There are two foundational sources of humor on Loot, Maya Rudolph’s new Apple TV show. Firstly, rich people are essentially grown up babies who are completely unable to interface with reality. Secondly, being rich is very, very fun.
Molly Novak, the main character played by Rudolph, is a character that fits into the contours of many real life ex-wives of billionaires. Like Mackenzie Scott, who divorced Jeff Bezos in 2019, Novak is married to a hugely successful—and rich—tech billionaire whose business she helped develop in their early relationship. She finds out that her husband, played by Adam Scott with a smug grin, is cheating on her, divorces him, and because they never had a prenup, becomes the third richest woman on Earth at $87 billion. After a delightful montage of Novak partying in exotic locales, she gets a call informing her that seven years ago, she started a charitable foundation with her ex-husband, and they’d like her to come in for a chat. The series is three episodes in, and I can’t wait to see the rest.
Getting involved with her charitable foundation does give Molly Novak meaning, but Loot isn’t a show about how she secretly has a heart of gold. Novak is woefully out of touch, to the point that at a ribbon cutting for a shelter for unhoused women she gives them a gift bag full of scented candles and gold plated waffle makers, and starts singing “all the sheltered ladies” to the tune of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.”
It’s the kind of role that only someone like Rudolph, who also produced the show, could truly pull off. Novak is kind and pitiable, for sure. Her cousin Howard who works with her, played with a real sweetness by Ron Funches, calls her “the most famous cheated on woman,” and then assures her that black Twitter has her back. But Sofia, played by Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, runs Novak’s foundation, tries to do some real good with it, and constantly points out to Novak that real people’s lives are on the line because of the money and resources that Novak is in charge of.
What makes Novak funny is Rudolph’s willingness to embarrass herself. In an especially funny bit, Novak goes on Hot Ones after her ex gives an interview where he intimates that she’s not qualified to go into charity. Unlike most guests, Novak completely loses her mind after the first, mildest wing, and Rudolph ends up yelling, screaming, pointing at the camera people to say that she could have them all killed and get away with it, and eventually pouring her milk into a glass of beer and chugging it.
Whenever Novak lets other people into her life—and importantly, lets them take part in the cotton candy fantasy that her wealth affords her—she becomes more and more sympathetic. It’s less that she gives her money away, and more that she acknowledges that her life and her experiences are far away from anything an average human being could ever experience. When Sofia stops by to help her brush up on topics for an interview in a later episode, she ends up being delighted and surprised that she can ask the chef to make her a chicken pot pie and a cherry slurpee, and it’s the best one she’s ever had in her life. Redistributing Novak’s $87 billion one slurpee at a time is obviously not going to solve anyone’s problem, or the inherent and comically unfair fact of any billionaire’s wealth. But if there’s any particular message about how billionaires can really make a difference in Loot, it would be: talk less and give more away.