Right now in California, there's a basketball team making history, and Steph Curry has no affiliation. They're not professional athletes; they can't dunk; most of the players are new to team sports; and during their first season together, they managed to win only one game. They're the Pistol Shrimps, and their rise from plucky upstarts to the champions of a women's rec league is the subject of an eponymous documentary, airing tomorrow on Seeso (NBC's new ad-free comedy channel).
The team was founded in 2014 after sketch writer Maria Blasucci (Drunk History) sent out a Facebook message to a group of friends and colleagues asking if anyone was interested in playing a few games. Comprising comedians, actresses (most notably Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Rec), writers, and a few entertainment "business ladies" (as the film refers to them), the Pistol Shrimps soon discovered they were forging a new path in L.A. intramural sports.
No local rec center had had a women's basketball league in years, and the Shrimps began recruiting other teams to inaugurate a new league and start honing their competitive edge. As Shrimps player Amanda Lund puts it, "Boys have a league, for whatever reason, but girls need a league, too, 'cause otherwise they're just out on the streets." By the time The Pistol Shrimps documentary went into production, 24 teams had joined the league, with names like Princess Layups, Shecago Bulls, Space Glam, L.A. Nail Clippers, The Carol Ball-Net Show, Lucille Ballers, Kareem Abdul-Jababes, and Alley Oopsies (these are all women who know how to pun, and pun well).
The Pistol Shrimps recounts the team's early days (when they were featured on ESPN SportsCenter just for existing), follows the players through their championship 2015 season, and introduces us to the figures supporting them. Matt Gourley and Mark McConnville, the creators of the comedy podcast Superego, quickly became the Shrimps's resident commentators. They don't know much about the sport, so their most insightful commentary tends to sound something like this: "And, like AT&T, you've gotta connect with the net, or else you're a piece of shit wireless provider." But their play-by-play podcast of the Shrimps's games, Pistol Shrimps Radio, has drawn a cult following, with fans sending them gift cards to In-N-Out, Five Guys, and Boston Market, and "pounds and pounds" of Sour Patch Kids.
And the team's coaches, DJ Mark "Bizzy" Smith and radio show host Chris Vangers, are particularly inspired by the Shrimps gritted determination to become actually OK players. At one point in the film, Vangers turns to Smith and asks, "It's a true story of, you know, Little Giants, Mighty Ducks. They were horrible and now they're pretty decent, right?"
"They're pretty decent," Smith concedes (though, he notes earlier in the film, "I don't know if they ever touched a basketball before").
While it might seem like mostly a joke—after all, the comedians on the team are generally known for their ironic, deadpan brand of humor—the players have found that team activities provide a respite from the petty Hollywood industry talk that they have to sludge through in their professional lives. At the end of The Pistol Shrimps, when we find out that Aubrey Plaza has torn her ACL and may never get to play with the team again, her hurt isn't tinged with any of her trademark sarcasm. "My manager is like, you're not playing basketball anymore, you realize that right?" Plaza says. "And I'm like, what are you talking about, that's a big part of my life. But those people don't understand that; they think it's a joke."
"It's kind of nice to have something else to talk about that doesn't sound like, you know, Los Angeles," says actress Angela Trimbur. "'What'd you book? What are you working on?' Now it's like, 'What am I working on? I'm working on my layup.'"
Below, we bring you an exclusive breakdown of the Pistol Shrimps basketball championship roster, with everything you need to know about the team in which everyone is an MVP.
Name: Aubrey Plaza
Off-the-Court: Comedian, actress
One Shining Moment: Invented "psychological basketball" when she told an opposing player she'd pose for a photo with her after the game if the opponent gave her the ball.
Quote: "We love to ball, and we ball hard. 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."
Name: Amanda "Fun Buns" Lund
Off-the-Court: Actress, writing partners with teammate Maria Blasucci
One Shining Moment: Gets shocked by Blasucci's joke pen.
Quote: "Well, I've never played basketball. I'm not really sure what basketball is. I know you're supposed to get the ball in the hoop."
Name: Molly Hawkey
One Shining Moment: Editing herself into clips of season 20 of The Bachelor, posing as the show's oldest contestant ever and generally confusing the internet.
Quote: "I went to an R.E.M. concert once," in response to an ESPN reporter's question of what she brings to the team.
Name: Kelly "KV" Vallon
Off-the-Court: Transactional Entertainment Attorney
One Shining Moment: Feeds a piece of paper through a shredder while smirking.
Quote: "I make deals all day, and ball all night."
Name: Angela "Swaggy Trim" Trimbur
Off-the-Court: Actress, choreographer
One Shining Moment: Founded the L.A. City Municipal Dance Squad, which performs halftime dances that would make the Laker Girls blush.
Quote: "Even with acting, when a girl gives you a compliment…there is that knife vibe about it. But there aren't any knife vibes in the league at all."
Name: Laura "Lights Out" Jack
One Shining Moment: Earned her nickname as a middle school hoopster. Now it's what she says to get her daughter to go to bed.
Quote: "Obviously, number one, I want to be a good mom, and then right next to that is an equal basketball player."
Name: Paisley Grey
Quote: "It's so humbling to learn something new as an adult, and just kind of put your pride away and know that you don't know anything about what you're doing."
Name: Melissa Stetten
Off-the-Court: Model, writer, co-founder of enamel pin line Patti Lapel
One Shining Moment: Designed Pistol Shrimps T-shirts and pins.
Quote: "No matter how terrible I'm feeling, Sunday morning, I'm always going to practice, and 100% of the time, I will always feel better."
Name: Jesse Thomas
One Shining Moment: One of the commentators remarking, "Jesse Thomas has opened a portal in this basketball net."
Quote: "Being around really smart, strong women who don't apologize, know their talents, go after what they want…. It's changed me, for sure."
Name: Stephanie Allyne
Off-the-Court: Comedian, actress
Quote: "I forgot I had this in me. I thought I grew out of it."
Name: Tali Levi-Crouch
Off-the-Court: Talent manager
Quote: On the ref known as Sexy Ref: "Nice butt. He's OK. We'll let him live."
Name: Ingrid "Han Mah Boogie" Wallah
One Shining Moment: Her nickname, a Jabba the Hutt quote meaning "Han, my boy," has become a rec league term of endearment, and the subject of pins and t-shirts.
Quote: "I got a technical foul in front of my dad."
Name: Maria Blasucci
Off-the-Court: Actress, writing partners with teammate Amanda Lund
One Shining Moment: Founded the team via a Facebook message inviting everyone to play a game and then get milkshakes, ended up jump-starting the rec league.
Quote: "I really want to play team sports, because I don't really get outside much."
Share the Pistol Shrimps's tale with your friends, and then watch the documentary tomorrow night on Seeso.