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Maya Rudolph Comedian

Maya Rudolph

The hilarious and frivolous comedian of "Saturday Night Live" has been successfuly entertaining audiences on latenights for four seasons on the show. Rudolph received early acclaim for her over-the-top portrayal of Donatella Versace. She performs many memorable characters such as and Megan, co-host of high school morning talk show “Wake Up Wakefield” as well as the vivaciously clueless political talk show host “Rebecca” on “Fiesta Politica” and the divorcee host of “Second Time Around,” Glenda Goodwin as well as playing Britannica, half of the pop group “Gemini’s Twin.” In addition to her Versace, other impressions have included Halle Berry, Liza Minnelli, Christina Aguilera, Nelly Furtado and Macy Gray. Rudolph joined “SNL” from the Groundlings Theater in Los Angeles where SNL alums Laraine Newman, Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz as well as former “SNL” castmates Will Ferrell, Ana Gasteyer, and Chris Kattan also performed. She can be seen opposite Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore in the feature “Duplex” directed by Danny DeVito and will soon be seen with former castmate Will Ferrell in the feature “Anchorman.” Other film credits include “Chuck & Buck” and “Duets.” Her previous television credits include “City of Angels,” “Chicago Hope” and “Action.” Maya was born on July 27, 1972, in Florida.

Maya Rudolph was born in Gainesville, Florida on July 27th, 1972 to Richard Rudolph, a music producer, and soul singer Minnie Riperton. In 1973 Maya, her parents, and her older brother Marc later moved to California to further Minnie's music career. Here Minnie recorded "Lovin' You", her most famous single in which you can hear her sing "Maya Maya Maya" at the end of the song, claiming that this song was used as a lullabye for Maya. During adolescents Maya attended St. Augustine By the Sea School where she met childhood friend Gwyneth Paltrow. The Paltrows and the Rudolphs became family friends and in 2000, Dick Rudolph and Maya filled the role of Music Supervisors on the Bruce Paltrow directed film Duets (2000), which starred Gwyneth. In 1990, Maya enrolled at the University of California at Santa Cruz, majoring in Photography. It was here that Maya formed the band Supersauce with fellow students. After graduation in 1994, Maya left the band and soon joined The Rentals, fronted by Weezer Basist Matt Sharp. Maya was featured on the 1999 release "Seven More Minutes" where she sang backup vocals on "Barcelona" and "My Head is in the Sun". Maya began touring with the group singing backup and playing the Moog, a variation of the Sythnesizer. When the Rentals disbanded, Maya decided to persue her dream of a career in Comedy, joining the famed Comedy troupe, The Groundlings. On May 6 2000, Maya joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live" (1975) and has since become one of the most popular performers. Favorite sketches include a dead on impression of Fashion Diva Donatella Versace, as well as high school flake Megan, the host of her own morning talkshow on Wake-up WakeField.

More fun stuff about Maya Rudolph

Is the daughter of the late singer Minnie Riperton, best known for her 1975 #1 pop hit "Lovin' You". At the end of the song, Riperton can be heard singing "Maya Maya, Maya Maya, ..."

First impression on "Saturday Night Live" (1975) was of MTV VJ Ananda Lewis. The episode was when John Goodman hosted and Neil Young was the musical guest.

Keyboardist and a singer for the Weezer-spinoff band, The Rentals. She toured with them in 1996 and sang on their latest CD.

Daughter of Richard Rudolph and Minnie Riperton.

Childhood friends with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Brother Marc is a music engineer.

Graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a BA in photography in 1994.

Played with the pop group The Rentals, which opened for Alanis Morissette in 1994.

Attended St. Augustine by the Sea School with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Is a vegetarian.

Appeared with Donatella Versace at the 2002 VH1/Vogue Fashion awards.

Formed and sang in the jazz/funk band Supersauce while attending the University of California at Santa Cruz. She left the band when she graduated and later joined the Rentals singing backup vocals on the album "Seven More Minutes." She can be heard on "Barcelona" and "My head is in the Sun." Rudolph left the rentals to join the Groundlings to persue a career in Comedy, which eventually led her to "Saturday Night Live" (1975).

Often does impressions of Christina Aguilera and Donatella Versace on "Saturday Night Live" (1975).

