If Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have carved out serious mainstream space for the modern female comic, then Kate McKinnon is making the most of that relatively-new arena. Her hilarious Saturday Night Live pastiche on Justin Bieber in his Calvins comes second only to a pitch-perfect turn as Hillary Clinton–the latter so loved that Clinton should thank McKinnon for bolstering her campaign. Add to that a long list of laugh-out-loud characters like Ellen Degeneres, Jane Lynch and a dance-happy Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and McKinnon is surely The Next Big Comedy Thing.
It’s been a fast ride. Just four years ago, she was working on Logo’s The Big Gay Sketch Show and in the trenches of the UCB Theater. But this year she snagged her fourth Emmy nom for SNL, co-hosted the Spirit Awards with Kumail Nanjiani and starred in the all-female Ghostbusters reboot alongside Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig–a move that set her household-name status in stone.
“I don’t really know what to make of it,” McKinnon says of her suddenly-grown starpower. “It’s very strange.” She pauses. “It’s been a wonderful summer,” she says quietly, as though shocked herself.
Growing up in small-town upstate New York, McKinnon and her sister Emily Lynne–now a stand-up comic–made many video sketches for their family and friends, inventing elaborate characters in a foreshadowing of what was to come for them both. “I had a number of dreams,” McKinnon says of that time. “It always seemed so out of reach that I didn’t really dare dream it, but I did love doing wacky characters and I did think that was my best skill. I thought if I could find a way to do this and make any money then that would be ideal.”
McKinnon and Lynne’s co-working scenario later extended to the web series Notary Publix in 2015. The sisters’ comedy career choices are less surprising when McKinnon explains, “There was just a lot of comedy on the TV in the house, and my parents are both very funny. I was just never discouraged from doing something wacky like trying to be a comedian.” Of her fallback dream as a child, McKinnon says, seriously, “I was going to be a still-life oil painter and probably will return to that when they won’t have me anymore.”
Taran Killam, Jay Pharaoh, and Jon Rudnitsky won’t return to Studio 8H for season 42 of Saturday Night Live this fall, but the show’s remaining cast is still on board.
Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson, Bobby Moynihan, and Vanessa Bayer are among the cast members back for the NBC sketch comedy stalwart, the network confirmed to EW on Tuesday. Weekend Update anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che are slated back, as are Kyle Mooney, Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson, Beck Bennett, and Sasheer Zamata.
Kate is in People Magazine‘s August 22nd issue as part of their “Faces of Funny” feature. Also included in the feature are her fellow 2016 Emmy nominees Tracee Ellis Ross, Allison Janney, Samantha Bee and Niecy Nash. You can buy the issue here.
The production for Kate’s 2017 comedy film “Rock That Body” began yesterday. Kate and her co-stars Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Ilana Glazer and Jillian Bell were spotted on the set of the movie in Queens, New York. As part of her character’s wardrobe, Kate was wearing a sash that reads: “Friend of the Bride”. Be sure to check the pictures out in our gallery!
I’ve added four new pictures of the photoshoot Kate did with Jesse Dittmar for The New York Times.
Any list of comedy all-stars wouldn’t be complete without Keegan-Michael Key and Kate McKinnon. They’re Emmy nominated for a third consecutive year — McKinnon for her fourth season on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and Key for the final season of Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele” — a true rarity for sketch performers. Variety got the pair together for a wide-ranging chat that spans hugs, meeting their political idols, and Bill Cosby.
You were voices in “The Angry Birds Movie,” but have you worked together in person?
McKinnon: No. And it’s the single biggest regret of my life. Now it’ll never happen. Something will be said in this interview that makes us turn away from each other.
Key: Did we meet at the American Comedy Awards?
McKinnon: We did meet on stage at the American Comedy Awards. Don’t you remember, we held each other for eight minutes at least?
Key: It felt like 80 minutes. It was only eight, but it felt like a blissful eternity.
McKinnon: And yet, not long enough.
Key: You’re right.
McKinnon: Did I ever tell you I went to see Second City early in my life and I saw you in one of the shows? I remember individual lines from the improv stuff you did after that were just the funniest things I’d ever heard. I said to myself, “That guy is going places.”
Key: Did you really see me perform? You’ve never told me that.
McKinnon: Yeah. Was it “Better Late Than Nader”?
Key: “Better Late Than Nader,” it was my put-in show. It was a show I came into, me and Jack McBrayer and Abby Sher. I had a lovely time. All that stuff in that show was great. I took over for David Pompeii. Where are you from?
McKinnon: Long Island. You?
Key: I’m from Detroit.
McKinnon: Different places and yet there we were in the same house, and you touched me.
Key: I did. We’re both huggers. I have two hug relationships in my life. One is with Kate McKinnon and the other is Kristen Schaal. So Kristen and Kate are gonna have to go in the steel cage. Someone’s gonna come off the top of the ropes with a chair.
Who’s the better hugger?
Key: Oh boy, we’re just gonna do it?
McKinnon: I think we all know the answer to that question.
Key: We all know the answer and I’m just gonna say it, even though I’ve had a smaller sample selection with Miss McKinnon. Right now I’m officially in trouble with Kristen Schaal.
McKinnon: I don’t want that. We’ll say Kristen Schaal. It’s fine, I don’t need to build myself up like that.
Key: She doesn’t need it.
McKinnon: I don’t want to put other women down.
For years, men like Jerry Seinfeld, David Letterman and Jon Stewart have toiled away on the comedy circuit, just to crash against a glass ceiling, struggling to make the same money or gain the same notoriety as their female counterparts. So few movies, sitcoms or late-night shows feature men in a leading role that journalists have finally begun asking, “How can this still be happening?”
PEOPLE gathered a group of Emmy nominees who agreed to discuss the ugly truth behind Hollywood’s institutional sexism: Men just aren’t funny.