Most famous for her hilarious sketches on Saturday Night Live, Ana Gasteyer has built a brand of musical comedy that mixes the familiar (Celine Dion) with the fanciful (Bobbie Mohan-Culp).
In the 12 years since leaving NBC’s long-running sketch comedy series, the 47-year-old actress has channeled her musical passions into “a fun, very vocal" jazz album, I Am Hip, which she says you’re supposed to drink a cocktail while listening to it.
Gasteyer has also maintained a familiar presence on TV, with notable appearances on Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Good Wife, and Suburgatory. And next year, she’ll join HBO’s Girls as Shoshanna’s (Zosia Mamet) mother, becoming a part of the show’s expanding family of parental characters.
As she promotes her new partnership with Lysol -- bringing her charm to otherwise germy cold and flu season -- Gasteyer talks to ETonline about an embarrassing incident on the subway, her Schweddy Balls legacy, and what you won’t be seeing of her when Girls returns for its fourth season on Jan. 11.
ETonline: One of my favorite sketches was The Culps, and I was curious if that’s one that people ever kind bring up when they ask you about SNL. Is there a particular sketch that fans always mention?
Ana Gasteyer: Well, the Culps don’t re-air very much, and the reason is that the music rights are too expensive, the publishing, so they’re not in any of the re-runs. I love the Culps, in terms of – we did a ton of them while I was there – but they don’t re-run. So, the things that end up being evergreen, literally, for me, are the Christmas show sketches. The Martha Stewart Topless Christmas and Schweddy Balls are probably the more common references that I would get. They’re the most common things because they air, thankfully, every year at the holidays.
Is that weird to have a legacy like that, you know with Topless Martha and Schweddy Balls?
No, I’m really grateful for it. It is a little bit embarrassing. [Laughs] But, I’m super, super grateful for it. Honestly, I love it. I’m grateful to have something – SNL is such a weird ephemeral, crazy experience on every level, so I’m grateful that I have something that they’ve deemed appropriate to air every year and kind of keep the reality of that part of my life alive. I guess it’s just nice to have a fun sketch the people liked.
Over the past few seasons, a lot of former cast members have returned for cameos and to host. Are you ever tempted to go back or wish you could have participated in a particular week?
Well, I did go back when Will Ferrell hosted two years ago. You know, it is like a mafia, you kind of stay connected to the people who were there during your era. And even not, I’m pretty close to a lot of people from the show over times that I wasn’t even there, whom I’ve gotten to know over the years.
I did go back for the Betty White show [in 2010] when all of the women went back for Mother’s Day. And we’ll all be back for the 40th. So, it is really nice to go back. It’s my old home.
It’s funny, when I had just watched an episode of The Good Wife with you as Judge Patrice Lessner [and you reprised your role this season]. Do you have plans to return to the show again next year?
I usually do one or two a season. It’s a completely different move for me and it’s really, really fun, and it’s just a nice thing to add into the mix of all of the other weird stuff that I’m doing … It’s just lovely because those guys are so outrageously talented, and Julianna [Margulies] is just a master class in restraint acting. She’s incredible. So, I always have a good time.
It’s great because I mostly do comedy, obviously – my guest star stuff recently has been The Mindy Project, Girls, much better known comedies – but to have that drama experience is great.
Speaking of Girls, you’re playing Shoshanna’s mom when the show returns.
Yes, I’m so excited.
How many episodes are you doing?
I’m just doing the premiere episode, but I loved doing it. It was really, really fun. They actually sort of shot it out of order. They shot it at the end of the season, I don’t know why, but they went back in and structurally added me later.
I love the show, and I think [Shoshanna’s] character in particular is incredibly compelling, and sort of neurotic and sad. So, it was a very interesting, and it was fun being able to be a part of fleshing out her backstory.
When Rita Wilson signed on to play Marnie’s (Allison Williams) mother, she made sure there was a “no nudity” clause in her contract. Did you request something similar?
No. [Laughs] No one wants to see Shoshanna’s mom naked, believe me.
And given that you filmed this flu PSA, I was curious when was the last time you were sick.
Oh, last winter. So, it was the polar vortex. I got the stuff that everybody had. But, that was because my children puked directly on me. Seriously. That’s one that’s really hard to get away from. And I was actually sick on a New York City subway on the way back from MoMA, and I had plastic bags and somebody tweeted about it. She was very nice about it, but she was like, “I just want to say that Ana Gasteyer puked next to me on the train.” [Laughs] It was like the worst day of my life.
Watch Gasteyer’s adorably mothering Lysol ad on how to stay healthy this holiday season. Because, honestly, who wants to be sick during Christmas?
I Am Hip, according to Gasteyer, is now available to be listened to while wrapping Christmas gifts.