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Maya Rudolph on her favorite actors and influences at the LA Film Festival

LA Film Festival: Maya Rudolph Talks Funny

Maya Rudolph has four husbands. There’s the one that made the Saturday Night Live (SNL) veteran eight-months pregnant, and then there are her three secret hubbies. Rudolph shared this juicy tidbit at an LA Film Festival Master Class “The Serious Business of Being Funny,” on June 14, 2013. She was interviewed, Inside-the-Actors-Studio style, by Film Independent’s Elvis Mitchell, Curator of Film Independent at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art).

Rudolph admitted to falling in love with her three secret husbands when she was a little girl and her father would take her to see movies in Westwood Village. “That was when Westwood was at the peak of its popularity,” she said. “Movies premiered there and it was the cool place to be. I wanted to be part of the glamour.”  Later, Westwood lost its panache to Century City and a reinvigorated Hollywood.

Maya and Elvis
Maya Rudolph and Elvis Mitchell, Curator of Film Independent at LACMA

The movies her father took her to see were often comedies, and through them she fell in love with her first fantasy husband, Gene Wilder. Rudolf and Mitchell picked several clips from films which they interspaced during the class. The Wilder clips included The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother  and Blazing Saddles.

“A lot of the films my father took me to were not really intended for kids,” Rudolph said. “I still don’t know how he got me in.”

(WARNING – Next paragraph contains Old Guy Moment)

Both Rudolph and Mitchell praised Wilder’s amazing energy on screen. Mitchell added that Wilder wasn’t the first choice for the role of the Waco Kid, explaining that “There was an actor named Gig Young who had the part, but he got sick in the scene where the Waco Kid hangs upside down in his jail cell, and he had to be replaced over a weekend. Wilder was called in and took over the role on Monday.” When I heard Mitchell, who has a long braid of gray hair hanging down his back, use the phrase “There was an actor named Gig Young”, I realized Mitchell and I were probably the only two in the room old enough to remember Young.

Rudolph’s second fantasy husband is Steve Martin. “The first time I worked with him,” she said, “I expected him to look and talk like Steve Martin from The Jerk. I was terrified.”

Rudolph and Mitchell showed a clip from The Muppet Movie where Martin plays the waiter on Kermit and Miss Piggy’s first date.

“I showed my daughter The Muppet Movie and shortly after that I ran into Steve again on the street,” Rudolph recalled. “I told him I had just re-watched The Muppet Movie and how unbelievable he was. He just looked at me funny.”

Rudolph’s interaction with her third fantasy husband was a lot more productive. “Bill Murray is my other husband,” she said.  “I first saw him on SNL (Saturday Night Live) and later in Stripes and Tootsie. In Tootsie he improvised about sixty percent of his performance and that’s why it amazes me when people ask comedians who do a dramatic role, ‘So, you’re really taking a big step away from comedy?’ No, I’m just acting. It’s part of the job.”

Maya tells Elvis about Bill Murray
Maya tells Elvis about Bill Murray

Rudolph recalled meeting Bill Murray for the first time when he came back to SNL as a guest host. “He picked me up and threw me over his shoulder like a fresh kill and carried me to another room,” she said.  “We had this great conversation. It was like he was reading my SNL diary. I didn’t really have an SNL diary, but if I had, he knew the stuff that would have been in it.”

She continued, “I really didn’t have anything to say then we drank some scotch he got out of this bag he carried and the conversation opened up. He gave me great advice. He said that when you are on the SNL stage, you should try to make the room laugh, not just the audience.   When the crew is laughing, most of whom have been there over 20 years, then you know you are really doing good.” She added, “I saved the bottle of scotch as a souvenir.”

Mitchell asked Rudolf if she had any female inspirations. “The only lady I ever thought was as funny as my husbands was Madeline Khan,” Rudolph said. “Because she was a lady and a singer and I wanted to be like that.”

Mitchell asked her to name the first Madeline Kahn fim she ever saw. “I’m not sure,” Rudolph admitted, “but one of the most memorable was from History Of The World Part One, and then  Lili Von Shtupp from Blazing Saddles singing ‘I’m Tired’.”

Asked about her other influences, she named VCRs. She said, “The parents of one of my little friends growing up had a VCR. My friends and I would always go to her house. We must have watched Airplane 100 times. I loved the ‘I speak Jive’ scene.’”

Rudolph then proceeded to rattle off the whole scene jive for jive.  “I think ‘I speak jive’ might end up on my tombstone,” she said.

For the sake of all our funny bones, let’s hope that tombstone is a hundred years away. Rudolph’s Grown Ups 2 will open in theaters July 12, 2013.

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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