10 Comics to Watch
Ellie Kemper isn’t quite used to the idea that, as of this fall, she’ll be a series regular on one of her favorite shows, “The Office.”
“Being on set is surreal because it’s so familiar to you from TV, and now you’re in it,” muses Kemper, who plays Dunder Mifflin’s naive new receptionist, Erin. “The Internet is actually hooked up, so I sent an email to my mom that said, ‘I’m at Pam’s desk right now!’ It’s unbelievable.”
Unbelievable, maybe. Unwarranted? Hardly. The St. Louis native and Princeton alum has been honing her comedy chops for the last six years at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York. Her one-woman shows “Dumb Girls” and “Feeling Sad/Mad With Ellie Kemper” got comedy insiders buzzing, while the 12-million-hits-and-counting Web video “Blowjob” — in which she lays out, in squirm-inducing detail, how she likes to please her man — made her a household face. Well, to frat houses anyway.
“I’m a bit uncomfortable about that video because I always think of my family seeing it,” she admits, “but it got people’s attention. I was on the Upper West Side depositing a check and this guy said, ‘I love your video! You can have free wine at my wine shop anytime you want!’ So it has opened doors.”
With a fresh, girl-next-door sunniness and a knack for finding the nutty in the everyday, Kemper is a natural fit for TV and movies. In addition to her “Office” job, she’s just wrapped two films: Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere” and “Get Him to the Greek“ with Jonah Hill and Russell Brand.
“I’m the most comfortable when I’m playing a naturalistic character,” says Kemper, who also has contributed comic pieces to McSweeney’s and the Onion. “I auditioned for ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and when I was doing the biggest characters, I felt the least comfortable. I’m just more comfortable when it’s some version of myself.”
“I’ve been recognized, but it’s mostly 14-year-old boys and guys from NYU. If I’m in Union Square, people are like, ‘Are you Blowjob Girl?’ I want them to know I do other things, too.”