Voted #20 on Entertainment Weekly's list of Funniest People in America in April 2004

Maya Rudolph: Funny girl

"SNL's" Maya Rudolph draws comedic inspiration from a cast of characters inside her curly head.
By Frappa Stout

Suggestion: Never, ever joke about Maya Rudolph's hair. Curly, unruly and, at times, downright nappy, the "Saturday Night Live" comedian's gravity-defying locks are no laughing matter. "I've never, in my entire life, ever not cried when I left the beauty parlor," the 31-year-old Rudolph says ruefully, recounting one disastrous experiment with bangs at the mere mention of her mane. "I'm incredibly sensitive about it. Any person in my life can tell you, we don't broach the subject."

The unconventional beauty doesn't mind discussing where she inherited her knack for performing: Her mother, '70s soul singer Minnie Riperton, was her earliest inspiration (it's her mom's honey-sweet voice on the classic ballad "Lovin' You"). When Maya was just shy of 7, her mother died of breast cancer; her father, music producer Richard Rudolph, reared her and her older brother, Marc.

It was another wild-haired "SNL" performer, Gilda Radner, who kindled Rudolph's dream to one day join the show. "I thought Roseanne Roseannadanna and I had the same haircut -- kind of pyramid-shaped," Rudolph says in her slightly nasal, Fran Drescher-ish Brooklynese. "There was just something about her, and she had my hair! I thought, 'I want to be that when I grow up.' "

Rudolph tried her hand at a variety of creative jobs, including bit parts in movies like 1997's "As Good as It Gets," but it wasn't until she joined the L.A. improv group the Groundlings that she found her comic voice. And her path to "SNL:" Show producer Steve Higgins saw her perform in 2000 and invited her to New York for an interview. She was hired right away.

Four years into her tenure on "SNL," Rudolph and her curls are a hot commodity, not an easy feat on the notoriously male-dominated show. Yet Rudolph's contradictory mix of wide-eyed innocence and R&B sexiness has endeared late-night viewers to her loopy troupe of characters, from the vamped-out, champagned-up fashion queen Donatella Versace to lovesick high schooler Megan.

Even the famously no-nonsense "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels has christened this "Maya's Season." "When she's out there," he says, "I'm not in any way worried, even if it's with less-than-solid material. She did a new character, Leilani Burke, the pet psychic. I didn't know what to expect, but she pulled it off."

Despite such support, Rudolph is a self-described "big worrier." (Evidence: She bites her nails.) She's keenly aware of the "SNL" pressure cooker that burns out even the biggest talents after a few years. For now, she's addicted to the rush, she says. And the freedom that comes with performing. "You can do anything you want," she says, pausing for effect. "Donatella can get electrocuted in the bathtub and keep on talking."

Maya Rudolph: One on One

Maya Rudolph has loved performing ever since she was little. This Saturday Night Live star was inspired by her talented mother—the late soul-singer Minnie Ripperton. For the past four seasons on SNL, funny girl Maya's over-the-top impressions of such stars as Donatella Versace, Jennifer Lopez—even Oprah!—have made her a favorite attraction. Most recently, Maya was voted by Entertainment Weekly as one of the funniest people in America! And although she makes her living impersonating others, Maya says she feels the most beautiful and most comfortable when she's in her own skin.

What does "beauty" mean to you?
Being nice…? No seriously. I really do think it comes from within. My mother is beautiful. My grandmother is beautiful. All the women in my family are beautiful. My stepmother is one of the most beautiful people I know. They all look young and healthy. And everyone woman in my family, from my grandmother down, is very creative. I think that has something to do with it. I come from a very creative family that isn't afraid to express their real self and they're able to wear who they are on their sleeve.

When do you feel the most beautiful?
When I have nothing on…no makeup, that is! And when I'm not doing anything. Besides, my boyfriend likes me with no makeup too! When I told him I was coming on the show, he was like, "Don't wear all that makeup; don't let them put all that makeup on you. Don't go crazy with the makeup!" I'm not going to lie—I don't look my best when I wake up! But I do feel beautiful when I'm tired and happy and I've had a good laugh and a glass of champagne.

Is it important to feel beautiful? Why?
For me, I feel beautiful when I'm just resting. I think that's when you really get a chance to sink into your own skin.

Maya Rudolph Landing '3001' Lead

"Saturday Night Live" regular Maya Rudolph and "Punk'd" standout Dax Shepard are close to landing lead roles opposite Luke Wilson in "3001," a comedy to be directed by "Beavis and Butt-head" creator Mike Judge.

"3001" centers on Joe Bowers (Wilson), an average American who is selected for a top-secret hibernation program that finds him waking up and living among a society 10 centuries in the future. He finds that civilization is so dumbed-down that he is the most intelligent person alive. Rudolph would will play a prostitute, and Shepard a defense attorney with a perpetually glazed-over look who becomes Bowers' court-appointed attorney.

