Top female stars reflect on the “secret weapon” of being funny, their path to fame and their heroes in “Lifetime Presents Variety’s Power of Women: The Comedians,” which premiered Monday on Lifetime.
The special featured interviews with Michaela Coel, Mindy Kaling, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kate McKinnon, Maya Rudolph and Sofia Vergara, who were celebrated in the May 5 Power of Women edition of Variety. Tina Fey also paid tribute to the late “Saturday Night Live” icon Gilda Radner as part of the Lifetime special.
McKinnon, who started on “Saturday Night Live” in 2012, said she considers “SNL” executive producer Lorne Michaels to be one of her comedy heroes and dreamed of being on the show as a kid.
“I memorized and I transcribed a lot of the sketches,” McKinnon told friend and “SNL” castmate Aidy Bryant in an interview. “Watching good nights at the end of the show, I was like, ‘I have to be there.’”
McKinnon said she also looks up to her mother and sister, who taught her how to be funny, along with her colleagues at “SNL.” Giving a glimpse into her creative process, she said she prefers working on impersonations over creating new characters.
“I prepare for all impressions by just watching hours of footage on YouTube, and I just like to find one moment that delights me,” McKinnon said. “And so many of the women I’ve played delight me to no end, so it’s not hard.”
Louis-Dreyfus, who was interviewed by her son Charlie Hall, reflected on her career, from “Seinfeld” to “Veep,” and said she enjoys doing comedy and drama.
“I’m not a comedian, I’m a comic actor,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “If you’re a comedic actor, you’re an actor who’s adept at doing comedy, but you’re not just in that lane. You can go to other genres.”
Louis-Dreyfus, who describes her style of comedy as “all risks,” said she seeks out multi-dimensional characters.
“I like playing characters that you don’t see coming, that don’t follow certain rules of character,” she said. “The more nuanced and complicated and crazy and wonderful the character, the better.”
Kaling sat down with longtime friend and collaborator B.J. Novak to discuss her career as a writer, actor, director and producer. Kaling, who got her start as a writer and star with Novak on “The Office,” noted the importance of her series “The Mindy Project” and “Never Have I Ever,” which center Asian American and Indian women.
“Audiences long to identify with people that don’t look like them; they just have to be given that opportunity,” Kaling said. “I was really pleasantly surprised how something so personal could have a universal appeal.”
Coel spoke with Natasha Lyonne about her creative process and turning down a million-dollar deal from Netflix for her award-winning HBO series “I May Destroy You.”
“I decided that I would literally rather be homeless,” Coel said, speaking on the importance of maintaining her creative control. “I refuse to give you my rights.”
Coel’s “I May Destroy You” has been praised for accurately and respectfully depicting sexual assault.
“My creative intent became making the world aware of how nuanced and complicated sexual assault and rape can be,” Coel said. “It was about trying to figure out a way to make a show that didn’t leave the viewer traumatized but instead tried to signal a way out of the trauma.”
Vergara sat down with friend and manager of 25 years, Luis Balaguer to discuss her career as an actor and entrepreneur and what she considers her personal style of comedy.
“I don’t think about me looking beautiful or even being funny,” Vergara said. “I just try to have fun and show that to people.”
Vergara said her best accomplishment is finding a show like “Modern Family,” which ran for 11 seasons. She is also proud to have broken barriers as a Latin women in comedy and worldwide star.
“There are not many of us, so it’s great to help open doors.”
Rudolph reminisced on her comedic journey in an interview with current “SNL” cast member Bowen Yang.
“I definitely learned early on that if you use comedy, you can hide pain,” Rudolph said. “I love that as a secret weapon.”
Fey paid tribute to Radner, one of the original cast members of “SNL,” who died of ovarian cancer in 1989.
“Gilda slayed that audience every time she set foot on that stage,” Fey said.
Citing her as an inspiration, Fey brought attention to Gilda’s Club, a collection of non-profit organizations named in Radner’s honor that provides meeting places for cancer support groups.
Louis-Dreyfus, who also recently battled breast cancer, said she looked up to Radner’s comedic presence.
“She seemed to have no vanity,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “She was willing to do anything to get a laugh, and she did.”
(Pictured: Michaela Coel)