What does MILF stand for again? Murder Is Legal in Florida? Manic Iguanas Lobotomize Fairies? Madonna Inhales Latino Farts? Though that last one is probably true, it's not the one etched into our psyche thanks to the astounding cougar hotness that was Jennifer Coolidge in American Pie. And in addition to playing Stifler's mom, she was the hilarious "bend and snap" manicurist in Legally Blonde, Jodie the masseuse in Seinfeld, and Jane Lynch's down-low lesbian lover and poodle enthusiast in Best in Show.
Coolidge's kooky characterizations are endless, but she'll portray her most fascinating character to date -- herself -- at Miami Improv this Thursday through Saturday at 8:30 and 10:45 p.m. We caught up with her and chatted about Reese Witherspoon, back flips, and dating younger men.
New Times: You're known for your hilarious characters in several of Christopher Guest's improvisational mockumentaries. How'd you first get involved in improv?
Jennifer Coolidge: I was in New York and trying to be a dramatic actress forever and I remember taking an acting class where everyone took everything so seriously. Like this one girl, no matter what the scene was, she'd always cry. And the acting teacher would always congratulate her for her brilliant acting and all she was doing was crying! So, everyday at the end of class I'd imitate this girl crying and one of the guys in my class was like 'You know Jennifer, you should be in this other place called Gotham City Improv, it's way more up your alley.' So, he drove me over to Gotham City and made me audition. And I was with them for about a year and a half and then I moved out to L.A. and became part of The Groundlings during a really extraordinary time. I was in there with Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Cheri Oteri, Lisa Kudrow, Kathy Griffin.
What was it like being amongst those people before they were famous?
It was pretty great, I have to say. Everyone was really talented and funny. I felt like The Groundlings had really good taste as far as who they voted into their company. I mean, a lot of the people in The Groundlings became immensely famous. Even the ones who didn't make it were just as talented. Like, there was this one night that Saturday Night Live was scouting and having auditions and there was this one guy, Steve Cahalan who was just like 'yeah, no, I don't feel like doing it'. And then, of course, everyone else got on the show and I really feel like he would've been chosen as well. Maybe it was self-sabotage, but I just thought it was incredibly strange that someone that funny didn't want to just, jump out there.
How did you meet Christopher Guest?
He'd seen me in a show at The Groundlings and he called me into a
meeting, and when we met, it didn't really seem like it went well. I wasn't making him laugh and I felt incredibly uninteresting.
Like a non-contender. Then I got a phone call from him a week later and
he was like 'Jennifer do you want to be in my movie?' and I couldn't
believe it. I didn't think I would ever hear back from him. He's just
not a transparent person, so you never know what he's thinking.
different on set?
He is the funniest person I have ever met in my life, no one makes me
laugh harder than him on the planet, and no one will tell a story
better than Christopher Guest. But he's very reserved. He comes from
that English heritage, so he's hard to read.
There's a popular improv game called "It's Tuesday and..." you fill in the blank. What's a typical Tuesday like for you?
Oh, lay in bed for way too many hours, staring at the ceiling wondering 'Why'd I pick L.A. to live in?', then I realize I have to feed the dogs, and then I call up anyone I know that is already up to bring me coffee...and that's the first half of the day. Second half of a day, I'm just faking it and making it look like I'm doing something, like fake errands and stuff.
What's your problem with Los Angeles?
It's not really the city itself, it just feels like it's going through weird times. It's just not the town that I came to twenty years ago. It's going through this phase where a strange group of people are getting admired right now. Like
the Kardashian family.
And what do you think of the Kardashians?
I think they have good skin. And that's about it.
What can audiences expect when they come to check out your stand up?
Well, they'll be some Kardashian bashing, talking about how strange Los Angeles has gotten, weird auditions, dating stories. I talk about sex a lot.
Speaking of sex and dating, how does being known as the original MILF affect that?
It affects the age. A lot of guys under 30 ask me out. Young guys have more energy, they're persistent. Like if you say no, they'll call you and ask you out again the next day. And a lot of guys my age would take that rejection and just say 'forget it'. But I don't know, I haven't really gone out with anyone my own age so I don't even know if that would be fun or not. It's only these young guys and a lot of them think they're going out with that lady from American Pie. And it's kind of like...you get credit for being that character when you really didn't earn it. It's sort of amusing. I dated a couple of young guys last year, and they were really charming, but I knew it wasn't going to turn into long term. But, I did have fun.
Has there ever been a role you wish you had got but didn't?
I wouldn't have done a better job than Michelle Leo, she was incredible, but I would've wanted to have the role of the mother in The Fighter. That was a great part.
Did you enjoy playing the role of Paulette, the unlucky in love manicurist from Legally Blonde?
I did, but what sucked about playing that part is that if you're in a movie and you play like, the sea monster, people on set end up treating you like a sea monster. I once heard from someone who was on the set of Planet of the Apes that all the gorillas hung out with the gorillas, all the chimps hung out with the chimps, no one mixed it up, which is kind of like what happens on a lot sets. So, if you play the loser girl, the really cute camera operators aren't asking you out because, well, you're the loser girl. You get a way better love life if you're working as Stifler's mom than the sea monster who's wearing underwear up to your waist.
