Melissa Villaseñor was among eight cast members departing Saturday Night Live after his last season. And in this episode of The Last Laugh podcast, she opens up for the first time about everything that led to her difficult decision to walk away from the show that had been her home for six years.
The comedian and author of the new book Oops…I’m awesome also talks about how she started doing celebrity impressions on America’s Got Talentlooks back at the most surreal highlights of its time SNLand shares some thoughts on what she wants to do with her life now that she’s left that high-pressure job.
When I spot Villaseñor’s bright pink hair and ask her if that’s a sign she’s living her best life in LA after she’s gone SNL last summer, she replies, “I really am.”
“I almost feel reborn or something, because I have all this free time,” she continues. “So I sign up for classes, almost like a little kid. I take guitar lessons and Spanish lessons. I signed up for a pottery class! She explains that she used to try to expand her mind like that between seasons of SNLbut I just found it “impossible”.
Of course, all of these new hobbies have been on top of putting the finishing touches on her new book of stories, affirmations and drawings – many of which are encouraged to color – which hits shelves today. She decided to call it Oops…I’m awesome because it “just sounds like fun”, adding, “I think it’s a perfect title for this book because it’s self-contained, but also, I don’t take it too seriously.”
And yet, these silly drawings, which she’s been sharing for years on a dedicated Instagram account for her biggest fans, have served as a more cathartic creative outlet than almost anything she’s done. SNL.
“I think you could say it was the release of what was going on inside the show for me,” Villaseñor says, adding that this release was better “channeled” through art than the more self-destructive ways. that cast members have faced on the show. stressful environment in the past.
“I think acting is where I feel very silly, confident and really can’t expose my sensitive side too much,” she adds. “And the drawing became this place where I could share everything that made me sensitive or uncertain, and I released my feelings through that. It’s this calm side, and I really like that.
Below is an edited excerpt from our conversation. You can listen to it all subscribe to the last laugh on Apple podcast, Spotify, Google, embroiderer, Amazon Musicor wherever you get your podcasts, and be the first to hear new episodes when they come out every Tuesday.
When it was announced that you were going to be on the show, all the headlines including the one i wrote—was something like “SNL Hires the first Latina cast member. So it was a lot of pressure, I imagine.
Yeah! And I didn’t even think about it.
Did it hit you in any way once it started happening?
Oh, sure. I was really proud, but also nervous because it was like, what do you want me to do?
Did you feel like you were supposed to have the responsibility of representing an entire community on the show?
Kinda, like I was supposed to bring a bunch of Mexican humor or something [laughs]. And at that time, I didn’t really have much of it – other than imitating my abuelita, my great-grandmother – I didn’t have much of it, until I thought of the last season, where I had a girl who kept saying “thas sah” with Selena [Gomez]then my character loosely based on my uncle Cesar.
Why do you think it took you so long to bring more personal elements to the show? Until you feel comfortable enough to do it?
Yeah I guess. You know, the first year is like doing what I’m good at, what got me here, what my feelings were. So I don’t know, I think it happened like that.
I’ve spoken to many cast members on this podcast who talk about how long it takes to feel comfortable on the show, and some of them never feel like they’re completely comfortable – Bill Hader being probably the most famous example. He really had a lot of problems until maybe last season when he finally felt like he knew what he was doing, and he’s obviously considered one of the best to ever do it. .
He is so good.
Are you sensitive to that feeling of taking a while to find your place?
Yeah, for me it did. And I think that’s until you find a writer who really connects with you. There were a lot of really great people I wrote with. But man, that’s a toss-up, it really is. And every year was different. Some years I was like, “Oh, I was into a lot of things.” And then some years, I was like, “Oh, I guess I’m not here often.”
Your very first episode, I know you did Sarah Silverman in Celebrity family feudwhich was a great skit with almost the entire cast.
I was shaking in my boots! I was nervous. I remember thinking, “Do I have to do this every week? No!” I was very, very nervous. But then you get used to it a bit.
You’ve also had the surreal experience of impersonating a celebrity and then hearing what they think of your impression, like when Dolly Parton responded to your impression, right?
“I’ve never looked or sounded so good!” [as Dolly Parton]
It must have been good.
Yeah, that was really awesome. I mean, it was such a fun piece, because it was Christmas and I had to sing, and I also had to play myself. I think it’s the perfect mix. I just like when I play myself and then slip into the print. I think it’s just like the perfect mix of what I love to do.
So you were one of the many cast members who left before this current season. Was it your decision to leave? Or how did it all happen?
Yes, it was my decision. During the summer, I gave myself a lot of time to think about it and project myself in my head if I came back… Ultimately, it was about my sanity. Last season, I had a few panic attacks. I think it was just…I was struggling. I always felt like I was on the edge of a cliff every week. And I was like, I don’t want to do this to myself anymore. And it’s not like the show was mean to me or anyone. It was just my way of handling things. I think I’m an introvert. When I’m in a big group of a lot of amazing people, and everyone talks above everyone else, I think I tend to get small. I get nervous, like, where do I fit? What am I supposed to do? That’s how I was in high school too. And so I think that’s what caused it. And I was like, I think I’m fine. I feel like there’s nothing else I feel, oh I need to share this, I want to do this on the show. I think I’m ready. There was just something that said to me, I think I could separate.
It was time.
And it was super hard ’cause I love Lorne [Michaels]! And I’m so grateful to them all for taking me in. And I shared with them that it was my childhood dream. That’s all I wanted when I was a kid. So I’m going to hold that forever in my heart, that I got to experience that in my life.
“I always felt like I was on the edge of a cliff every week. And I was like, I don’t want to do this to myself anymore.”
Well, I imagine as the cast got bigger and bigger, it was harder and harder to stand out. But I think that could explain why there has been so much turnover this year with a lot of departures.
Yes, I think it was a lot. And then the pandemic, I mean, this year of quarantine in 2020 has also been very difficult.
Can you still watch the show? Have you had the experience of watching the show since you weren’t there?
I noticed that I will always go online and watch some clips. It’s a bit harsh, I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit harsh.
Is there FOMO there?
Yeah, yeah, a little for sure, but not enough where I am, oh, I have to go back. But I love watching my friends there. And then just seeing new people shine and do well, it’s nice to see.
Looking back, are there things you will miss the most and the least?
I’ll probably miss that magical feeling of “I’m going to live with something I love, and I’m proud and excited to play.” That magical feeling of “I can’t believe I’m on this show” that came up every time I went there and did a weekend update. Just knowing it was going to air is exciting and thrilling.
What won’t you miss?
I mean, probably the work schedule. And that pressure of every week to come up with something and try to share it with a writer and be like, “Hey, what do you think?” And that feeling of “I don’t have time to help you like this” or “someone already wrote this so you can’t write it”. That feeling of “OK, what else?” What could I do?” This feeling, I won’t miss it.
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