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February 8, 2010

We Both Love Soup
by WomenInComedy - 0

by: Val Maloof
Photo: Left, Matt DeFaveri. Right, Nate Wahl

On Thursday, February 4th, The Ultimate M.I.L.F, Jennifer Coolidge spoke to Emerson College students and faculty . . . and did the “Bend and Snap.”

Coolidge was in town for her Wilbur Theater standup performance day and made a stop at her alma mater. Jennifer herself admits, she wasn’t always a class clown. “I was too chicken to do anything cool that was going on,” she said in regard to the comedy troupes on campus, adding, “I hated to be uncomfortable in any way.” She wanted Emerson students to realize that show business and comedy are uncomfortable fields filled with rejection, but when it comes to confident people, “they’re the ones that get the jobs.”

Nate Wahl, a senior at Emerson, said when Jennifer offered the advice that in order to become known as a comedian, "getting out of the house is the only way to make it, [her advice] gave me some confidence that it could happen to me if I just tried it.”

Coolidge eventually got over her stage fright when she joined New York City’s comedy school, Groundling’s East. Jennifer’s classmates included Will Ferrell, Kathy Griffin, Cherri Oteri and Will Forte. She calls the Groundlings “the Harvard of comedy schools.” Constantly performing at the Groundlings is not only where she was forced to get over her fear of the stage, but also where she landed her first acting role. She was spotted by a casting agent for Seinfeld and played Jerry’s girlfriend, a masseuse.

Since that performance in 1993, Jennifer has been in Christopher Guest’s films Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration, as well as Legally Blonde and American Pie. When asked what her first job ever was, Coolidge responded, “Well, I was a prostitute for four years, and you know, it’s not that bad.”

Coolidge credits her success to perseverance. She says, “So many people more talented than me gave up earlier than me. I hung in there longer than other people.”

Jennifer spoke of how easy she once thought getting into acting was, and her humility is what kept the audience laughing. After hearing a story that Daryl Hannah was dancing on a table at a party and was then offered the lead role in Splash, she assumed that could happen to her as well. Looking back she says, “Literally, that’s how stupid I was.”

One of the most impressive facts Jennifer shared was that in all of the Christopher Guest films, she improvised her lines. Guest would just tell her what the scene was about and she made up the lines as she went. So, Coolidge is responsible for such memorable lines as her Best of Show character's description of her marriage to a much older man: “We have so much in common, we both love soup and snow peas, we love the outdoors, and talking and not talking. We could not talk or talk forever and still find things to not talk about.”

Jennifer isn’t always recognized for her talent. Emerson College senior Matt DeFaveri was surprised when Coolidge talked about how unfair Hollywood can be towards women. According to DeFaveri, “she said ‘I used to think that the best actress got the part, but in Hollywood I've seen not-so-great actresses who are really pretty get the part, mostly because looks matter so much more in Hollywood than anything else.’” Using her sharp way with words, Jennifer added, “the prettiest tractor driver gets the job.” However, Coolidge does feel that Broadway is where the best contemporary actresses can be found.

The ever honest Coolidge explained to the audience that often actresses have to play the Hollywood game. She says it would have saved her 10 years of rejection had she just learned to look more presentable and take a prettier head shot.

Poking fun of herself when asked about the film Slappy Stinkers, Jennifer summarized, “Me. Five little kids. And a farting seal…really my best work.” And when working on Pooty Tang she says she didn’t learn until after filming a scene in Union Square fountain that “homeless people urinate in it.”

However, she has also made hilarious and successful films such as Legally Blonde. And when asked to do the “Bend and Snap” with an audience member, Coolidge obliged, adding, “It really does get the guys.”

Val Maloof is a senior BFA student at Emerson College. She is a reader for "Ploughshares Literary Journal."

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