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Friday
Jan302009

Look Who Stopped By: It's Michaela Watkins!By: Keith Huang

*KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK*
Whooooooo is it?

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LUCKY LADY "I knew it would either work out or not, but I had to detach from the outcome" --Michaela Watkins | Photo: NBC

Hey, it's Michaela Watkins -- one of the new featured players on Saturday Night Live! We were instant fans of Michaela, especially when she debuted her Arianna Huffington impersonation ... you know ... but, really, we've been cheering the native New Yorker pretty much the moment she was hired. She's a hard-working actor who spent years playing scenes on black-box stages, striking her own sets and just pursuing one, solitary goal: getting her comedy seen by others. The work paid off, perhaps most notably in a recurring spot on The New Adventures of Old Christine, but for many aspiring comedy-types, Michaela now represents that hoary, and often forgotten, chestnut: Never give up on a dream. Because after running the SNL-audition gauntlet for nearly two years, Michaela would get a call from Lorne Michaels at 9 p.m. California time -- we want you at a table read at 3 p.m. tomorrow ... in New York.

In the same week she has been working on sketches for this week's host and one of her personal comedy heroes, Steve Martin, The Apiary received some thoughtful A's to some burning Q's.

When SNL first announced that you and Abby Elliott would be cast members, it made really big news. Do you think such heightened scrutiny is a good or a bad thing?
Good or bad for me? I think it's a good thing, because it means that I'm joining a show when people are interested and watching opposed to a sleepy time when no one cares. SNL made such an amazing mark this past election and I was proud to be a sketch comedienne (without even being on SNL) because of the fine work that was being done on the show. Finally comedy was doing what it does so well -- makes fun of the status quo and I think people really paid attention. So, I really gave you two answers. A: I think the heightened scrutiny was good thing because it meant it was not only a good time for SNL but B: a good time for comedy in general.

Kristen Wiig, Neal Patrick Harris & Michaela Watkins | NBC Photo: Dana Edelson
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What was your first one-on-one meeting with Lorne Michaels like?
I might be one of the few cast members who never had a one-on-one meeting with Lorne, but I'm also one of the few cast members who auditioned for the show twice -- once during the fall of '07 and again in the late summer of '08. However Lorne did call me to tell me I was hired in a rather round about way.

He didn't come out and tell me I had the job. He very casually said "we'd like to get you on a plane to New York in time for the table read tomorrow at 3pm." (I was in Los Angeles and it was 9pm.) This might give you an idea of how long I had to pack and get to the airport. Let me help you. 4 hours. That's counting 2 hours of staring at my boyfriend in total shock.

NBC Photo: Dana Edelson
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But when did you first get a sense that joining the cast could become a real possibility, and when did you allow yourself to think it could really happen?
Good question ... You know? I'm not really sure. I had a great time auditioning in 2007 and when I heard Casey Wilson was hired I said "Oh WOW! That's so great! Good for her!" I met her while shooting a pilot the year before and I always thought she was not only talented but incredibly nice. It was only a few days later when I realized this probably meant I would not be getting hired and I made peace with that. Because of that experience, I think I never really thought it would come around again.

When I auditioned the second time, I didn't tell anyone really. I didn't hear until almost 3 months later, so I was glad I didn't tell many people. It was easier to just put it out of my mind. I was really busy with the Groundlings and I knew it would either work out or not, but I had to detach from the outcome. Does that make sense?

Needless to say, you've been an SNL fan for years. What are some of your most memorable and influential moments from the show?
Well, anything with Gilda Radner in it. I would imitate her all the time as a very little girl. I was obsessed. I read anything that had to do with her like Bunny Bunny and her memoir "It's Always Something" about her battle with cancer and cry and cry. I auditioned to play her in a TV movie about her life four years ago. I dressed up like Lisa Loopner and everything. I think I scared the casting director. Of course I was a huge fan of Martin Short, Jan Hooks, Nora Dunn, Phil Hartman, Cheri Oteri, Will Ferrell (coincidentally, the last 3 people were Groundlings).

When and where did your Arianna Huffington impersonation first come about?
I've never really been one for impressions. Mostly original characters that are based on random people I imitate in my daily life. (the owner of the restaurant where I worked, my mother, the insipid woman in line in front of me at Costco. ) SNL has given me an opportunity to explore more impressions and I never know who I'll play until the script is written.

I love the challenge, but the Huffington impression came about because I was talking about a piece I heard on NPR that day and I was trying to make my customers laugh where I bartended. I just kind of "did" it. Then I thought -- hey I should remember that in case anyone besides of the 4 of us know who Arianna Huffington is and want to hear an impression.

We've always figured that once you join the cast, you have to start figuring out how you're gonna get your closest friends and family in to see the show. How's that been going for you
Agh. It's hard. You can't please everyone ... and all I want to do is please everyone.

Please finish this sentence: I got on SNL because I ______.
...AM LUCKY.

RELATED
SNL Backstage: Michaela Watkins
Photos: Groundlings Sunday Company | Full set
Michaela Watkins as Ann Coulter

Reader Comments (8)

Michaela is really a joy to watch on SNL.
January 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike S.
I find it interesting that though she also is appearing on "The New Adventures of Old Christine", she doesn't mention Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as a favorite SNL veteran...
January 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBryan Irrera
If she did that, wouldn't it be clear that she was just being polite? JLD, albeit an amazing actor, was on during a very forgettable period in the shows history.
January 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike S.
Please finish this sentence: I got on SNL because I ______....AM LUCKY.

...make people laugh!(and lots of hard work)I just love her!
January 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrk
I really wish they'd give her more time on SNL. I think she has a tremendous amount of potential.
February 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFrank
Always appreciate insight into Saturday Night Live casting, and I love seeing more women on the show. Thanks Keith!

Michaela's debut has been strong, with memorable characters and the kind of commitment to playing it straight that we saw from Wiig when she came aboard. MORE!
February 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAbbi Crutchfield
Watkins and Wiig ought to be paired and have their own SitCom.The two light-up the screen when they are on. Wiig's got character's that are the funniest ever on TV ... justkiddin' ... and they're both a couple of Genuine "Come-hither's" that are, like, just totally deferential to men, ... if you know what I'm saying.I'd like to dress them both up as Girl Scouts and see how many boxes of cookies get sold, ... I mean, IF ... you ... know ... what ... I'm ... sayin': and I think you do. THE two Babe-est and Funny-est ladies on the tube. They have the magic! "Say, Goodnight. Gracie" Guh-nite, Gracie ... Oh, Barbie!
July 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Massey
Watkins and Wiig ought to be paired and have their own SitCom.The two light-up the screen when they are on. Wiig's got character's that are the funniest ever on TV ... justkiddin' ... and they're both a couple of Genuine "Come-hither's" that are, like, just totally deferential to men, ... if you know what I'm saying.I'd like to dress them both up as Girl Scouts and see how many boxes of cookies get sold, ... I mean, IF ... you ... know ... what ... I'm ... sayin': and I think you do. THE two Babe-est and Funny-est ladies on the tube. They have the magic! "Say, Goodnight. Gracie" Guh-nite, Gracie ... Oh, Barbie!
July 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Massey

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