Nasim Pedrad made a name for herself channeling iconic characters like Arianna Huffington and Kim Kardashian on “Saturday Night Live.”
Pedrad spent five years on NBC’s late-night sketch show but she won’t be back next season. The comedian left the series to co-star in former “SNL” writer and standup comic John Mulaney’s self-titled sitcom this fall.
“At some point you have to leave and I can’t think of a better reason to leave than this particular show and this particular cast,” Pedrad said about the ensemble, which includes “SNL” alum Martin Short, Elliott Gould, Zack Pearlman, Seaton Smith and Mulaney himself.
Executive produced by “SNL” head honcho Lorne Michaels, “Mulaney” is loosely based on the Chicago native’s pre-“SNL” life as a freelance comedy writer. He shares a Brooklyn apartment with a couple of friends (Pedrard’s character, Jane, a personal trainer) and fellow standup comic, Motif, played by Smith.
Despite Michaels’ involvement with the show, NBC passed on the original pilot. Fox picked it up last fall, retooled the pilot and has six episodes in the bag. Another 10 have been ordered.
“I don’t think it’s that common to get this kind of group together,” Pedrad said about the “Mulaney” cast. She said if it weren’t for the Fox sitcom, she would have stayed at “SNL.” “At the end of the day these are two shows filming at the same time on opposite coasts. It wouldn’t have been practical to stay there.”
What will Pedrad miss most about her old job?
“It’s a really hard thing to narrow down,” she said. “Probably being delirious on writing night and getting a laugh attack that won’t stop at 5 in the morning.”
The character she’ll miss impersonating the most is one that Mulaney brought to her personally: Arianna Huffington. Bill Hader was supposed to play political pundit James Carville on Weekend Update but he came down with an eye infection.
“That day, John came to my dressing room and said, ‘How do you feel about giving Arianna a shot?’” recalled Pedrad, who eventually ended up being Huffington’s real-life plus-one at a White House Correspondents Dinner. “Arianna Huffington was really fun to play because she was smart, flirty with [former Weekend Update anchor] Seth [Meyers], there was a lot to play with there.”
As for the recent “SNL” cast purge that saw pink slips going to rookie performers Brooks Wheelan, Noel Wells and John Milhiser, Pedrad put a glass-half-full spin on it.
“The good news is that show gives you unparalleled exposure that is wonderful,” she said. “The length of your tenure there is not a forecast of what’s to come once you leave. A lot of people have spent little time there and have gone on to have amazing careers.” (See: Sarah Silverman)
“It’s never easy,” she added about the firings, “but more than anything I’m excited to see what they do next.”
Pedrad said she wasn’t sure what to expect at “SNL” when she started there in 2009.
“You read and hear about a lot of stories about what it’s like to work there,” she said. “I was so surprised by how supportive and not crazy everyone was.”
She credits her old job with helping her land her new one.
“What’s really cool about ‘SNL’ is it really does prepare you for anything,” she said. “Things are done so quickly there. You have one night to write the show. It’s live, so things can go wrong. Things can change last minute. To be able to pull that off prepares you for complicated situations. It makes you that much better.”