Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, and Natasha Lyonne sing the praises of EW cover star Maya Rudolph
For our March cover story on Maya Rudolph, EW reached out to some of the people who know her best. Here, three famous friends share their tales of airplane toilets, tennis in Hawaii, and SNL emergencies.
NATASHA LYONNE (friend and production partner, Animal Pictures): How we met? It's funny because that whole period is hazy to me, but the good news is Maya remembers, so I've taken it at her word. Like an uneventful Rashomon, a very peaceful Rashomon. [Laughs] I remember other events. I remember Maya and I on a trip to Hawaii. In all the pictures I looked like Hunter S. Thompson in the middle of a bender with the full visor, and Maya was this lanky waif who's just walking around the ocean. And tennis was involved.
I don't even know what it is with her. It was just — "This is my person. We're going to be friends forever." Her entire system is wired for being a vehicle of joy. And there's such inherent musicality to her, it's like being Mozart or something. For some reason, I always think of her and Fred [Armisen] more as musicians, as rock stars, than even as comedians.
But also she really is the person who's your best friend at a sleepover party, who's pulling her pants above her boobs to do an impression of a dork and making all the girls in their sleeping bags crack up. She's just pure enough of a human being that she's been able to maintain that into adulthood.
[With Animal Pictures] the only thing we actually care about is making great s--- that people haven't seen before and really using the company as a way to, A, spend time together, and B, raise up new voices. I think we fancy ourselves like the old Muppets in the balcony, commenting on stuff. And we like the idea of watching the kids singing their song.
But anyway, I compliment EW. A very worthy cover subject! Compliments to the chef, okay? Well done. [Laughs]
AMY POEHLER (friend and former castmate, SNL, Sisters, Wine Country): First of all, so many strengths. Such a musical genius. Also such a comedic genius. A real sense of play and fearlessness. SNL is like a comedy emergency room and you really need people who don't panic. And people really want to watch people who feel like they have this sense of calm. I know that sounds obvious, but it's hard — it takes many years on that show to achieve it. You either have it or you don't, and that's what's so awesome when you watch Maya, especially live. You never worry about her.
This is a little reductive, but it's true. There are two types of people. People that either bail or they look at you with really wide eyes like, "Holy s---!" And they laugh with you. In so many instances, whether it be something going wrong on live TV or being on set with something that's not working, I turn to Maya and she is enjoying it in just the right way. And that is because she has a really big mom energy — she's a really sweet maternal person.
And mothers kinda know that when everything falls apart, everyone's looking to you. I told this story on Seth Meyers, but it's a quick story, which is: When we were flying to take our wine country trip, which our movie was based on, I had a moment where I thought my phone was in my back pocket and I thought it had fallen into the airplane toilet. And everyone's reactions were so funny. Mine was, of course, immediate fury at myself and that I didn't want to talk about it. And Maya's was like, "Let's just get in there! Let's get some gloves on, let's find that phone!" It was very like what a mom would do, which is, "There's nowhere to go but in there." And that's was a good example of Maya in crisis.
KRISTEN WIIG (friend and former castmate, SNL and Bridesmaids): When I saw Maya on SNL and before that performing at the Groundlings, I immediately loved her — her sense of humor, her silliness, her ability to create these well-rounded hilarious characters without any fear… I really looked up to her as a performer and more importantly a person. I was beyond excited when she came back, and we got to be on SNL together and became fast friends.
I really believe you can sense a lot about a person when you see them perform, what kind of person they are. I think what makes her so beloved is that people see that light in her. She is that amazing person, she's supportive and collaborative and just a good human. I think people can sense that. And I also believe people wanna see performers having fun, being silly and loving what they do. That's Maya.