Mary Lynn Rajskub is a stand-up comic and actress who is most recognizable for her roles in TV shows like 24 or How to be a Gentleman, and films such as Sunshine Cleaning and Safety Not Guaranteed. The 41-year-old performer has been working steadily in Hollywood since the 1990s, when she first appeared in Mr. Show with Bob and David. Right before she started her television career, though, she was working at a Los Angeles restaurant where she met her first real girlfriend, the story of which she tells on her latest podcast, Kickin’ it Mary Lynn Style.
Four years ago, when Mary Lynn played a lesbian character in Sunshine Cleaning, she told The Advocate she’d had “experiences” with women, but didn’t elaborate. Now she’s opening up about those past relationships, and how they are still a part of her now, as a married mom.
“I’m more settled now in my life, which makes me feel — maybe because I’m more secure, I’m more comfortable talking about it,” Mary Lynn told AfterEllen. “You would think when I was actually having a relationship with a woman or seeing women or having things or whatever, that I would be talking about it.”
The podcast about her on-and-off-again ex-girlfriend Heather is a funny but sad story that has Mary Lynn fans asking for clarification on her sexuality, something Mary Lynn hadn’t had to figure out herself until people began asking.
“It’s weird because i do believe in grey areas, but for some reason, just you saying it’s more fluid, makes me be like ‘No, it’s not!’ because I want to label everything. But the truth of it is, for me and my personality, it is more fluid,” Mary Lynn said. “It just is.”
Raised in Michigan (“no-nonsense Midwestern,” as she calls it), Mary Lynn didn’t know what gay was until she went to art school at 17.
“You know it was art school and she had a blue mohawk and she’s like ‘I have to tell you something.’ And I thought she was going to tell me she had cancer or something and I was like ‘OK, she’s going to tell me she has 30 days to live’ and she’s like, ‘I’m bisexual.’ And in that moment it was totally like the after-school special moment, literally her saying that, her blowing my mind, and her asking ‘Do you want to kiss me to see what it feels like?’ And that was the first time. That kind of set the whole thing off.”
As you can hear on Kickin’ it Mary Lynn Style, Mary Lynn had a long-term partner named Heather, and their relationship was tumultuous.
“That was the one where I really made a go of it, in terms of calling it a relationship,” Mary Lynn said. “I dated quite a few women and tried at different times to be like ‘This is my girlfriend,’ but it never really worked out. … And the story I describe with this woman, unfortunately, it was kind of crazy and that sort of became my barometer so I never really figured out if that was something that, cause it was sort of fueled by this melodramatic, stopping and starting, emotional. She wasn’t out yet and I certainly wasn’t out and I kind of equate my growing up and sort of having more success in my career and then she was in a relationship and then we did meet later, but that was just kind of a messed up relationship, unfortunately.”
Mary Lynn says her relationships with women have crept into pitch meetings for her comedy work, and that she’s aware of the lack of lesbian stories being told.
“I did this series of little one-act plays that were about gay relationships, geared toward marriage issues and the producer said to me, ‘Yeah we need some lesbian stories! We need some funny lesbian stories!’ It never occurred to me,” Mary Lynn said. “She’s producing this thing and she wants to represent all these different kinds of relationships and she’s like ‘There’s a shortage on funny lesbian stories!’ And I was like ‘Holy shit, that is so true. We need that.’”
When she was offered the role of a lesbian love interest for Emily Blunt‘s character in Sunshine Cleaning, Mary Lynn said her own experiences offered some insight. Unfortunately, a large part of the storyline was left on the cutting room floor.
“When they cut a movie, they’re just trying to make the main story come together but I loved the relationship with Emily Blunt’s character and my character,” Mary Lynn said. “It sort of wasn’t able to make it into the movie because it would have been a bigger side story, which is, I think she really was attracted to me and I was like straight up serious about her. So that’s the whole other thing that happens that seems so unfair. Emily Blunt’s character is maybe crazy emotionally but the other component is she just gets to go ‘Oh I don’t like women.’ It seems so — that’s terrible. I saw my character as really pretty straight up, pretty honest, pretty interested in her. It didn’t matter how crazy she was. So that was like heartbreak for my character you didn’t really get to see played out in the movie. There was a whole after-the-date makeout scene that happened and a whole confrontation thing that they just didn’t have time to put in the film.”
Mary Lynn has a son with husband Matt Rolph but said she still spends a lot of time with gay friends and that the community is a part of her life, as it has been since that first art school moment.
“Definitely when I was in San Francisco, there was a big gay culture and I ended up moving to San Francisco with that girl. Not moving with her but we both went through our schools and became roommates and definitely there were a lot of different gay culture that I was exposed to and hung around it,” Mary Lynn said. “It was fantastic. I wouldn’t trade that for anything, it really opened me up to a lot of ways of thinking and ways of life.”
Until this point, Mary Lynn had not really opened up about her bisexuality, other than a few comments to The Advocate and The Adam Carolla Show. But she’s dated several women and feels strongly that her sexuality and her past are an important part of her.
“I am bisexual and women are beautiful,” Mary Lynn said. “I have had a lot of experiences with women. People don’t want to hear me philosophize, they want to know what my experience is.” Now part of her stand up act is her amazement and how she ended up in such a normal relationship with a kid whose dad she’s married to. She calls it “taboo” in her act, saying, “I’m talking about the fact I ended up in a straight normal relationship is completely surprising to me. It’s really interesting talking about what you identify with, this is who I am but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have been that other person and I identify with lot’s of different things.”
As she says at the end of her most recent podcast, “And I still think Megan Fox is hot, so gay marriage, equality, let’s do this.”