Maya Rudolph Says Performing On ‘SNL’ Is ‘Joy and Fear’ All In One

During the divisive stretch leading up to the 2020 elections, comedy unites Americans, whether we are going to be laughing in disbelief or glee in November. As the public discusses some decidedly serious topics, viewers will turn to late-night talk show hosts and likes of Saturday Night Live (SNL) to ease the stress. After all, the SNL does not disappoint when it takes potentially frightening figures and has the uncanny ability to make light of their personal mannerisms

‘Saturday Night Live’ gets involved in political satire

Maya Rudolph attends the 70th Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California
Maya Rudolph | Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Whether it be Alec Baldwin’s notoriously bombastic Trump impressions, Matt Damon as an enraged Judge Kavanaugh — or any of these five, funny presidential parodies we discuss exclusively hereSNL has not failed the American public by giving us some serotonin (from laughter) during bleak moments. Thankfully, freedom of speech enjoys the form of comedy and chuckle-inducing performative acts. 

As one of the top Democratic contenders, Senator Kamala Harris’s savvy diplomatic stride caught the eye of SNL writers. Yet, it takes more than the writer’s room to breathe life into a political figure.

In this case comedian and singer Mara Rudolph, recently discussed returning to the show for a very unique, glamorous, and demanding role. 

Maya Rudolph As Kamala Harris

Rudolph discussed the opportunity on Ellen, where the two bantered about a botched doggie adoption, their favorite SNL sketches, and the summons for Rudolph to appear on SNL as Senator Harris. For the former singer, actress, and Groundlings Theater Improv member, Rudolph has displayed and earned credit on the comedy circuit and beyond.

After all, she has made comedy gold nailing Oprah’s giveaway extravaganzas. Yet, playing the role of a game-changing politician, represented for Rudolph, a feeling of “‘joy and fear wrapped all in one.'”

Rudolph said she was on maternity leave on a Tuesday when she was thrilled to return to NBC. As she put it: “It feels like I have this underground bunker and I put my super SNL suit on, and I press the button, and I just get shot out of a cannon to NBC.”

Yet, Rudolph transitions seamlessly into the multifaceted role of Sen. Harris.

Both Rudolph and Harris have spent long-standing time in California, with Harris being a native of the state. Harris has risen to prominence in the 2020 campaign and does represent policies consistent with the American political left. As with most Dems in the race, they must contend with how steadfast they remain in their positions and whether this translates as electability. Clearly, a role laden with such political overtones would be difficult for anyone, but Rudolph — the daughter of progressive artists adopts it with gusto. 

On Ellen, Rudolph jokingly refers to the Kamala part as her “‘alter ego.'” Regardless of one’s political perspective, one can measure the skill of the performer in their ability to mimic the subject. For Rudolph, the mannerisms are fluid and evoke Sen. Harris. 

What does Kamala Harris think of Maya Rudolph’s impression?

While the 2020 campaign debate might have some Americans wincing, the SNL version is palatable. Just as Baldwin can land particular Trumpisms (euphemisms made by current President Donald J. Trump), Rudolph has all of Harris’ signature moves down. Rudolph has Harris’ posture and the way she uses her pointed fingers as exclamation points down perfectly. 

In the SNL rendition, Rudolph’s and SNL’s version of Sen. Harris implores voters to elect “America’s cool aunt” into the White House. Rudolph’s facial expressions are strongly emphasized while she says, “‘Mama needs a GIF.'”

How on point was Rudolph as Sen. Harris? Perhaps, it’s best said in the words of Harris herself. She tweeted that she hopes Maya gets to play her for “eight more years.”