Rudolph is best known for her work on the NBC sketch comedy show "SNL" for characters like Donatella Versace and Megan of "Wake-up Wakefield." Shepard next stars opposite Seth Green and Matthew Lillard in "Without a Paddle" for Paramount Pictures.

"3001" marks the first feature directed by Judge since his 1999 cult classic "Office Space." Judge wrote the "3001" script with Etan Cohen, a veteran scribe from "King of the Hill," which Judge also created.

Maya Rudolph: she took comedy notes on Gilda, now she's getting diva lessons from Donatella

Self-described California girl and Lakers fan Maya Rudolph grew up in an L.A. showbiz family. Her mother was singer Minnie Riperton and her father is songwriter and producer Richard Rudolph, and Rudolph spent her early years standing backstage watching her parents perform. Although she followed them into a music career, Rudolph soon turned to her first love, comedy, joining the Groundlings, L.A.'s renowned theater group. In 2000 she joined the cast of Saturday Night Live and found a way to combine both of her talents with her hilarious parodies of singers including Nelly Furtado and Destiny's Child. But it is her impersonation of Donatella Versace that is fast becoming Rudolph's trademark. La Versace has seen her imitator and approves, although she believes the 30-year-old could use a few lessons in how to be a diva. So, with Ingrid Sischy moving the conversation along from her office in New York, Rudolph sat pen in hand at the Covent Garden Hotel in London, while Versace reclined in her suite at the Ritz hot el in Paris, surrounded by her communications director, two assistants, a hair stylist, makeup artist and assorted bodyguards. Welcome to Diva 101.

INGRID SISCHY: Hi, Donatella.

DONATELLA VERSACE: Hi, Ingrid. How are you?

IS: Good. So we've got Maya on the line, too.

DV: Hi, Maya.

MAYA RUDOLPH: Hi, Donatella. How are you?

DV: I'm good. But forgive me if I immediately start to bitch a little bit. [laughs] Maya, the diamonds you wear when you imitate me on Saturday Night Live are nothing compared to mine. I can tell from a mile away that your jewelry is fake. You can't do that to me, darling. You can't wear fake jewelry. I'm allergic to it. I get a rash all over my body. [all laugh]

MR: I'm going to start saying that on the set. "I can't wear these fake jewels--I'm allergic."

DV: I think I should teach you a few things about being a diva.

MR: OK.

DV: A real diva would never scream at her guests to get out--she would ask her assistants to make the guests get out. This is one of the rules of divadom.

MR: Because you want to keep an air of calm and cool.

DV: Yes, you send your assistant. Not to shout, just to take people out of the room. To shout is too much, that's vulgar. A diva doesn't do that. You understand? The second rule is if you can afford jewelry, you buy the real ones; if you cannot afford real ones, don't wear them.

MR: Exactly, go naked.

DV: OK? And third, the hair doesn't move enough. It looks so fake. From Italy to New York you can see it. And I don't wear a dress in the bathtub. [all laugh] The bathtub is full of water, scented oil, and I wear my embroidered-by-hand G-string. A little black one. And petal roses are scattered all over the water.

MR: That sounds nice.

DV: Yeah. And the guy who's playing your assistant looks passe. The guys I like now are taller and slender.

MR: So I need better guys.

DV: Yeah. Your assistant has a very '80s look--out of fashion. I am going to send you some pictures of the models I use now. I'll select the men for you. I have a thousand more things to tell you.

MR: I'm writing it all down as we speak-my notes on being a diva. [all laugh]

DV: It takes a while to make yourself a diva.

IS: How long?

DV: Oh, my God. At least 10 years.

MR: But don't you think you were born with it?

DV: Of course I was born with it. I was a diva the first day I was born. That was in my fingers in the nursery room. [all laugh] Anyway, I speak English very badly, but not as badly as you do when you're being me.

MR: No, no, no. Your accent is so beautiful.

DV: Yours is better than mine, but you make me sound like a Brooklyn girl. I never go to Brooklyn, always Manhattan. But I don't want to offend you. I really like you.

MR: Oh, that's so nice to hear, Donatella. It means so much to me that you like what I do.

DV: I like you very much but I want you to do me for real.

MR: I would love it if you would come in and teach me how to really do you.

DV: Keep doing me please, for the rest of your life. [all laugh]

MR: I want to create a Donatella franchise.

DV: That's a good idea. Let's call it DV Franchising. With the initials. You see, a real diva doesn't need to say her name.

