Picture college life. Now picture your mother doing Jell-O shots, wearing a thong or simply squeezing into those teeny lecture-hall desks...

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Picture college life. Now picture your mother doing Jell-O shots, wearing a thong or simply squeezing into those teeny lecture-hall desks.

In the hands of Carrie Aizley and Christen Sussin, the actors, creators and executive producers of “Campus Ladies” on the Oxygen channel, such scenarios translate into mortifyingly riotous TV. Or, if I were text messaging: Campus Ladies. LOL.

Aizley and Sussin play Joan and Barri, a pair of 40-year-olds determined to take charge of their lives after one is left widowed and the other divorced. In the first season (the second season starts tonight), then-married Barri finds her louse of a husband in bed with another woman.

Barri and Joan end up commiserating at a bar over froufrou drinks when they spot a nubile college girl with her friends, drinking shots. “How did we miss out on that?” they marvel. So they enroll at the University of the Midwest. where the fish-out-of-water motif translates into a much bawdier Lucy-and-Ethel type of silliness.

While living in the dorms, they’re in constant wonder of female bodies free of middle-age dimples and sags. Social life includes funneling beer, making out with guys, pulling all-nighters and flirting with lesbianism. Nothing’s off limits in their quest to fit in.

When they’re introduced to Jell-O shots Joan says, “Oh? So you just suck it down like a clam on a half shell?”

The improvised comedy series, which is also executive produced by Cheryl Hines (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), became a cult hit for the Oxygen network when it debuted earlier this year. This is decidedly adult-themed humor. But it’s worth tuning in, particularly for anyone in search of new comic heroines.


“Campus Ladies,” 11 tonight on Oxygen.

The show is returning in a new, one-hour-later 11 p.m. time slot. This season, Joan and Barri — naïve and ever exuberant — finish out their freshman year with episodes about three-ways (one of tonight’s subjects), webcams, waxing, Christianity and rushing a black sorority. Guest stars include Megan Mullally, Janeane Garofalo, Jason Alexander, Sean Hayes, Beverly D’Angelo, Penny Marshall and Mo’Nique.

Sussin and Aizley spoke about their characters, their friendship and their own college experiences in telephone interviews from Los Angeles last week. Sussin called from her home; Aizley while grocery shopping.

On the last time they felt like fish out of water:

Sussin: “Anything Carrie and I do that’s red carpet. We feel like we’re two apes that somebody’s dressed up, and we’re sneaking down the red carpet, when all we really want to be is in our pajamas.

Aizley: “Chris and I have talked about feeling like there are grown-ups and then, there is us. Whenever I go to preschool [she has two children, ages 2 and 5] and I see all the moms, all appropriate, all dressed right, all smelling good. I feel like the messy 14-year-old.

On life in college (Aizley went to Boston University; Sussin to USC):

Sussin: “I think I was not unlike Barri, leaping into anything without any sense of safety. I had lots of adventures. I took acid and went to Disneyland and that was really fun, not that I advocate that now, as a grown woman.”

Aizley: “I was not a wild college student. I was a late bloomer so I feel like I’m living vicariously through my character. When I had my first baby I would watch reruns of ‘Felicity.’ I thought, ‘These guys are so carefree.’ I was obsessed with that. ”

On their real-life friendship and creating Joan and Barri:

Aizley: “We’ve known each other for 10 years. I was her maid of honor at her wedding. We met at the Groundlings (the legendary improv comedy troupe whose alums include Will Ferrell, Jon Lovitz and Phil Hartman), where we originated our characters.

On their particular brand of comedy:

Sussin: “When I look at our show I think the Carol Burnett ensemble. I love Lily Tomlin, Madeline Kahn. But it definitely has that Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley, ‘Oh, we’ve really got into ridiculous trouble, but we wiggle our way out.’

“I think we’re such ladies or trying to be ladies so it has that flavor. But we’re piglets so often that we miss the mark. Silly girls.”

Florangela Davila: 206-464-2916 or fdavila@seattletimes.com