“The Pistol Shrimps,” premiering on NBC’s new comedy streaming site, Seeso on Thursday (June 16), is a documentary about basketball. It’s about the underdog, beating the odds (with attitude), and pushing yourself to new limits. But most of all, it’s a story about the badassery that happens when women find community and support in each other.
The documentary, which first premiered at Tribeca this spring, follows the 2015 winter season of The Pistol Shrimps, an unlikely recreational league team in L.A. founded and formed by an eclectic group of female comedians, actresses, models, and musicians.
You might have heard of a few of their star players. Funny lady Aubrey Plaza (of “Parks and Recreation” fame) is the Shrimps’ point guard. Model and writer of witticisms Melissa Stetten is a shooting guard. Comedian Molly Hawkey, also known as “The Bachelor’s” oldest-ever contestant, is power forward. But even though a shared sense of humor helps bind these ladies together, their determination to win is no joke, and shooting hoops is often interspersed with talking some serious smack.
“We love to ball and we ball hard,” Plaza told
Jimmy Fallon in a “Tonight Show” clip shown in the film. “No haters allowed.
You’re either with us or against us. And may god help you if you’re against us,
because we will dunk on your ass so hard.”
Danielle Uhlarik, a player from the league’s SheCago Bulls (the team names are
all seriously excellent), may have summarized it best: “It seems like it’s a
comedy league first and a basketball league second — until we step out on the
Though the league now has 26 teams, when the Shrimps were founded two years ago there wasn’t a single other women’s intramural basketball team in L.A. “Playing sports in high school is one thing, but when you’re 30, it’s not really common to just pick up a basketball,” Stetten told Revelist over the phone. “But there are so many women who love playing basketball, and just being competitive in general is something I think a lot of women miss.”
That was the case for Hawkey, who told us she’d never
played basketball before the Shrimps but loved and missed other team sports. So
when actress and now-team captain Maris Blasucci sent out the initial Facebook
invite to play some basketball and “get milkshakes afterward,” Hawkey thought, sure,
why not. She had no what they were doing was about to spark a domino effect
among other disenfranchised L.A. women also interested in the sport, or that
her team would go on to the finals (in a 2015 match against the beautifully
named Miss Demeanors, which the documentary climaxes with). The biggest
surprise of all, though, may have been the community of strong, talented, and
funny-as-hell women she was stepping into.
“When I started playing basketball, it just opened this huge world for me. I didn’t know women were so cool,” Hawkey recalled. Growing up with five older brothers and later joining an improv team composed of mostly men, she said she’d “only been friends with dudes” her whole life. “Maybe I was intimidated by women before or something, I don’t know what. It’s just been great getting to know all these women and to find a community that I didn’t have, and have never had before.”
Stetten agreed, admitting she’d always wanted to have more female friends but naturally found herself in the company of fellas, having been very competitive growing up. “I also felt intimidated, and just didn’t know how to talk to (women),” she said. “So when I joined this basketball team, I was like, ‘Wow, these girls are super competitive, but they’re also super cool and laid back.’
It’s not like women on reality shows, yelling at each other and being jealous. We’re all very supportive, and it’s like the perfect group of female friends. Women are supposed to be strong and support each other.”
For Pistol Shrimps players, that support extends outside of the court. The women act as a team and encourage one another in their creative pursuits as well, attending each other’s stand-up shows, movie screenings, and concerts. “Jesse (Thomas) is a musician, so we go to her shows all of the time. Molly has all these 'Bachelor' movies and we all share the videos,” Stetten said. “It’s not because we have to, it’s because we all love each other.” Hawkey added, “I just really love and respect all these ladies so much, and it’s been amazing to watch everybody grow through sports.”
And grow they have. While at the beginning of the documentary we hear their coaches speculating over how many of the players have touched a basketball before, the end brings us to the finals where the Shrimps are arriving undefeated. Suddenly, the film has morphed into a classic underdog sports story, and the once-inexperienced Shrimps are now legitimate contenders, with a mascot, half-time shows, and announcers (whose podcasts of the games are appropriately hilarious) to boot. For Hawkey and Stetten, though, this validating moment pales in comparison to another game.
“Melissa and I and three other people had to do a whole game all by ourselves because we didn’t have a full team one night,” Hawkey recalled. “I thought, ‘How are we going to do this?’ I’d only ever played half a game tops, and I was terrified. We played the whole game. By the end my feet felt like tree stumps, but I was very, very, very proud after I got through it, the challenge of it.”
“I was dying,” Stetten agreed, “but we kept going. I don’t know how. It was the proudest I’ve been of a game my whole life. It was crazy. We lost, but not by much.”
Regardless of end scores, it sounds like the Shrimps have gained the most from their (sorta) slam-dunking sisterhood. And that's pretty rad. Watch the trailer below.