Saturday Night Live's Aidy Bryant on Real Housewives Addiction and How Kristen Wiig's The Best
Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC
Look. We know plenty of people want to claim Aidy Bryant as their own. She lives in New York. She made a name for herself in Chicago. But we Phoenicians really should have first dibs on the Saturday Night Live performer. A few reasons: Her fam lives here (her mom Georganne owns one of our fave boutiques, Frances). When we recently spoke with her she wasn't kicking it in the Big Apple, but chilling in Yuma on her way to a family vacation. Plus, she told us how her career in comedy really started off in Phoenix, where she attended high school at Xavier Prep (she did the morning announcements) and found theatrical mentors around town who inspired her to pursue a career as a professionally funny person.
Show her some hometown love when Bryant returns to the Valley for a weekend of performances alongside her SNL co-star/conspirator, Tim Robinson. The pair joined SNL last season after working together at Second City in Chi-town. Their double-bill promises a combo of sketch and improv, some testing of new material from each of them, and a Q&A sesh to end each set.
We caught up with Bryant via telephone to chat about her time on SNL, how cool Kristen Wiig and Mumford and Sons are, and her Real Housewives obsession.
You tweeted that the people at your upcoming Phoenix show will be your mom, her friends, and your high school teachers. I was kidding [laughs], but I do feel like there's going to be a definite show of everyone my parents and my brother knows.
Do you have a big network of supporters here? Oh definitely. I still come back to Phoenix a lot. My parents are here and so I've kept in touch with a lot of people here. That's part of why I'm so excited to do this show. It's the chance to bring what I've been doing in Chicago for years and now New York to Phoenix.
What can people expect to see? Well I think this is going to be a special show because it'll be me and Tim Robinson, who's a great friend of mine from back in our Chicago Second City days and we were really fortunate to be hired together and get to work together on SNL. What we're going to do is sort of like a grab bag of all kinds of fun stuff: sketches, improvisation, real Chicago-style stuff, and then we're also going to do some solo material, so you might get the chance to see some of the stuff that we auditioned with for SNL. and then also we're going to do a Q&A. It's going to be a wild ride.
What did you audition with for SNL? Well, I mean that's why you have to come see the show, right? [Laughs.] Well basically what they want from you in an audition is they want to see a range of characters and they also want to see if you have any impressions you can do. So I did mostly characters. I didn't really do a lot of impressions. I did do Adele. That was my only impression. And then a bunch of characters I had done at Second City.
What's your Adele impression like? Do you sing or do you do her funny little giggle? Maybe a little bit of both. It's a combo.
Having a big network back here in Phoenix, did you feel like people supported you when you were here? My parents have been super-supportive of me going after this, because it's sort of an unconventional path. But yeah, I was really lucky. When I was around 15 years old I had been doing these theater camps for kids and stuff like that, but I met a teacher who taught real improvisation, very comparable to what I ended up doing in Chicago, which got me hired for SNL . So I was doing that stuff in high school, which was really lucky because a lot of people who do improv they go to college, maybe try out for a troupe, then then they go to Chicago. But at 15 they sort of opened my eyes to this world and told me about what was going on in Chicago with Second City and all these different theaters there. And so when I went to college, that's where I went and my parents supported me the whole time -- and my friends here. And I came back and did a few little shows here and there, but this is like a really great chance for a lot of people to come and see some of what I did in Chicago and now what I do in New York. So it's really exciting.
Where did you go to school? I went to Xavier College Prep. Go Gators. I actually used to do the announcements there like every morning [laughs].
Did you put on a voice or were you yourself? No. I was just myself. They're pretty strict over there. So I don't think they would've liked me doing the announcements in character or anything like that. I was too busy getting detention for uniform violations.
Oh. What did you do to violate the dress code? Oh, not really. Just, if your shirt is untucked you get detention, and I had a few of those.
From here to Chicago to New York, what has kept you going? What makes you want to do it? Well I mean I love comedy. I actually didn't do much comedy in my actual high school. I just did it through people who are now in The Torch Theatre. They had their own classes and their own teen group for that sort of thing. The thing that's kept me going as far as comedy is for me I just always felt like there wasn't another option for me. It just fit right away. Then when I got to Chicago things moved really quickly. I got hired at Second City, which that in itself was a huge dream of mine. To get to work there for a few years was huge for me. There's a ton of SNL people who have come there -- Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch and Seth Meyers, even long before that. It was a great treat for me to work there, and then Lorne [Michaels] and producers and writers came to see a show that I was in there and brought me in to audition.
What's it like having Tim [Robinson] and Cecily [Strong] who also came out of Chicago at the same time as you there with you? We all knew each other before and we were definitely friends. I feel very close to them in a way that I feel I could never explain. Nobody else knows what it's like to go from obscurity to suddenly you're on TV every week. People are watching you, and you're trying your best. All these things. It's really intense. I felt so lucky to have my two friends right next tome. I love them, you know. They're the best.
How has your life changed from Second City now to SNL? Everything is different. Almost everything about my life is pretty different. I was just thinking about that because the season ended and now it's coming around again. I've almost lived in New York now for one year, and it's like: Oh my gosh I can't believe how different my life is. But, you know, I would say the biggest thing is that my world has opened up. I've gotten to do and see so many things, meet all these incredible people, all these incredible hosts, and just work at the show. The hair and makeup department or the costume department; there are things that go on behind the scenes that you just can't imagine. They just enrich your life. You get to see things like that. So I feel very lucky. And living in New York is a totally different experience, especially growing up in Phoenix. I grew up riding in a car everywhere and all that. So it's fun to live a different portion of my life.
