Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Saturday Night Live, 50 First Dates, Bridesmaids
Currently Known For:
Actress, Voice Artist, Comedian and Singer
2000s - Present
July 27, 1972
Saturday Night Live, 50 First Dates, Bridesmaids
“I don’t think of myself as a lady humorist. I just have boobs and parts that allow me to give birth to children, but I like to be funny with the boys and the girls.” Maya Rudolph is an actress, comedian, voice artist, and singer who started her career in the mid-1990s as a backup singer with the alternative rock band The Rentals. Although she had a knack for music, Rudolph’s real passion was for comedy, which is how she ended up joining The Groundlings improv comedy troupe just a few years later. Before long, the Florida native’s comedy career was underway as she joined the cast of NBC’s Saturday Night Live in the new millennium.
Spending seven years on the popular late-night series where she proved her talents for celebrity impressions and showcased her impressive vocal range, Rudolph also ventured into film with appearances in 50 First Dates (2004) and A Prairie Home Companion (2006). Then, after leaving SNL in 2007, she saw her career flourish on the silver screen with critically praised performances in Grown Ups (2010), Bridesmaids (2011), Grown Ups 2 (2013), and Sisters (2015). Also starring in the short-lived NBC sitcom Up All Night from 2011 to 2012 and making an Emmy Award-nominated appearance on The Good Place in 2018, let’s take a closer look at why the 46-year-old Rudolph is considered one of the funniest women in Hollywood!Early Life on the Road: A Touring Family
“I feel like I come from a small offshoot of black people because I am mixed. People say I’m African American but that doesn’t include the other half of me.” The daughter of African American singer-songwriter Minnie Riperton and Jewish composer Richard Rudolph, Maya Khabira Rudolph came into this world on July 27, 1972, in Gainesville, Florida. While she and her brother, Marc, were young, the family relocated to Los Angeles, California where her mother’s career as a singer blossomed with the release of her 1975 ballad, “Lovin’ You (Is Easy Cause You’re Beautiful).” The ballad made Riperton an international star with Rudolph joining her parents and brother on the road as her mother sang and her father played guitar.
“My mom was music,” Rudolph said. “Music poured out of my mother and I’m sure I heard it before I even got here when I was in her belly. Music sounds and feels very normal to me. My dad wrote all the songs with my mom… They were on the road a lot. My brother and I would go with them, I think when we were very little, because my mom did not want to be away from us… I do remember losing a tooth in Reno and getting a chip from the casino…”
Rudolph’s fond memories came to a halt in 1979 when, just two weeks before her seventh birthday, her 31-year-old mother died from cancer. Rudolph and her brother were raised by their Jewish father, leaving Rudolph with no strong female or African American influence in her life. “Because my mom died when I was so young, that identity was torn apart, in a way,” she later admitted. “I grew up without a lot of female identity, and specifically black female identity. Some of it was naturally there. Some of it I just sort of made up. And some of it was probably lost.”
Carrying her mother’s legacy with her, Rudolph dreamed of becoming a singer and pursued those interests in Santa Monica, California where she attended the Crossroads School with classmates Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow. After graduation, she enrolled at the University of California in Santa Cruz and graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in photography. Instead of using her degree, she followed her passion for performing to the stage where she was a backup singer and keyboardist for the alternative rock band known as The Rentals.Breaking Into Comedy: From The Groundlings to Saturday Night Live
“I never thought I’d get a chance to do what I’m doing. It’s such a dream.” Although Rudolph enjoyed singing, she knew her heart was in comedy especially after realizing how easy it came for her to entertain audiences night after night. She decided to pursue those talents on a different stage and joined The Groundlings improv comedy troupe. With the troupe, she honed her talents and was soon invited to audition for Saturday Night Live in 2000. The show was one of her favorites as a child, which only put the pressure on Rudolph even more as she gave a stellar audition and won a place on the famous late-night television series.
“Make no mistake, the comedy gene was in me before my mom died,” she said. “But it was very much my manifesto after, because it was my only shield. You know, it was all that I had. The only thing to keep me from crying.” Comedy certainly kept her spirits up as Rudolph appeared on the last three episodes of the 1999-2000 season of SNL. The following season, she showcased her musical talents and proved her impressive knack for celebrity impressions with some of her most popular impersonations including Halle Berry, Diana Ross, Ivanka Trump, Jennifer Lopez, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Lucy Liu, Christina Aguilera, Donatella Versace and many others. She also created unique characters of her own including Charli Coffee, Glenda Goodwin, Appreciante, Leilani Burke and Patti Sylviac.
“It was my childhood dream. To have your childhood dream realized is a really big deal. A lot of beauty, love, and pain goes into their first loves. And it can be tough sometimes too, when you don’t get your pieces on or things get cut at the last minute or you flub a line. I still remember the lines I’ve flubbed,” Rudolph said of her dream. Her time with the SNL cast was also incredibly special. “You help look out for each other and talk to each other about what’s going on in your life elsewhere,” she added. “I came from the co-ed touchy feely group—the men, too—it was a very gentle and lovely group of dudes. And it’s a place where you know you’re going to spend most of your time—when you’re in the studio, there are no windows… You just experience everything together.”
