Actress Maya Rudolph in 2012. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)
On Friday night at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the actress Maya Rudolph appeared at an event billed as "The Serious Business of Being Funny," in which she would discuss her comedic influences in an interview with Elvis Mitchell.
A one-time "Saturday Night Live" cast member and recent star of the sitcom "Up All Night," Rudolph has been a warm and welcome presence in films such as "Bridesmaids" and "Away We Go."
The actress, eight months pregnant, very early in the evening made a reference to "Paul" -- as in her partner, the filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson -- in which she said they play a game in which she will name a movie she saw in Los Angeles during her youth and Anderson will guess the theater where she saw it. "And he never loses," she said.
That was likely the most personal moment in the evening, which focused less on Rudolph herself than on a series of clips from other movies that she picked as influential on her. Clips were shown from "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother," "Airplane," "Sixteen Candles," "Tootsie," "Blazing Saddles," "The Muppet Movie" and "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" and they did end up forming something like their own comedic universe, a mix of serious detail and broad business, the funny and the sad.
The first clip of the evening was of Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman in "Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother." Rudolph and Mitchell talked for a bit about Wilder -- "Don't get me started on him," she said -- with Rudolph adding that for a while as a girl she just assumed Wilder would one day be her husband. (For reference, she noted that "Young Frankenstein" was Wilder, who recently turned 80, at "his peak of handsomeness.") She also added that she liked Wilder for the way "he doesn't get mad, he's beautifully angry."
In discussing a clip from 1980's "Airplane!" Rudolph mentioned that the scene in which actress Barbara Billingsley translates "jive" between two passengers and a stewardess, may be the one she quotes most often. "It might be on my tombstone," she said, running through a few lines.
A discussion of a clip from "Sixteen Candles," in which Anthony Michael Hall fixes a drink for Michael Schoeffling while they discuss Molly Ringwald, led to Rudolph mentioning that once actress Amy Poehler put on a stage production of "Sixteen Candles" with a cast of then unknown, now impressive names including Rudolph, Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Will Arnett, A.D. Miles and Rachel Dratch as well as a live band and cast singing. (She said it was filmed but never shown.)
Around a clip from "Tootsie" there was a conversation about Bill Murray, who Rudolph declared her other "movie husband," and recalled how the first time she met him, "he slung me over his shoulder like a fresh kill" at the "Saturday Night Live" studio. He gave her what Rudolph called the best advice she ever got for performing on the show, which was to play to the room and not the audience, meaning to make the crew and other performers laugh too.
Following a mention of "Beverly Hills Cop" and the career trajectory of Eddie Murphy, Rudolph noted she thought there was once a time in Hollywood when "You could be an actor and also be funny and you could be funny and be an actor. I feel like the niche thing, 'This is what you do and this is all we want to see you do,' wasn't entirely there."
The event wrapped up with a second clip from "Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother," this time a comically bad opera scene with Kahn, Feldman, Wilder and Dom DeLuise.
The pair did not discuss Anderson's new project, "Inherent Vice," an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel, which will find the actress appearing in one of her Anderson's films for the first time. Recent on-set photos from the production showed Rudolph wearing what appeared to be an unusual nurse's costume. Also not mentioned was "The Way, Way Back," opening July 5, and in which Rudolph also appears in a supporting role. The trailer is below.