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Rachel Ramras’s Guide to Portsmouth, New Hampshire

See what the star of TV Land’s “Nobodies” loves in this New England haven, her perennial summer escape

Los Angeles-based improv troupe The Groundlings has hatched some of Hollywood’s most enduring scene-stealers, from Melissa McCarthy to Lisa Kudrow. But in addition to the occasional somebody, The Groundlings also produces flocks of “nobodies”—those struggling writers and performers who count themselves as classmates of the institution’s rich and famous celebrities. These late bloomers are the subjects of TV Land’s Melissa McCarthy-produced meta-comedy “Nobodies,” which stars a trio of lesser-known Groundlings drawing on their experiences in Hollywood’s hoi polloi.

“One year,” recalls Rachel Ramras, who co-created the show with Hugh Davidson and Larry Dorf, “a bunch of our contemporaries—Melissa [McCarthy], Kristen Wiig, [Bridesmaids director] Annie Mumolo, and [The Descendants writers] Jim Rash and Nat Faxon—were all at the Academy Awards. At the time, Hugh and Larry and I were writing on a ‘Looney Toons’ show. It wasn’t jealousy, but it was a surreal moment for us. Like, wow, this is the same group of people that we ate Domino’s pizza with every Saturday night for years.”

Nobodies

Eluded by mainstream success, but still good friends with McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, the pals decided to write a script with McCarthy in mind. “We went out pitching an idea for a movie called Mr. First Lady, just as we do in the show.” Ramras says. “In hindsight, it wouldn’t have been the best use of Melissa, but we were hell-bent on the idea. In desperate attempts to grab interest, we would inelegantly name drop Melissa McCarthy or Kristen Wiig. Like, ‘We were all in the Groundlings together!’ But by that point, they were usually validating our parking.”

If that sounds bad, their idea for a show about a “really inappropriate male first lady,” as Ramras puts it, was about to get worse. “When we first had the idea, we thought the show would mirror real life somewhat, because Hillary would win. We were imagining  a Danny McBride type as Mr. First Lady.” Luckily, the team ditched that idea before our all-too-real federal clown took office, and found a new concept. “We decided that our own story as television writers was ultimately more funny and relatable,” Ramras says.  

Nobodies

While “Nobodies” may be largely autobiographical, Ramras and company are now anything but; TV Land picked up a second season even before its March 29 premiere. Still, according to Ramras, she’s not quite the most famous person in her family. “My grandmother was a state senator in New Hampshire, so she’s a little bit of a celebrity in Portsmouth, where I have gone every summer since I was a baby,” says Ramras. “Everyone knows her! So I’m trying to say to my grandmother, ‘You’ve got to talk me up around town so I can be someone who’s sort of affiliated with New Hampshire.’ And she’s like, ‘Everyone’s talking about you, sweetheart!’”

For Ramras’s complete guide to her perennial summer escape of Portsmouth, read on.

Cup of Joe: Right downtown, in the heart of Market Square, is a great coffee shop called Breaking New Ground. It’s fun to sit outside and people watch. Or grab a cup to go and take a ride on the horse drawn carriage parked across the street! 

Power Lunch: BG’s Boathouse is my go-to for lobster rolls and fried clams. Is that considered a power lunch?

Cocktail Hour: The Old Ferry Landing, right on the waterfront. They have a great big outdoor deck, overlooking the Moran tugboats (not named after my best friend, Molly Moran, but I tell people they are). Treat yourself to their famous Jimmy Juice, which has pineapple juice and three different kinds of rum. Delish. 

Retail Therapy: When I was a kid, I used to buy whoopee cushions, fake vomit, and Necco Wafers at this little store on Market St. called Macro Polo. I’m proud to say it’s now the one stop shop for our kids to buy their exploding golf balls, plastic poop, and Swedish Fish. 

Field Trip: Every summer we take the kids to the Prescott Park Arts Festival to watch an outdoor play. It’s right at the edge of the Piscataqua River and you can reserve a table or a blanket, bring a picnic (and mosquito repellant!) and enjoy live theater. So much fun.

Date Night: Follow the beautiful brick pathway down Commercial Alley and you’ll find Cava tapas and wine bar. It’s such a romantic spot, and the food and wine are delicious. Don’t miss their tasting menu, and their wine cave. Yes, I said wine cave.   

Don’t Miss: Strawberry Banke is an outdoor, interactive history museum and a chance to step back in time and see how the first European settlers in New Hampshire lived. All ten restored and furnished houses are open to the public, including the Shapiro House, which was the home of Abraham and Sarah Shapiro, Russian Jewish Immigrants, and distant relatives of mine!  

Hidden Gem: It’s a tie. First, The Ice House for Ice Cream (they’re technically in Rye, but their “small” scoop is bigger than my head, so it’s worth the drive). And second, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Haven Park, this little park between Pleasant Street and the South Mill Pond where my dad proposed to my mom—and years later my husband proposed to me!

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