As she prepares to bring her cabaret show to DC, SNL all-star Ana Gasteyer talks inspiring women and why it’s sometimes important to poke fun at them—especially during election season.
Front-row seat: “A cabaret show is a really fun, intimate way to spend time with a performer,” says DC native Ana Gasteyer, who brings her act to DC this month for an exclusive benefit at Arena Stage, which is presenting its inaugural Beth Newburger Schwartz Award.
You’ve paved the way for many women in comedy.
On Saturday Night Live, we were a group of women who were anointed as trailblazers just because people started paying attention to what we were doing comedically. For a long time, that represented enough, just to say, “Go girls, we can do it.”
You’ve worked with strong, wildly successful women, and you have impersonated many. What do such women have in common? There’s a pretty healthy streak of rebellion in all of us, but there’s also an understanding that the “rules” [of what it means to be a woman in the industry] benefit people tremendously and, for the most part, weren’t made up maliciously. Every person I’ve impersonated and every person I’ve collaborated with is a crazy workhorse. [There’s] a fearlessness.
You’ve portrayed Elizabeth Dole, Catherine Harris, Hillary Clinton…. It’s election season, and Washington is especially tuned. What role does comedy play in political culture? It plays a huge role. Parody is a direct reflection of the dark shadow on somebody. [Laughs] It’s also the highest form of flattery. The function is to highlight [one’s] most blatant features. Will Ferrell’s impression of Bush shaped people’s ideas of Bush for a long time. It helps crystallize in our minds some of the impressions we have of our potential leaders and their abilities.
Speaking of political satire, you very much admire Samantha Bee. She went out of her way in a really conscious and almost hilariously eye-rolling way to just hire diversely. She was interested in American politics even as a child in Canada, which I find fascinating. Canadians know a lot about us, and we don’t know anything about them.
Tell me about the cabaret show. Would you say it’s similar to Bette Midler’s style? It’s definitely born of that legacy.… It has a late ’50s, early ’60s energy. It was an era when it didn’t confuse people that someone could sing and tell a joke at the same time. It was kind of expected, frankly. It’s an extension of me more as a person, comedian, and party hostess. I love to throw a party. I love when people come over and get drunk at my house and eat too much food and dance. I never have a party without a piano player. I have a little old fashioned in me, literally and figuratively, most of the time. “An Evening with Ana Gasteyer” plays May 9 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW, 202-554-9066