Actress and comedian Ana Gasteyer is one of the stars of ABC’s Suburgatory and a former cast member of Saturday Night Live–she appeared in 125 episodes of the show–as well as a veteran of Broadway. She’s also a native Washingtonian–she grew up on Capitol Hill and went to the Sidwell Friends school. She still has family here, including her brother-in-law, David Grosso, who is running as an independent to unseat at-large city council member Michael Brown in the November elections.
Her campaign contribution will be a performance at a “Women for Grosso” fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, March 24, at the Hill Center on Pennsylvania Avenue. The organizing group is made of up a committee that includes former council members Sharon Ambrose of Ward 6 and Kathy Patterson of Ward 3. Tickets range in price from $75 to $1,000; the show begins at 8 PM. Oh, and men are invited, too.
Gasteyer talked to us about her career both past and present, working with Alec Baldwin, and what Washington means to her.
After all these years you are jumping into the DC political wars. Why?
Largely out of loyalty. I grew up in Washington, and I care very much about its future. It’s a great American city. I believe David is a very ethical person, and I like his interest in transparency and health reform and thinking in a long-term and forward way about the city. I’m very impressed with him. It’s not a particularly glamorous pursuit. He’s enormously well educated; he could have gone a lot of other ways. I feel people like him need support.
The committee of women behind “Women for Grosso” is impressive, including Sharon Ambrose.
Sharon Ambrose has been a very influential person in my life. She’s also my brother’s godmother.
Did you encourage your brother-in-law to run?
No. I had nothing to do with it. I’m an innocent bystander.
Have you been involved in politics prior to this event?
Not particularly. I’m involved in women’s issues. I’m on the national board of advocates for Planned Parenthood. I did marry a Washingtonian, however–Charlie McKittrick. And my brother also married a Washingtonian. My father-in-law is still there. We care a lot about Washington.
Where on Capitol Hill did you grow up?
Independence and North Carolina avenues.
What are your memories of childhood here?
I’m really glad I grew up on the Hill. It wasn’t as posh as it is now. It was incredibly diverse and incredibly beautiful in terms of the architecture. My mom was one of the founders of the Eastern Market, and helped renovate that area. She was very active in the community association. I feel lucky that we grew up there. And going to Sidwell, I had exposure to that other part of the city.
Any Sidwell classmates who have gone on to big careers like you have?
Everybody. Most of my friends from Sidwell are doing things that help change the way people are living in the world. Greg Berman is helping with prison reform. Clara Jeffries is one of the editors of Mother Jones. Ann Brashares is one of my dearest friends from Sidwell. But I’m probably the least Quaker of my classmates.
Did any of your former classmates try to snag SNL tickets during your run on the show?
Of course. They are really hard to get. I actually donated tickets to the auction a lot. This time I gave a signed Suburgatory script.
Do you have a favorite spot in Washington?
We still always hit the Eastern Market when we go home, and the pottery studio. I like Montrose Park. It’s absolutely one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been.
Do you have a favorite monument?
The Jefferson. It brings up hilarious memories of working at the Tidal Basin on the paddle boats.
Tell me about your act, Elegant Songs From a Handsome Woman, which you will perform at the Grosso fundraiser.
It’s an act I’ve done around the country. It’s me with a band, doing great American songbook numbers. It merges the two prongs of my career, the comedian and the Broadway singer. It’s my effort at being an elegant woman, which naturally has some snafus along the way. My musical director is a Sidwell person, too: John Spurney. I didn’t seek him out because of Sidwell, but it came up in rehearsal.
Will you amend the act in any way to speak to David Grosso’s campaign, like putting him in it?
Probably not. I think it would be better for everybody if I stick to what I do well.
You’re now on a primetime TV show. How does that compare with late-night live TV? Do you have a preference?
It’s not that different. It’s more a matter of TV and live theater. The speed with which you work on TV is fast and fulfilling. Even though it’s a single-camera show and pretaped, you don’t have time to fool around. I’ve partnered with Chris Parnell, also from SNL [he plays her husband on Suburgatory], and we have a lot of shorthand, making it seamless.
Every SNL cast member probably has to answer this question: Who was your favorite guest host?
Alec Baldwin was without a doubt the best host we had. Not just because we did that NPR sketch [“Schweddy Balls”], but also because he’s a phenomenal actor with incredible timing. He’s obviously been celebrated as the greatest SNL host ever. He knows how to deliver a joke.