A SacramentoComedy.Com Interview
Jennifer Coolidge is beautiful. Whether you wish she was your best friend’s mother, your manicurist/advocate, your messed-up friend or just your date for the evening depends not only your age, but what movie or TV show you saw her in last.
Coolidge, who has been a leading character actress for more than 20, years is tackling a new segment of her creativity – that of a stand-up comedian.
We met in the green room at Tommy T’s Comedy Club in Rancho Cordova before her final show for the weekend. Looking just like I and a million other boys and men imagined her a decade ago when she played Stifler’s mom in the ‘American Pie’ movies, Coolidge is a striking beauty.
One of the things that became apparent within the first minutes of our conversation is that Coolidge, for all of her fame, is very down-to-earth and gracious. And funny. When her co-star, Jason Dudey, phoned their agent before the show and got voice mail, Coolidge took the phone and, with an impish grin and in her best diva voice, began to complain that someone threw out her fancy coffee drink and she insisted that she wasn’t going to be able to go on without it.
What made you decide to become a comedic actress?
"I was trying to do the dramatic thing early on in acting class but no one was responding to that. The minute I took the comedy route, it seemed to take off."
"I used to imitate everyone in my acting classes, and there was a girl that would cry doing every scene. It didn’t matter that the scene didn’t call for crying, she would cry nonetheless. One of my friends, an actor named John, saw me do my imitation of her and announced that he thought I was in the wrong class and took me to Gotham City Improv in New York City to audition.
"When I started out, I wasn’t very good. In improv class you had to do "space work," and all I could think of to do was to stir a pot, no matter what the scene was. ‘Yeah, the golfing was good today…’ (Coolidge stirred her imaginary pot)."
Didn’t you also perform with the Groundlings Improv group in Los Angeles?
"I was in that group (Gotham City Improv) for about a year, then I went to Los Angeles for a vacation and visited the L.A. Groundlings. I happened to catch Julia Sweeny, Kathy Griffin and a number of incredibly talented people in a show that week, and the weird thing was that the women happened to dominate this show. I had never seen that before," she said incredulously. "It just blew me away!
"Now I had seen Catherine O’Hara on SCTV and Gilda Ratner on SNL, but this was live. I was only two feet away from them and somehow seeing girls live, being better than the guys, changed my life.
"The Groundlings were great, and I was there with Kathy Griffin, Lisa Kudrow, Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Will Forte, Ana Gasteyer (and) Cheri Oteri. It was an incredible group of people!”
Because the Groundlings is considered the “Harvard” of improv, this is where Lorne Michaels came to recruit new members for NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ in the mid-’90s. Though many of her troupe-mates were cast in SNL, Coolidge, unfortunately, was not. “What was that like?” we asked.
“He (Michaels) flew a lot of us in for the audition, and I had one of the best auditions of my life. But, for whatever reason, Loren didn’t choose me, and I went back with my tail between my legs,” she recalled. “I felt that because ‘Saturday Night Live’ didn’t want me, Even though I had already done an episode of ‘Seinfeld,’ I felt wasn’t going to amount to much career-wise. I had resigned myself to that when, shortly after that, Christopher Guest was in the audience. He was looking for people for his movie ‘Best In Show.’ I think that when I resigned myself to just being myself I became more attractive to the opportunities around me. Then the good things started happening.”
How is your stand-up comedy career going?
“I’m really enjoying myself,” she said, smiling. “I am still developing my act and persona on stage. I tell (true) stories about my life which are funny, but I am never sure if the people have come to see Paulette from the ‘Legally Blonde’ movies or the MILF from the ‘American Pie’ movies. I am still exploring how far I can go outside of those preconceived stereotypes in my act without offending anyone while developing myself as Jennifer Coolidge – Stand-Up Comedian.”
At this point, it was time for me to get a picture with Jennifer so she could get on stage and share herself with the crowd. As I watched her go, all I could think of was how I just got to put my arm around Stifler’s mom. My life is now complete!
The Comedy Guy
Steven Bloom is the founder of SacramentoComedy.Com, the Official Guide to Sacramento Comedy. This website is dedicated to comedian interviews, comedian bios, videos and consolidating all of the Sacramento comedy events to a single calendar site. You can send your questions directly to The Comedy Guy at Steven@SacramentoComedy.Com