Everyone remembers Jennifer Coolidge as Stifler’s mom, the voluptuous, boozy MILF from American Pie, but real comedy lovers also know her to be a hilarious improvisational comedienne with an innate sense of timing, an affinity for the absurd, and an appreciation for the dim-witted. It takes a smart lady to play dumb.
No wonder she’s one of writer-director Christopher Guest‘s to-go actors for films such as A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration and of course, Best in Show, in which she played Jane Lynch‘s gold-digging, poodle-owning girlfriend.
Jennifer’s deft touch gives her the ability to play lascivious, loathsome or low-wattage women without ever making you feel like she’s really mocking them. She’s saving the mockery for more deserving people in her new stand-up act, which she’ll be premiering at the Girlbar HRC benefit event during Dinah Shore Week. Frankly, she could just stand there and I’d laugh.
Coolidge talked to AfterEllen.com about her latest foray into stand-up comedy, the awesomeness that is Jane Lynch, and why she wants to join the Ice Capades.
AfterEllen: You’ll be doing stand-up at the Dinah Shore Weekend this year. I didn’t know you did stand-up.
Jennifer Coolidge: I started this past summer. I was looking for something different to do. I had hosted a couple of substantial awards shows, and that gave me confidence. Some of them had scary audiences but I made it through. So, I thought if I can make it through that, I can try stand-up. I started doing it around the country this year, and I liked it.
AE: I was at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center’s "Evening with Women" event last year, where you filled in for scheduled host, Gina Gershon. You were a big hit.
JC: When you step in to do something like that, there’s an instant panic. I had to overcome [that.] And you have to remember, there were jokes written for Gina Gershon that I had to deliver — it was too late to change them all. My friend Michael came in 10 minutes before the show and helped me re-write some stuff.
AE: Now that you’ve done a few events and some stand-up, which live audience is less daunting?
JC: Doing the award show thing is less daunting than doing your own material and saying things that could be offensive to some people. You’re more vulnerable doing stand-up. That’s one thing I have to say I didn’t think about when I signed up — how vulnerable you are.
AE: Maybe it’s better not to know.
JC: Yeah. I think sometimes it’s my true ignorance that’s helped me so much.
JC: No, I really mean that. I came out to LA to be an actress. So many people said to me, "Oh my God, it’s so hard, what you’re trying to do." I think it was my naiveté about how hard it was going to be that kept me in the game, and kept me from being overwhelmed. Because I was just so stupid about how small the odds were that I would get any work at all. I just thought, "I can do this. This is good. Sure, I’ll book a movie."
AE: And you did!
JC: Yeah, but it was blind, naïve confidence. It was true ignorance.
AE: Has anyone warned you about the Dinah Shore Week? Going in blind might be the best thing.
JC: This is what is so great about doing this event: when people ask me what I’m doing, and I tell them I’m doing it, everyone says, "Oh my God! I want to go!" All my friends want to go, so I think that’s a really good sign.
AE: Well, we know how to party.