Done with ‘SNL,’ Melissa Villaseñor savors her freedom and ‘feels like a little kid’
At her stand-up shows in Chicago, comedian and impressionist promises silliness and a bit of darkness
Comedian Melissa Villaseñor keeps up a cheery, upbeat persona that we’ve seen for six years as she grins and waves good-night at the end of “Saturday Night Live.” And that’s what fans will see at her stand-up shows this weekend at The Den in Chicago.
But there’s a less friendly portion of her set that crowds seem to love, and she calls it “The Mean Meliss.”
“I kinda let it out,” Villaseñor says. “I talk about how I’m a people-pleaser and I’m really jolly, but there’s a side of me that comes out late at night like a wolf.”
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday, 7:15 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Tickets: $19 to $26 plus two-drink minimum
That's when she lets loose with everything that’s been getting on her nerves. “It’s still really silly,” she says, “but there’s a dark side.”
The main theme of the show, though, is freedom. Having left “SNL” last summer of her own volition, the California native now is back on the West Coast, reconnecting with family and expanding her talents, lately taking classes in Spanish and guitar.
“I feel like a little kid right now,” she says, “and it’s really fun.”
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While landing on “SNL” was a childhood dream and brought Villaseñor countless moments of joy, its notoriously high-pressure environment had been taking a toll.
“It was getting really, really tough on me, mentally,” she says. “I didn’t want to do that anymore to myself. I mean, it was incredible and magical and everything, but my anxiety would pop up, and back spasms and migraines, and I couldn’t keep up.”
Villaseñor made her name on “SNL” as a gifted and versatile impressionist, and she promises to give the Den crowd some of her vast repertoire of celebrities — including the Dolly Parton sendup that delighted the country legend.
“I imitate people I come across,” she says, and that also can include friends, family, strangers, even cartoon characters. “I’ve been imitating [sadistic neighbor kid] Sid from ‘Toy Story’ in Spanish. Because it’s very creepy, and that’s been a lot of fun at shows. That’s really one I’m liking right now.”
Villaseñor also is spreading the word about her first book, the recently published “Whoops ... I’m Awesome,” a journal full of mental exercises and her own drawings for readers to color.
“I feel like it’s a book for adults and their inner child,” she says. “There’s a lot of my art pieces in there that are silly, some gloomy, but hopefully relatable to people with anxiety. It’s a self-help book but it’s also fun.”
With the weekly “SNL” grind behind her, Villaseñor is auditioning and opening herself up to whatever new projects come her way.
“I want to make my own show happen. I’m excited to act in movies now too,” she says. “The possibilities are all here. I hope — I’m not gonna say hope, I KNOW that’s what the next things are.”