Did Reese Witherspoon throw you the same kind of shade?
She's actually one of the most professional people I've ever worked with by far. She always knows her lines, she knows camera angels, she's kind of like an 80 year-old woman in a very young body. She was pleasant, I just didn't like being in my mustard-colored hair, ugly shoes, and my fat outfit. I actually had a friend of mine from Pennsylvania come visit me right after that movie came out and he came to my home, rang the door bell, and when I answered he said 'Oh thank god, Jennifer! I thought you were going to look the way you did in Legally Blonde. Like something terrible had happened to you!'
So it seems like a lot of people frequently mistake you as one of your characters.
Well, that's why I'm doing stand up. I can actually give my point of view and most people have no idea what that is. I can swear, talk unedited, filthy if I want do. As opposed to going on The View and doing an interview where you have to be on your best behavior. I'm so tired of being pulled aside and having people tell me what words I can and can't use. That's the awful thing about all these corporations owning everything, no one can really say what they want to say. It's like everyone's owned.
What's your guilty pleasure?
I like to take a can of whipped cream and spray the whole can into a bowl and then put like three berries in it and eat it. I also love the New York Post, which is so trashy. Oh! And crime shows like Disappeared, The First 48, Snapped, I can't get enough of those.
James Franco is incredibly attractive. I also like Viggo Mortensen, Alec Baldwin, and Josh Duhamel.
If you had a genie who offered you three wishes, what would they be?
One would be to do this life all over again...
I made a lot of really bad decisions.
Like, men decisions. Knowing what I know now, that would be one thing I really want to do over.
Why? To say 'screw men' and just do your own thing?
No, I would've just been with other people. Not all of them. There was a couple of good ones in the bunch. But there's a few I would've gotten rid of, if I could do it over, I'd make sure I didn't meet them.
What's your other two wishes?
I wish I was great singer and a really great gymnast at the same time. I'd love to do gymnastics and sing like mind-blowing songs and have people say 'Wow, that's the best back flip I've ever seen and what an incredible voice she has.' But the back flips have to be spectacular. Like, they almost look like fireworks they're so amazing.
What if fire works erupted naturally as you back flipped?
That would be ideal. But you know, that's another thing I'd like to be, a professional firework lady. I think that's what I'd like to be known for; my fireworks, my singing, and my incredible back flips.
Being a curvier women than most actresses in Hollywood, have you ever struggled with body image?
When you're the comedic relief, it's kind of a lazy way of getting out of working out. When I was Stiffler's mom, I wasn't heavier, but I figured out that if I was going to play comedic roles then I wouldn't have to do what other actresses did. I always kind of do the opposite of what people tell me to do, so, it was also my secret way of rebelling against Hollywood. Or somehow I fool myself into thinking I'm doing it my way. But then again, I probably screwed myself out of a lot of great roles. I just don't take any of it very seriously. Like, I'd be on set with girls who weren't eating, and I'd be like 'Oh, too bad you're not eating.' It never occurred to me to join them. Like, I was at the Kraft service table once with Reese, eating donuts, and I was like 'Man, I can't stop eating these' and Reese was like 'It's easy, just stop.' Like, I want the parts, but I don't want to work that hard for them. Starving yourself just seems like too much of a commitment.
Is there anything you feel committed to?
Whipped cream. [Laughs] I mean, I don't know. When you get together with actresses all they want to talk about is acting, and I don't know, it just bores the crap out of me.
What would you rather talk about with actresses?
Anything. Anything else. It just so boring.
So the Academy Awards is a snooze fest for you?
No, I like that. I like to watch people messing up and seeing all the dresses and stuff like that. It's just the young, urban, professional actress who's like 'If I get this part, it'll lead to this part' and I don't know, just the really driven actresses...I'm repelled. And I don't even know why. I mean, who cares?
Does your distaste for actresses contribute to your feelings about L.A. nowadays?
Yeah. It's just sometimes I feel like the hot girl got the part rather than the talented actress. Like Cynthia Nixon is a great example of a talented actress. She deserves every inch of fame she's gotten. Then you have someone like the Kardashians, that's why I stare up at the ceiling in the morning for so long now. It's like Kim's the president of Los Angeles. More people know who the Kardashians are than Obama. It's pathetic. I mean, I admire their skin tone. And they seem like nice girls, they're not catty or put people down, but they're not anything and that's the problem.
It's over quicker than you think. I guess this year I finally figured that out. I spent a lot of my life wasting time and now I'm realizing that you don't really get it back. I remember I had a neighbor who'd ask me if I wanted to go to the dentist with her and I would sit in the waiting room while she got her teeth cleaned and I just recently realized I should've just blown her off! So many people invited me to stupid things I went to, like a bar mitzvah for a kid I didn't even know, and I should've just said no. And now...it's too late.
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It's not too late! Next time you go to the waiting room in the dentist's office, you can work on your singing firework back flips.
Oh, I don't know. The fish tank is always too distracting.