Rudolph devoted all of her energy to Saturday Night Live but saw something shift in her career in 2005 when she became a mother with the birth of her daughter, Pearl, with director Paul Thomas Anderson. Motherhood changed everything for Rudolph who suddenly had something else vying for her attention. “Before I had children, everything about my life was devoted to Saturday Night Live,” she said. “You’re there sometimes on Tuesday nights until 6 or 8 in the morning. You’re exhausted, you’re loopy… and you’ve had three shows in a row and you haven’t done any of your laundry and you have no food in the fridge. It’s really difficult to be there for anyone else in your life when you’re doing the show because of the hours it demands.”Life after Late-Night Television
“It’s very typical for me. I don’t like goodbyes. I still have a very strong connection to that place—SNL. For a long time, I used to mourn leaving, but now I feel like I’m still connected.” In 2007, Rudolph stepped away from Saturday Night Live to focus more time on her life at home. Her final episode as a cast member aired on November 3, 2007. Over the next few years, she added to her family with the births of daughter, Lucille, in 2009, son Jack in 2011, and daughter Minnie in 2013. During this time, her career blossomed with credits in Shrek the Third (2007), Away We Go (2009), and Grown Ups (2010). Then, in 2011, she teamed up with Kristen Wiig to star in Bridesmaids, which grossed over $288 million worldwide and became Judd Apatow’s top grossing production. It also sealed Rudolph’s fate as a film star and made her even more recognizable among fans.
“A lot of men, especially men on the street, would stop me and say, ‘I didn’t think I was going to like it, but my wife took me and it was funny,’” Rudolph said of reactions to the film. “And I remember thinking: I’ve never set out to write a funny movie or be a funny comedian as a woman. I am a woman. I don’t really have a choice in the matter. My goal is just to be funny… We spoke the way that we really speak and we tried to find the things that we thought were the funniest.”
One of the funniest and most disgusting scenes in the film came at the bridal shop when her character came down with food poisoning. On paper, the scene wasn’t appealing for Rudolph but she went with it in what’s now one of the most iconic scenes of her career. It also earned her an MTV Movie Award for Best Jaw Dropping Moment. For Rudolph, the scene also says a lot about women trying to keep it together in the midst of personal crisis.
“I think it was born out of the idea that both producer Judd Apatow and director Paul Feig felt like Kristen’s character, Annie, really needed to screw up even further,” Rudolph said. “When I first read the revised scene, my character was written as ‘running across the street and jumping as though she’d been shot by a bullet because of the strength of excrement leaving her body.’ And I thought, ‘God, that sounds terrible. I don’t want to do that.’ But people no longer think my name is Maya Fey or Amy Rudolph or Tina Rudolph. They think I’m the Lady who Pooped in the Street, so that’s always nice.”
As for what it said about women, Rudolph says, “What every single woman found in playing that scene was that we were trying to play it like we were OK and we had everything under control. And that was never really discussed, and that’s what I find really fascinating about that scene and why I think it plays beautifully—because we all improvised trying to keep it together as best as we possibly could. The final result is people saying that they are fine when their faces are completely flushed and they’re sweating—but they’re still talking about dresses.”
After her success with Bridesmaids, Rudolph voiced Mollie in Zookeeper (2011) and starred as Leslie in Friends with Kids (2011). She reprised her role as Deanne McKenzie in Grown Ups 2 (2013) and added in credits in Turbo (2013), The Nut Job (2014), Inherent Vice (2014), Big Hero 6 (2014), Strange Magic (2015), Maggie’s Plan (2015), and Sisters (2015). Over the last four years, she appeared in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016), My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (2016), CHiPs (2017), The Emoji Movie (2017), The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature (2017), Life of the Party (2018), and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2018). Her upcoming projects including Wine Country (2019) and The Willoughbys (2019).
On television, Rudolph has sporadically returned to Saturday Night Live to host in addition to making guest appearances on popular series like Portlandia (2014), Family Guy (2014), Comedy Bang! Bang! (2015), The Grinder (2016), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2016), and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2017). In 2016, she wrote, produced, and co-hosted Maya & Marty and went on to serve as a judge on The Gong Show before she joined the cast of Big Mouth in 2017. She also became a series regular on Big Hero 6: The Series (2017–Present) and most recently appeared in eight episodes of Forever (2018) and five episodes of The Good Place (2018). Her performance as Judge “Gen” Hydrogen on The Good Place earned her a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.
Beyond her work in film and television, the 46-year-old Rudolph is excited for what the future holds even if she’s still adjusting to her fame. “Nobody teaches you how to do this side of the job, the non-creative side,” she says. “So, I kind of mask it with humor.” That’s just one of the reasons the world loves the talented Maya Rudolph!