"She is the most hateful person in the world," says Ana Gasteyer of Karen Grisham, the crass, unhinged Hollywood agent she plays on Netflix's Lady Dynamite. Her redeeming quality: She's brought the ex-Saturday Night Live star back to TV in the best way possible. Co-created by Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development), the show follows Maria, a struggling 45-year-old L.A. actress (spiky comic Maria Bamford) who's had three nervous breakdowns in three months. Gasteyer's character inexplicably wants to represent her (we think)--and devours every one of her scenes.
Seems you're having a blast playing Karen.
I've never had so much fun on a job. At Netflix, it's like the writers were unshackled from years of indentured servitude to the big networks.
Have you ever had a psycho agent?
I've had the most loving agent in the world since 1994. But walk into any big agency and you'll meet many Karen Grishams, I'm sorry to say.
After your client Maria lands a gig, you sing a song with a metaphor about grabbing balls and milking shafts.
[Laughs.] Karen is kind of an '80s or '90s model of a woman. Hollywood is so sexist, and I think a lot of these women have had to grow nuts to swim in these masculine, sharky worlds. There's also a blow job scene. She'll do anything to tip the balance of sex and power.
How close have you come to having a nervous breakdown in L.A.?
I like going out there to work, but I hate being unemployed there. My husband and I call it the "beating sun factor." It's so bright! After three weeks, I invariably start to think about getting some procedure done to my skin, maybe a hair-color change. And I think of my body 18 hours
a day, which is useless for a character actor.
Maria has some sketchy auditions. What's the weirdest job you've ever had?
I was really strapped for cash and did one of those celebrity ghost stories. Rachel Dratch, from SNL, called me up and was like, "Hey, did you really see a ghost, or did you see the ghost of $5,000?" And early in my career, I was sent to an audition for ER to play a mother of five who was cooking crack and burned down her house and killed three of her children. I asked my agent, "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
Do you still watch SNL?
I do. It's like the Mafia--you never really leave. I'm still close to my female colleagues from the show. We actually just went away to celebrate Rachel's 50th and rented a house and did a wine tasting. And in the political season you hope the show will help manage your anxiety about whatever candidate you hate.
Where do you think your character from the fake NPR show Delicious Dish is now?
I don't think she's gone anywhere. It's been a great decade for a foodie! I just went by an artisanal coffee shop. I don't understand what that means. Isn't all coffee artisanal? You roast beans; you make coffee. I'm sure Margaret is still sitting there, tasting jalapeno jellies. Just hopefully wearing a different vest.
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