MR: Yeah, I don't call myself Maya anymore, it's just M.R. You can call me M for short.

DV: I call you M, you call me D.

MR: OK. [both laugh]

DV: One thing you do well is the dresses. But I can send you some real Versace gowns--it would be better.

MR: Yeah! We need to have the real thing. For this story I wore Versace, and I look like a fox. The dress made my body look insane, and it was the most exquisite thing. I'm in love with it. It's purple and yellow--Lakers colors. I'm such a Lakers fan; I'm such a California girl.

IS: Donatella, I was thinking we might ask Maya some things about her life before she became obsessed with playing you. First of all, Maya, you grew up in L.A and your mother was singer Minnie Riperton and your dad is Richard Rudolph, the songwriter and producer. I know your mother died when you were very young, but what an amazing thing it must have been to have parents who were such incredible musicians.

MR: Yeah, music is really my life. I don't sound anything like my mother; she was so unique and her voice was its own thing. When I was a little girl, I would stand on the side of the stage and watch my mom singing out there in beautiful gowns. She was such a diva in the most exquisite sense. Those are very vivid memories for me. I always had the idea of wanting to be on a stage, in these beautiful gowns, with a microphone in my hand, and that comes from my mom.

IS: A few years ago you were at the start of a major music career, touring with your band the Rentals in support of Alanis Morissette, Garbage and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but then you moved into comedy. How did that happen?

MR: The truth is I had always felt most comfortable doing comedy. But music is such a natural part of me, it was something that I always did. So a gig came up, and then it became a job, and then the next thing I knew I was just out of college and I thought, All right, I'll do music, because it's the one thing that I can do easily without ever really worrying about it. But the comedy was always there--my dream since I was a little girl was to be on Saturday Night Live. I was truly obsessed with Gilda Radner. I thought she was the funniest woman, and I believed that being a comedian was the most exciting thing you could be. I used to do impressions of her when I was five, because I had hair that looked like Roseanne Roseannadanna. [laughs] When you find your heroes as a kid, they stay with you forever, and so I'd always wanted to be like Gilda when I grew up-it was something inside of me that I knew I had to do. So I thought, I know I'll pick up the music again, but let's go and find out what this is really abo ut.

DV: It sounds to me like whatever you want to do you get done. You're a very determined person.

MR: I hope so. You know, I studied fashion design-

DV: --Oh, don't go there, please. Forget about fashion design.

IS: [laughs] Donatella, when did you first see Maya doing you?

DV: Somebody sent me a tape from New York. I think she's the best person that imitates me. They also imitate me in Italy, but not that well.

IS: It's amazing how many people do imitate you, Donatella.

DV: Why is that? Am I ridiculous? [laughs]

MR: No, you're amazing.

IS: Maya, when you imitate people, do you ever worry about offending them?

MR: Well, the reaction from Donatella has been the most favorable in terms of someone who really has a good sense of humor about themselves.

MR: Yeah, I think they do get offended some-times. It's interesting to me, because if I was such a well-known figure that people were doing me, I would be so flattered.

DV: Are other people offended?

DV: I'm very flattered. I think the ones who are offended are less intelligent than the other ones.

IS: Yes. Also for you, Donatella, I know from being with you and your brother Gianni that laughing was always the most important thing.

DV: Yes. It's very, very important.

IS: And is it important to you too, Maya?'

MR: Absolutely. Any comedian knows what it's Like not to laugh. I think a lot of people in comedy would say that they know the dark places as well as the light-

DV: -Excuse me, both of you, but I have a private jet waiting for me, to take me to St. Tropez, so I am off.

MR: Wait a minute! Where are you going?

DV: I'm going to St. Tropez for the weekend. I just finished the haute couture fashion show here in Paris, and my jet is waiting for me.

IS: In true diva style, huh? Donatella, since you have a private jet waiting, is that another diva rule for Maya?

DV: Of course. Never commercial flights, only private jets. The minimum is a Gulfstream Four.

IS: And what needs to be on that jet?
Maya Rudolph: she took comedy notes on Gilda, now she's getting diva lessons from Donatella - Comedy and Diva Summit - Interview
Interview, Oct, 2002 by Donatella Versace
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DV: Water, ice and lemon and a straw, because drinking without a straw can mess up your lipstick. So you should drink from a straw, a black straw.

IS: A black straw?

DV: Yes. [Rudolph laughs] You know I like black. Anyway, I can't wait to meet you, Maya. You are very talented, that's obvious. And thank you for making me laugh.

