Maya Rudolph: ‘When I’m uncomfortable, I try to be funny’

Has anyone watched Maya Rudolph’s Loot on Apple Tv+? I enjoyed it. It’s a typical out-of-touch-rich-person-finding-their-soul story but the supporting characters are fabulous and make the show. And Adam Scott is amazing, but I can’t say anything more about him in case some of you haven’t seen it and want to. Maya is the lead (the rich, soul-finding person). She turns in her usual solid performance that the supporting characters bounce off of. It turns out the reason Maya is so good in this role that requires her to be human but funny even at her lowest, is because it’s second nature to her. In her WSJ Magazine interview, Maya said her default reaction when she’s uncomfortable is humor. Especially in professional situations, which stems from an experience on David Letterman’s show when he mispronounced her name.

Maya Rudolph is reflecting on a phase in her career when she didn’t yet feel confident about speaking up for herself.

During an interview with WSJ. Magazine that published online Friday, the star of Apple TV+’s Loot recalled her first visit to CBS’ The Late Show in 2009. Rudolph explained that she felt uncomfortable during the interview after host David Letterman mispronounced her name.

“I did not have a good time,” she told the publication. “He said my name wrong, and I just sat there, like, ‘I grew up my whole life in love with you. And now my heart is broken. And I’m sitting here embarrassed and humiliated.’ I didn’t know how to handle it.”

She continued, “I didn’t know how to come up with something funny to say. My public persona muscle wasn’t strong yet.”

Rudolph, who made her Saturday Night Live debut in 2000, said that she has since gotten better at finding humor in challenging moments. “I’ve definitely gotten much better,” she said. “When I’m uncomfortable, I try to be funny.”

Letterman apologized to Rudolph later in the episode for his unintentional gaffe. “I’m sorry that I mispronounced your name,” he said. “I’m just a boob, there’s no excuse for it, and from the bottom of my heart, I sincerely apologize.”

[From The Hollywood Reporter]

I realize this isn’t the point but how does a native English speaker raised in the US, spending most of his adult life on the two coasts, not know how to pronounce ‘Maya Rudolph’? Mispronouncing names is one of my peccadillos so I sympathize with Maya. There’s no reason a talk show host shouldn’t know exactly how to say each guest’s name as they come out, they have people to check those kinds of things. However, I am impressed that David apologized on air and he didn’t downplay it as someone else’s fault. Like Maya, I grew up loving his show, I wish all the negative stories that came from it didn’t all involve his female guests.

I empathize, however, with Maya falling back on being funny when she’s uncomfortable. Even when people compliment me, I’ll crack a joke. Also, I don’t know Maya’s birth order but I’m a youngest child and that’s peace-keeping 101 tactics – humor’s good for deescalating. In a THR from June, Maya said she likes to keep her professional life from her personal life. One way she does this is to use a persona for her professional life that acts as an armor. Humor is a great way to shield yourself as well.

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8 Responses to “Maya Rudolph: ‘When I’m uncomfortable, I try to be funny’”

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  1. Bettyrose says:

    Loot is great. I think of it as inspired by MacKenzie Scott the way Made for Love is inspired by Justine Musk. And I love HBO for that. Maya Rudolph is also great. Her Kamala Harris is brilliant and that scene she pulled off the night the election results were finally confirmed will go down in history as one of SNL’s greatest achievements.

  2. Chantal says:

    Ditto for me as well! I unwittingly became the class clown bc of my sense of humor, which also helped temper the perception of me as a nerd one could easily bully. Mispronouncing names are a pet peeve of mine as well. My last name is only one syllable, yet many people insist on making it 2 syllables.
    Maya’s mother Minnie Ripperton had the voice of an angel with an octave range greatly envied at that time (my mother was a huge fan and was very upset when she died).

  3. It Really Is You, Not Me says:

    I also deflect uncomfortable situations with humor and while it has served me well in most circumstances, sometimes I think, why couldn’t I just say thank you when someone pays me a compliment instead of instead of cracking a joke or just let the moment be uncomfortable if it was something awkward. It’s definitely something I have to take a pause on and use in the right situation.

    • SomeChick says:

      when someone gives you a compliment, always just say thank you. thank you is a complete sentence. just accept the good wishes. it gets easier!

      I do think using humor to avoid/deflect/turn around uncomfortable situations is natural. I can’t think of a comedian who doesn’t say that’s how they got their start. but not being able to accept compliments is a different thing. it will start to feel good once you stop thinking you don’t deserve it! I have done a ton of work on this very thing over the years and it’s worth getting past. they’re saying thank you! all you have to do is acknowledge it! don’t disagree or try to talk them out of it. try to take it in as much as possible. it’s worth it, I promise.

  4. ClaireB says:

    I also loved Maya in The Good Place and the movie Wine Country on Netflix. Definitely go watch Wine Country if you haven’t yet!

  5. amilu says:

    Loot is so good.

    Unfortunately I read a couple of items on deuxmoi about Adam Scott being a real jerk to service workers and in general.

  6. Margaret says:

    Jimmy Kimmel should have apologized to Mahershala Ali on air, instead of blaming the nominee’s name for his own ineptitude. Always liked Jimmy Kimmel, less so after his Oscar gig.