What do you like about New York and what's surprised you about New York? Gosh. It truly is a 24-hour city. Everything you can dream of is open 24 hours. and it's really fun. SNL is a late night place, so suddently you get to experience New York City at 4 in the morning and have these wild adventures that I wasn't having in Chicago. It's kind of like going to comedy college.
What's the craziest night you've had in New York? You know, I would say when Mumford and Sons was musical guest. We went to the after party, but then for the after-after party we went to karaoke with them until dawn. And that was one of those nights where I was like, "What is my life?" But it was so fun.
Who were other guests or hosts who you connected with in a similar way? Obviously I loved Kristen Wiig. That was such a treat to get to work with her because she is the best, but she's also one of the kindest people that i've ever met. That was so fun. And getting to intro the musical guest, which was Vampire Weekend, with her while covered in blood was one of the highlights of my life. That was really all her saying: Come do it with me. So that was really special. Melissa McCarthy was awesome, and she just like hung out with us. Louis CK was one of my favorites, I mean there were so many that we really didn't have a dud in the bunch.
Who are your favorite comedians? Who makes you laugh? Well like I said I love Louis CK. I love Melissa McCarthy. I love Kristen Wiig. Outside of them, Neil Hamburger is hilarious. And I love following him on Twitter. I really love Comedy Bang! Bang!... Bob Odenkirk, everything he's done from back in the day.
Do you watch him on Breaking Bad? Yes! Oh yeah. He's my favorite part of the show.
Are you a big TV watcher or are you more into podcasts or stand-up? I do watch a lot of TV. But I watch a lot of horrible TV, like horrible Real Housewives stuff. I watch a lot of dumb stuff. But I love Comedy Bang! Bang!; I love Louie and Maron. I think they're great shows. A lot of what's on Comedy Central is exciting right now. There's a lot of good stuff out there, especially for comedy fans, in a way that I feel like really wasn't on TV so much when i was younger. I feel like a lot of networks are taking a few more risks and putting more interesting shows on. It's exciting. But then you know, I've watched SNL since I was a kid. So there are old standards who are working it.
Was SNL a goal for you when you started doing comedy? Yeah, definitely. When i started as a kid I loved SNL, and I was obsessed with Molly Shannon and Cherie Oteri. I was the Spartans for Halloween one year. I was a huge SNL fan. in a way, especially growing up and living in arizona, it just feels so far away. but the thing that was encouraging was that, once I really started chasing after it, it wasn't that far away. And it happened. and that's a lucky, amazing thing to happen. So it's really special. It's definitely something I've wanted since I was little. I watched every week. Every single week.
Who are your favorite Housewives? Well, I have many different types of favorites -- like favorite most insane or favorite person who's a good mom and level-headed, you know? So I feel like Heather she actually does like have her shit together a little bit. But I love Vicki because she's always screaming. Do you watch all of them? Not really. I've definitely watched all of them at different times. They are amazing characters, each of them on their own. So I can't help but watch.
Which Real Housewife do you think you are most like? Probably none. I'm probably like one of the dogs always walking in the background.
What do you see for yourself in the coming year? Any particular characters or projects in the works? I think that's the beauty of Saturday Night Live. I am not in control. So all I can do is do my best, go there, and they are going to hand us stuff to do, and we'll create stuff to do together.But where it's going to go, nobody knows. I think that's the fun of it. Every week its' a totally new show. We really dont start working on it until Monday. We never have anything pre-planned. So it's impossible to say where it's going to go. Each week whether it's good or bad, Monday is a clean slate.
What have been your favorite sketches or roles that you've done so far? I love doing Girlfriends Talk Show. That was a huge point of pride for the two of us because we were both brand new. Just to do a scene alone, the two of us with the host, is a huge honor. It doesn't always work that way. We're really proud of that one. It makes us laugh. And we hope people like it. And of course doing the acupuncture scene with Kristen was a dream come true. I loved doing Mrs. Claus. I thought that was real fun and sassy. Pretty much anything I've gotten to be a part of on the show has beyond exceeded my dreams.
Do you plan on doing more touring? Yeah. I think we both want to do more. We did a similar show to this in Chicago. It was so much fun. Every night we really got to know some of the audience. And it's fun to do live shows again. It's such a different thing being in a small room, and really getting to laugh and have fun with those 100 people in the room. That's what we cut our teeth doing in Chicago and at different theaters like iO and Second City. To get to do more of that, it's something that I get to do forever, no matter what happens.
Is it less stressful? I don't know if it's less stressful, because whether the room is 10 people or whether it's on TV I always want it to be good. I think there are opportunities for moments that aren't being recorded that you can only talk about afterwards. I think there's something special about that. That's what's fun about a live show. Every night is totally different and you never know what you're going to get.
Any plans when you get to Phoenix? Are you in New York right now? I'm in Yuma right now. My family and I are going to San Diego, so we are driving from Phoenix. But when I'm in Phoenix i have a lot of my favorite places i always stop by. i always stop by my mom's store, of course. I'll go to eat at Gallo Blanco or Cibo.
What do you see yourself doing post-SNL? However long you end up doing the show, where do you want to end up after? I don't know. To be honest, I just started doing what I'm doing. So my head is totally SNL right now. It's my number one focus. And it's a lot to focus on. So as far as future plans I don't have any. I trust that all that will come. But right now I'm so excited about what I'm doing and the new things that are happening at SNL. That's where my focus is. So I don't know where I'm headed, but I know I love where I'm at.
Aidy Bryant and Tim Robinson perform five sets from Friday, August 23, through Sunday, August 25, at Tempe Improv. Showtimes Friday are 7 and 10 p.m. Tickets to the 21-and-over shows are $22, and there's a two-drink minimum.
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