Aubrey Plaza featured in Venus Zine
Venus Zine Summer 2009
Hacking Into Comedy 101
by Jessica Galliart
photo by Seth Olenick
Aubrey Plaza joined the cast of Parks and Recreation, nabbed a starring role in the new Judd Apatow movie, and is currently filming with Michael Cera -- any questions?
In a matter of months, Aubrey Plaza has gone from feeling like a Saturday Night Live fangirl to working side-by-side with alums of the classic sketch show. A huge fan of Adam Sandler during his glory days on SNL, Plaza makes her major motion picture debut alongside him as Seth Rogen's "funny girlfriend" in Judd Apatow's new comedy, Funny People. And in a somewhat ironic casting, she plays the role of an intern at an Indiana Parks and Recreation office for Amy Poehler, also an idol of hers, in NBC's mockumentary-style Parks and Recreation, which debuted in April.
All the recent commotion surrounding the 24-year-old Upright Citizens Brigade alumni has catapulted Plaza into a role she's never tried before: Hollywood's newest funny girl and honorary (and unofficial) inductee into the Apatow and Poehler comedy dream teams. She's barely made an appearance but has already peaked everyone's curiosity. "I still have to remind myself it's happening," Plaza says. "At first it was really scary, and I kind of still don't understand how I got here and why I'm with all these great people. But I'm just kind of going with it and trying to focus on being as funny as I can."
Much of the buzz originated from Plaza's role as a snarky teen in the comedy Web series The Jeannie Tate Show, directed by Maggie Carey, wife of SNL comedian Bill Hader. Apatow, as well as the creators of Parks and Recreation, caught wind of her performance in the series and came calling. "That Web series was really how I got everything that I did. I got an agent off of it and I got noticed from it a lot," she says. "Without the Internet I definitely wouldn't be here."
To prepare for her role as Daisy, Rogen's girlfriend and stand-up comedian in Funny People, Plaza says she again relied on the Internet to study Web videos of female comedians' early work, like Janeane Garofalo and Sarah Silverman -- of whom Plaza can actually do a wicked impression. She then attempted stand-up herself a few times at the behest of Apatow, even rising to the challenge of following Sandler himself one night. "I thought I was going to die," she says. "I was almost crying backstage, and [Sandler] was really funny about it. He was like, 'Oh my God, you're going to go on after me. You're going to bomb! Good luck.'"
Plaza may have just followed Sandler during a comedy lineup one night, but she has, in a way, been following him and others her entire life. She became an SNL fan at an early age, and after deciding in high school to pursue comedy, she began mapping out how others before her had done it, including Sandler. "I knew when he was 23, he auditioned for SNL and when he was 24, he was on the show. I knew that Molly Shannon went to NYU and Adam Sandler went to NYU, and I wanted to go to NYU. I basically just tried to rip off what everyone else did."
She did end up following her idols' common career paths, almost exactly, by heading to NYU and also joining the ranks of the famous alumni of Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City, including her Parks and Recreation co-stars Poehler and up-and-comer Aziz Ansari. "I'm realizing how small of a world it is out here," Plaza says. "I feel instantly surrounded by people I already know and like and trust. I feel like everyone kind of speaks the same language. It makes me feel very welcomed."
Plaza will again reunite with a few Apatow alumni in the movie adaptation of the famed graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. Portraying the angsty love interest Julie Powers, she'll star alongside Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman. "It's going to look different and feel different than any other movie because they're using the comic book art as inspiration for the film," she says. "I think <i>Scott Pilgrim</i> fans are going to be very happy at how close it is."
Much like her comedy idols have managed to do, Plaza says she's now ready to start working on writing and producing some projects she's been hankering to do for a while. And in a period that's shown incredible evolution for women in comedy, she couldn't have picked a better time. "I want to be a part of it so bad. It's not about just being in movies; when you're a comedian sometimes it's about creating roles and writing movies and producing products that you believe in, and I definitely want to keep that going and not just be an actor," Plaza says. "I want to do all of it. Now's the time to strike."