Photo: Melanie Hutsell at the premiere of Bridesmaids | Getty
Melanie Hutsell spent three years in the early ‘90s on Saturday Night Live cutting her comedy teeth. In an era oft-noted for being a boys club with up-and-comers like Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, and Chris Rock, the women of this time often fell to the sidelines. A then-23-year-old Hutsell carved out a place for herself by imbuing her characters with deadpan delivery and Valley Girl-isms. Her impersonations of ‘90s relics such as Tonya Harding, Monica Seles, and Tori Spelling may not have made her a household name, but they solidified her as a character actress that gay men would continue to cite for years as one that “never got her due.”
As Hutsell prepares to return to Studio 8H for Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary Special on Sunday, February 15, the comedian talks with Out about her most memorable character, Jan Hooks’ influence, and discovering her gay fans.
On returning to New York for the 40th Anniversary Special:
I’m really excited -- I’m actually really nervous about this weekend. There’s a lot going on in preparation to head over to New York for the 40th. I can tell you that I will be attending and really honored to be in that room on Sunday night with all those amazing people and really just looking forward to that. It’s kind of just a love-fest with all the comedy people.
On the SNL cast members she looked up to as a fan:
It was the first cast — it was Gilda Radner, Jane Curtain, Laraine Newman — it was definitely love at first sight. I became very much addicted to it and it kind of never stopped. Later on when I was in college it was Jan Hooks. I mean, I used to impersonate Jan Hooks impersonating Tammy Faye Bakker. Definitely Jan and Nora [Dunn] too.
On the legacy of the late Jan Hooks who passed away in 2014:
I remember — and this is kind of sad — finding Jan Hooks [at SNL’s 25th Anniversary Special] but I remember having that time with her. She and I are both from the South, and we had a good conversation that night. She had come back to Saturday Night Live, when I was there, to play Hillary Clinton, so I remember being very, very nervous to meet her, but she could not have been more gracious and kind and we just had that southern connection. I was always so happy to have that little time with her.
On her favorite sketch from her time on SNL and bringing her Jan Brady impersonation to late-night television:
My favorite sketch that I did on Saturday Night Live was definitely "The Brady Bunch v. The Partridge Family: Battle of the Band" because it was a childhood dream slash confusion that I had. I was really little when The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family were on and I think they were on back-to-back on Friday nights and in my mind I was like, “I wonder if they live on the same street?” When Susan Dey was going to be hosting, [SNL producer] Marci Klein kind of looked at my like, “You know we’re expecting something from you this week, don’t you?” I definitely felt a lot of pressure to write something, like: “here is your moment, Susan Dey is here.” I remember being up at 3 AM on that Tuesday morning and it hit me. I was like, “Oh, this is what I need to do,” and then when it actually worked in the room - I was like, “Oh, thank God.” So, that was definitely my favorite.
On meeting Eve Plumb, the real Jan Brady from The Brady Bunch TV series:
When we did The Real Live Brady Bunch with the Annoyance Theatre there were people lined up down the block in Chicago. We had been doing the show for a while, and the director of the show [Transparent creator] Jill Soloway who was my roommate at the time, was like, “Melanie, you’re not going to believe this but we’ve got Eve Plumb. She’s going to be playing a guest star in one of the episodes. And I was like, “Oh my god, that’s so awesome. I am so nervous. I am going to be dressed up as Jan Brady in front of Eve Plumb.” I remember getting dressed and I went out and I went out into the Green Room and she was sitting on the couch and she was smoking a cigarette. [Laughs] And she said: “You look great.” It was kind of this awkward conversation. I don’t think she was understanding why [The Real Live Brady Bunch] was so big. After that I started to see her at parties and things like that and I got to know her. She’s a really great person, she’s just kind of serious — she’s an artist — but really a very cool person.
On whether she auditioned for the now 20-year-old cult hit The Brady Bunch Movie starring Shelley Long and Christine Taylor:
I remember Bonnie and Terry Turner, who worked on Saturday Night Live, were going to be writing the movie but was I asked to come in and audition for that role? No, I was not. You know, it’s one of those disappointments in life. And when I saw Jennifer Elise Cox and what she did [with the role of Jan], I thought she did a great job. And she is one of those people who looks so much younger than she really is — even to this day — which is, like, really annoying. [Laughing]
On not being included in many roundups of “the women of SNL”:
There are so many things in this business, where you can’t really understand the rhyme or reason to it. I will say, especially with the Women of SNL special, did I feel a little hurt, a little pang? Of course. It would be nice to be included in that and I can’t really understand why but I also can’t let that stop my creativity. I try not to take it too seriously. That’s just the way it is and I can’t change the way that I’m perceived.
On finding her gay fans, watching RuPaul for the first time, and meeting "people who wanted to touch her":
I was made aware of it back in the day. It was my third year on Saturday Night Live, and there was going to be march in Washington, D.C., for gay rights and my friend, [casting director] Ryan Shiraki, asked me if I wanted to go and I was, like, “Yeah, I’m there.” So, we went to Washington, and I had never really had this experience before, where — and this is going to sound weird — where people wanted to touch me. It was at that time where I went, “Oh, wow, okay. People wanting autographs and things like that, I’m like, this is my audience, this is the biggest compliment I could ever be paid, honestly. I remember seeing RuPaul that weekend for the first time. She was performing and it was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. I was having a good time that night. I remember literally being lifted up by a bunch of muscly guys so that I could see better. It was such a great, great, crazy, crazy weekend. I did get dehydrated and ended up in the hospital. [Laughs] It was somewhat of a nightmare. I didn’t know what was happening. I was like, “Am I having a stroke? Am I having heart attack right now?” But I was just dehydrated.
On whether she would reunite with her Bridesmaids director Paul Feig for the female reboot of Ghostbusters:
That would be fantastic. I enjoyed working with him so much. There are very few directors out there that just say, yes, to everything. I mean, Kristen [Wiig] and [Bridesmaids cowriter] Annie Mumolo and myself, off camera [gibberish to imply improvisation]. It was so much fun to shoot that scene in Bridesmaids and there was so much improv that got cut. I got beat up because I do my own stunts.
On what we can expect next from the Saturday Night Live alum:
To be honest, I am looking to do a play in the theater where it’s not just — I don’t want to say serious — but just a role where I can really sink my teeth into it and show off a different side of myself. When it comes to TV and movies, I’m always auditioning, always out there. I’m bullheaded as they come and I just keep going because that’s all you can do. I’m definitely in a good creative place. I feel like there’s been so many people that have been on Saturday Night Live just for a short period of time that go on to do really cool things. I feel like for me, [laughs] it remains to be seen what that cool thing is going to be but I feel like good things are going to happen.
Watch the tennis court scene from Bridesmaids below: