Like ’em or love ’em, Kristen Wiig and Wendi McLendon-Covey are funny. Whether Wiig is one-upping everyone as the prissy Penelope, raising hell as the smiling and mischievous schoolgirl Gilly on SNL or McLendon-Covey is lethargically kicking ass and taking names as the saucy Deputy Clementine Johnson on “Reno 911!,” these nonpareil performers have already left their stamp on comedy as the everyman’s funny-woman. On May 13, they’ll appear together as members of a disorderly bridal party in “Bridesmaids,” a movie Wiig co-wrote with friend Annie Mumolo about the conflict-ridden backstage to weddings.
Writing the movie, how did you work with the fact that “Bridesmaids” is going to be tagged as a chick flick?
Kristen Wiig: We really didn’t think about it when we started writing it. Mumolo is a co-writer, and we just kind of thought of ideas that would be fun to do and that would have a lot of ladies in the cast — ’cause that was really important to us — and she had this idea of like, well, what about if we just told the story of what it’s really like to be in a wedding and have it focus more on the bridesmaids than the bride, female friendships and all that stuff. We just kind of wrote it out. We didn’t really think about that stuff too much
It turns the whole “chick flick” genre is on its end because it shows that women can be just as violent and gross as everybody else.
Wendi McLendon-Covey: Right. And that we don’t just shop for Manolo Blahniks in a montage.
Judd Apatow has these archetypal characters in his films. Were you concerned with people watching your movie and trying to find those corollary characters — like, “That’s Jonah Hill” or, “That’s Seth Rogen?”
KW: Oh God, I never thought about that. After I did “Knocked Up” [Apatow] was like “Do you want to write something for yourself?” and he didn’t tell us what to write or anything. In the beginning he just said “Pitch me some ideas, and you can write it by yourself; you can write it with a friend.” So I asked Mumolo who I’d worked with at the Groundlings, and who’s one of my best friends. She had this idea and we pitched it to him and he was like, “Great! Write it up.” There’s definitely things in the movie, a lot of things, where both Paul and Judd were like, “Really? Women say that? Or don’t women do this? Don’t women talk like this?”
WMC: Yeah, they didn’t understand.
KW: We were like, “We really talk about this, or we don’t ever talk about that.” But they wanted to know and they were very involved in all of that.
WMC: They were a little confused in the beginning … We’d be in rehearsals, the six bridesmaids, Kristen would say “Well, yeah, this is what happens all the time. I guarantee you this is what happens.” It took all of us together, talking to them, saying, “We’re not lying. This is how stupid wedding showers get. And it doesn’t make sense that we still attend. But we do it. And this does happen.” They were a little taken aback by what we were telling them. To their credit, they listened, and we have the movie that we have. But they were a little shocked.
How did you get in touch with your character, the desperate housewife and underappreciated mother, Rita?
WMC: I’ve got no kids myself. My marriage is very good. I’m a basically happy person, so I just look to the outside and eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. You know, listen … I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t take this from some of my friends who got married and had kids very quickly and thought “Oh this is going to complete me as a woman.” ‘Cause I’ve never had those urges. I have no maternal instincts at all. And I honored those instead of saying “Well, I’ll have the baby and then the instincts will kick in.” It doesn’t happen.
KW: I find you very maternal.
WMC: Really? Would you like me to scratch your back a little bit and make you some soup? Annie is kind of a cut-up. Is she based on yourself? But you seem to have your life together.
KW: Well now… I mean I never feel like I have my [expletive] together, but I think the story of a woman in her thirties who doesn’t know what she wants to do and feels like she has to figure out what it is for the rest of her life and is surrounded by people that she thinks have it figured out; I think that’s really common. And, especially in this business, it didn’t happen overnight. There were years where I would go back to my hometown and visit my friends. Did I want to talk to them about my apartment that was above a garage? And that I was going to auditions and they had this beautiful home and kids and they’re married? Yeah, there was a little bit of like, there’s something wrong with me. And of course looking back, that’s ridiculous. We’re not trying to send a big message with [“Bridesmaids”] but I would like to say that you don’t have to be married.
Your Saturday Night Live characters are timeless in a way that calls older SNL to mind. Where do characters come from?
KW: I did watch a lot of SNL growing up. I watched it religiously in high school. There’s no one place they come from. If I had a list of them I could say that they all probably came from different places. A lot of it for me is just hearing people. Aunt Linda, for instance, was a woman that I heard on a plane who was watching the movie that they show. She had her headphones on and she was really confused by the movie. And she kept yelling and turning around. Everyone has their earphones on, they’re watching the movie, but I thought it was so funny and I took out a piece of paper and I was writing down things that she said. I have never done that with anybody else. Gilly literally came from sitting in a room with a writer and saying “I wanna write a character that has a face like this.” And it just came from that. Sometimes it comes from people, other writers will have ideas…
What about Penelope, the one-upper?
KW: That was based on somebody that I knew. Obviously exaggerated. But it was just a weird thing that I noticed that she did sometimes.
Do you have any advice to women?
KW: Don’t be so hard on yourself.
WMC: Blaze your own trail. Don’t look to magazines or anyone else to validate you because they’re not trying to validate you. They’re trying to sell you things. Just figure it out for yourself. You’re fine the way you are.
KW: Use conditioner.