the slimiest vegetable you can find, but when battered and deep fried, as with almost anything, can become something so delicious it'll make you wanna slap your momma!

Kurt Vonnegut, a very open-minded and incredibly talented dead writer from Indiana, once explained that he knew exactly what women want: Women want lots and lots of people to talk to. Did this general philosophy influence your choice to open the bar?
 
Honey, I like that philosophy a bunch! One of my favorite pastimes is 'visiting.' It's a common way to spend an afternoon or, hell, a whole weekend, in the South. To most Southerners, it's an art form that they practice as often as possible. I missed visitin' when I moved North, so I figured I'd take matters into my own hands and invite my new neighbors in to cuss and discuss life in this gritty city.

Let's talk beer. You have some very strong opinions. That's respectable. But how did these opinions form? Isn't the South more devoted to, um, 'shine, or something?

The era of 'Dooley, slippin' up the holler' has passed, sweetie pie.

(Reckoning I'd need a reference for that, "Krystal" kindly offers this link to one of her all-time favorite bluegrass songs.)

When I was a kid, it was illegal to brew beer over about 4% alcohol -- which meant it all sucked. Then the 'free the hops' movement swept the Bible Belt and wouldn't you know it, change was a good thing!

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"Krystal" (Meredith Riley Stewart), and "Darlene" (Ogy Durham)

What do consumers need to know about craft beer, versus the big, big breweries?

It ain't Kraft with a 'K,' like the cheese. And it ain't about having a glue gun or a Bedazzler either. Craft is about creating something unique, for your tongue. And I've got almost 20 different beer reviews on my YouTube channel.

Perhaps revealing too much about my own touchstones for presumed hipness, I'd like to ask you about your feelings for Bob & Doug McKenzie. I consider their motion picture Strange Brew altogether more culturally significant than Citizen Kane, A Clockwork Orange, and Zoolander. And of course, Bob & Doug also know from beer.

I was kinda mean about us having electricity in Catchatubbee -- but I shoulda said our TV only had a raggedy pair of rabbit ears on top, so gettin' Canadian sketch comedy wasn't really in the picture. But now that I got crazy-fast Internet, I will check 'em out.

The web series is a lot of fun. Where would you like to take it next?

(Here Meredith reclaims her body from "Krystal":)

I think in the online space, where branded content is more and more common, especially with the need for content that can reach a female audience, my show is perfect for a second season sponsored by a liquor brand or a few craft beer brands. We're working to get our media impressions high in season one so we can pitch that idea. And artistically, it's been so fun to write this and try things out as an actor, too. Who knows, maybe Amy Poehler and the Broad City ladies will want a crazy Southerner as a sidekick in a few episodes of their show!

I believe that the universally-accepted coda would be, 'You go, girl!'

Official Site: Southern Dish