The Big Issue : Edition 445
18 THe big issue 28 feb – 12 mar 2012 leading ladies as opposed to their caricature sidekicks – can do lewd humour. Except for in the most outlandish slapstick sequences, Wiig played Annie pretty straight. She looked and talked like a woman you might actually know. For those who only knew Wiig from her work on the US sketch-comedy institution Saturday Night Live, this capacity to play the everywoman seemed to come out of nowhere. Wiig was an unknown when she arrived at SNL in 2005, aged 32, via the Los Angeles improvisational comedy troupe The Groundlings. She quickly became known for a series of absurdist, often grotesque, recurring characters. These included Penelope, the hair-twirling queen of surreal conversational one-upmanship; Shanna, a Monroe-esque sexpot with a tendency to make repellent disclosures; Dooneese, a freaky young lady with creepy, baby-sized hands; Target lady, a terrifyingly eager retail assistant; and many more. Wiig was able to work her lankiness (a huge advantage in physical comedy) and uncanny capacity for nailing vocal tics and mannerisms to great effect. The characters she played tended to be weird and deluded, but also excruciatingly enthusiastic – usually to the point of derangement. This was true not only of her made-up characters (most famously the Target lady) but also often with her celebrity impressions (see her absurdly vital Katharine Hepburn). In an interview with The New York Times in 2011, legendary SNL creator and producer Lorne Michaels ranked Wiig among the “top three or four” SNL performers in an alumni that includes Tina Fey, John Belushi, Mike Myers, Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell. In her SNL downtime, Wiig appeared in various minor roles in film and TV productions, including Knocked Up For An r-rATED movie that featured an extended scene of projectile puking, there was a surprising amount of delighted hand-clasping across the United States when Bridesmaids became a box-office hit in 2011. The film, starring Kristen Wiig and produced by bromance comedy kingpin Judd Apatow, was riotous and vulgar, cleverly scripted (and partly improvised) with an ensemble cast of very funny females doing things women don’t normally do in Hollywood movies. The film opened with a slapstick sex scene and featured women suffering explosive diarrhoea and engaging in screaming matches about anal-bleaching. The screenplay was co-written by two women (Wiig and Annie Mumolo). Bridesmaids was an international hit (including in Australia, where it was rated MA) and was seen by many as a victory for women in Hollywood: ‘female-driven’ comedies could draw audiences and comic actresses could be much more than cutesy. In Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote a review entitled ‘Bridesmaids: A triumph for vomit, and feminism’. But perhaps the delighted reception of Bridesmaids says more about the low bar for tales of female triumph in Hollywood than anything else. Bridesmaids was hardly radical, and it wasn’t trying to be. In her first starring movie role, Wiig played Annie, a Bridget Jonesish type whose non- threatening career (as a baker) was in freefall and whose loser status was partly defined by the fact that, while her best friend was getting married, she herself didn’t have a man. Nevertheless, Wiig emerged as a fully fledged movie star while eluding the standard comic actress categories. only very slow learners could have been surprised to discover, in 2011, that women can do lewd humour. What was fresh about Bridesmaids was it showed that normal women – photographbychrisfloyd,chrisfloyd.com cover story » BY sophie quick 18 THebigissue 8–21NOV2013 Kristen Wiig , s comedic smarts have held her in good stead across T V and film, and now her broader abilities – as an everywoman , – are finding favour in Hollywood.