MR: Thank you for being so gracious, you make it such a joy to do you. Will you promise me one thing--that you will come be on the show?

DV: Of course, whenever you want. And tell anyone who bothers you that somebody who can make people laugh is a very important person--a great mind.

MR: I agree. We are going to get along just fine.

DV: Yes. Bye, bye Maya.

MR: Bye, bye.

IS: Bye, DV. Have a great trip.

DV: Ciao, Ingrid. Ciao. [hangs up]

IS: Wasn't that heaven? Maya, you touched on something earlier about knowing what it's like not to laugh. Why do you think so many comedians find their humor comes from dark places?

MR: I don't know. I can only say for myself that the comedy was always there. I always enjoyed being on and making people laugh. There's this moment I remember from when I was seven or eight: I was with a friend and she hurt herself and started to cry, and I just started talking in a funny voice. I thought, This is much better than feeling bad; I want to make her feel good. And she started to laugh. There's the power that comedy gives you, and the enjoyment. It's like, "Yes, you're deferring pain, but isn't it more fun to laugh while you're doing it?"

A lot of comedians will say they find the humor in sadness. The characters that I write on the show are not totally together people. I've got a girl who is 14 and lovelorn and will never have the boy that she's obsessed with. To me that's very real and very honest. I understand the sadness but it's so pathetic that you just have to laugh.

IS: You majored in photography at the University of California, Santa Cruz and also studied fashion design. Do you think comedy is visual, too?

MR: For me it is. I'm a visual person, so when I think of characters, a lot of times I'll say, "I want to do a lady with really big red hair," and it will start from there.

IS: How do you do your research? Are you constantly looking at TV and fashion magazines?

MR: Yes. I've always been obsessed with pop culture. Growing up in L.A., you're a city kid, but it's a company town. It's like living in the town where there's a steel mill and everybody works for the mill. It becomes part of your consciousness, whether you realize it or not.

IS: So you left L.A. and moved to New York when you got the job on Saturday Night Live.

MR: When they told me I got the show, I had two weeks to move to the East Coast. It was all so last-minute. But it was the best way to go, because I didn't have time to think about it.

IS: Exactly. People always think this stuff happens in a planned way, but it rarely does.

MR: Absolutely. And I'm glad it happened that way, because I can't imagine a better fit. It's a really natural evolution of this thing I was creating in my head as a kid, growing up feeling like such a freak and that I didn't belong anywhere. It came at the right time and it just feels right.

My, Oh Maya

It's 5 p.m. on a freezing Friday afternoon, and I'm at the legendary NBC studio 8H, home of Saturday Night Live. Superstar-in-the-making Maya Rudolph is doing a run-through of her biggest skit this week: She plays cleaning lady Wanda opposite guest host Ray Liotta as janitor Charlie, working at the Times Square Howard Johnson during the restaurant's last night in business. The stars are busy learning the choreography for an old Hollywood-style dance number when I tell the show's publicist that the closing of the classic fried-clam emporium is just a vicious rumor. Afterward, I'm afraid I've sabotaged the skit. Not every sketch makes the cut: Each week SNL plans an extra half-hour of material, then trims the show after Saturday's dress rehearsal.

Known as a stylish girl about town, Rudolph, 30, is working a casual look today. With her hair pulled back into ponytails -- thick, gorgeous hair that everyone but Rudolph seems to think is fabulous -- she wears almost no makeup and looks adorable in Abercrombie & Fitch jeans, a T-shirt, sweater and sneakers. From my perch on the stage, through a forest of stagehands, cameras and lights, the comedian, adored for her impressions of Donatella Versace, looks non-plussed as she chews gum -- an affectation for her cleaning-lady character, perhaps. Suddenly a snappy little Muzak ditty is piped over the loudspeaker, and the director says, "Are we ready to try it?" The choreographer says, "Left, right, step, step, back, step, step, step." The kids start shaking their shimmies.

Rudolph accidentally pokes Liotta in the eye, but no damage is done. SNL co-star Horatio Sanz, standing off-stage, gets carried away and begins dancing too, dipping a female stagehand. The hoofing is making Rudolph schvitz, so she takes off her sweater. Meanwhile, an NBC tour is passing by, and some gawkers have their noses pressed to the glass trying to get a glimpse of a star. With the sappy Muzak wafting through the studio, the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland-musical feeling of the sketch and the soft glow of the spotlight, Rudolph is literally glowing. Not glowing from the sweat -- glowing like an old Hollywood ingénue. Glowing like a star.


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