While fans of “24” know Mary Lynn Rajskub as Kiefer Sutherland’s co-star — the edgy systems analyst Chloe O’Brian— the actress is getting back to her comedy roots this week, doing her standup act at Zanie’s Comedy Club in Rosemont Thursday and Friday; and at the Zanie’s Chicago on Wells Street on Saturday.
The Detroit native recently called to chat about her approach to comedy and her experiences working on “24.” One note: As for the recent comments by Freddie Prinze Jr. about Sutherland — from his experience as a guest star on the show five years ago — Rajskub declined to comment, noting she had no issues with Prinze and wasn’t present when he and Sutherland acted together.
Q: Something I know that annoys actors is being typecast by Hollywood. Considering your comedy roots, you must be pleased by your ability to play such a strongly dramatic role in “24.”
A: Absolutely. That’s exactly what happened. “24” originally was the exception, and now many people only know me from “24.”
Q: How do you describe your standup act?
A: It’s a lot of personal stories and it gets pretty silly and revealing. I talk about my husband and my kid and being somebody who really never thought she’d have a kid. I talk about how becoming a parent changes you and how you start liking the kid and the experience of motherhood. I touch on ’24’ a little bit. I talk about some of the fantasies I have. It’s an act that is full of my personal observations.
Q: Don’t you find that as you watch other comedians, that you’re drawn to those people who do share a lot of personal stories?
A: When it comes to comedy, I always enjoy the story aspect of it — to hear what’s really going on with people. If I saw a comedian who was just telling jokes, my favorite part would be kind of the cracks in between the jokes. So I can learn what’s really going on with that person.
So, I do the same with my own standup in order to turn around things to let people in.
My act, to be honest, is really all about the cracks that are in between the jokes.
Q: What are you most excited about “24” at this point in the show’s run?
A: I am real excited by how the season turned out. I’m excited I am alive. That wasn’t the case for awhile. Actually, my character was going to be killed off, and then they changed their minds a few times on that and altered the storyline. I’m happy, too, because I think this last installment went really well, and all the feedback I’m getting is that the audience really enjoyed it, too.
Plus, I don’t think they’re really ready for it to end. I think the story between Jack [Kiefer Sutherland’s character] and Chloe [Rajskub] is still going, and it’s up to the writers and producers to figure out how we’ve gotten to where we are and where it goes from here. I haven’t heard anything about going forward, but I hope I do.
Q: What is it like for you to be part of something that is SO popular with the viewing public?
A: It’s so much fun, and I don’t take it for granted that I’m on a show — and playing a character — that people are kind of nuts about. So when I go out live to do my comedy act, I run into all these people that are very passionate about “24.” It’s a phenomenon. It’s exciting. You know, you make something and you know that it’s good, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the public will connect with it and it will catch on with people like it has.
On top of that, what’s even more amazing is that the show went away — and then came back. That never happens, or rarely happens, on broadcast television.
Q: What’s it like working with Kiefer?
A: He’s great. I always talk about how much I’ve learned from him about carrying a show. His level of passion for the show is amazing. I come from comedy, so I tend to not take anything seriously. Kiefer is an easygoing, nice guy off the set, but when it comes to “24,” he takes it very seriously, and it shows. The shape of the show and the strength of the show comes a lot from him. Not everybody can do that. It takes a certain kind of person and actor to fill those shoes. A big part of that is his ability to make Jack Bauer real and believable and make people really care about him.
I’m really lucky — for whatever reason — to be there beside him.