She’s portrayed Chloe O’Brian in 24, Gail the Snail in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and she was a member of the casts of Mr. Show with Bob and David, Legally Blonde 2, and The Dropout. Her projects have won Emmys and Golden Globes.
Mary Lynn Rajskub has appeared in everyone’s favorite shows and movies acting alongside titans of the industry – Tom Cruise, Reese Witherspoon, Kiefer Sutherland to name a few. She’s not quite as instantly recognizable as these celebrities who are known the world over, she’s something better. She’s “Fame-ish.”
In her new book Fame-ish: My Life at the Edge of Stardom – out May 17 via Abrams Press – Rajskub shares stories from her life as a comedian, Hollywood actress, mother, and woman of the world in a series of humorous essays that are insightful, relatable, and entertaining. In advance of the book’s release, Rajskub is hitting the road for a stand-up tour – including stops at the Comedy Shrine in Aurora on April 15-16 and Juke Box Comedy in Peoria on April 22-23 – during which fans will have an opportunity to pick-up copies of the book.
On a phone call last week, Rebellious Magazine chatted with Rajskub about her incredible life and career as she treated herself to a “ridiculously expensive smoothie” in Los Angeles.
She explained how Fame-ish came together organically and creatively at this point in the world and this point in her life after a friend noted how a transcribed episode of her podcast read like a perfect chapter for the book. This observation helped Rajskub frame the essays in a way that is funny, genuine, conversational, and extremely readable.
“I really wanted to make an effort to make it stand-alone essays. Because from my comedy, the way my mind works, and the kind of stuff I like, I knew it was going to be very memoir-ish, but I also knew that I wanted it to be funny. And I didn’t want the pressure, but I also didn’t feel like doing my life story,” explained Rajskub of writing Fame-ish. “Some of the essays are juicier and chunkier in the sense that, ‘here’s the period of time after my divorce,’ so those are ones that have more girth and more pages and more sections. Then there will be an essay about when I worked at Denny’s which is one of my favorite ones. It’s very silly, but it’s also very grounded and you get a sense of who I was at that time and what my life was like.”
Attending awards shows, overcoming audition anxiety, and how seeing Patton Oswalt helped her realize her stand-up comedy dreams are among the essay topics. Fans of Hollywood connections will especially enjoy the essay entitled, “Getting the Part,” in which Rajskub details how performing at Largo – the famed Los Angeles club – led to her landing a part in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love which subsequently led to her becoming a regular on 24.
“Nothing about my career is normal – but in a sense of saying it anecdotally, that story in and of itself is pretty cool. And to connect the dots, it’s interesting maybe as an outsider to go, ‘Oh , that’s how Hollywood works sometimes with these weird connections,’” she explained of the essay.
You’ll have to read the book to get the full story, but the gist is that through performing and hanging out at Largo, Rajskub was in a social circle with Anderson who asked her to audition for the role of one of the sisters of Punch Drunk Love‘s main character Barry (Adam Sandler). She got the role and ended up stealing scenes throughout the film. Joel Surnow, the executive producer of 24, saw her performance and soon wanted her to come in to test for a yet-to-be written part.
After booking a few episodes, Rajskub became nervous that she wouldn’t really fit into the vibe of 24, but sometimes standing out is a very good thing.
“I don’t think I put this in the book but, a few episodes into 24, I didn’t think I was gonna last,” she explained. “I wasn’t nervous about my acting ability, I was nervous about fitting into the show. I remember a few episodes in, I started talking ‘like this [deep voice]’ because I knew I had this odd personality. I knew that was the perception of me. I had an awareness that that was sort of my type in comedic roles before I got on there. I felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb.”
She goes on to explain that Surnow said, “You are sticking out, but we like it. Keep doing what you’re doing.”
“They knew I could deliver funny lines within the context of the show being so serious. I think that was fun for them, having a moment through this character who was just kind of curmudgeonly,” she added.
These types of interesting and inspiring essays make the book a page turner. Rajskub talks about acting, comedy, motherhood, and relationships throughout Fame-ish, but she summed up the work by saying, “It’s more about being a woman in the world, so men, read up!”
Rather than doing a book tour to promote Fame-ish, Ratjskub is hitting the road on a stand-up tour.
“I thought I was organizing something normal, but I’m realizing that it’s not. It’s a little confusing because you can buy the book which is stories and it’s comedic, but my stand-up is straight-up stand-up,” she said with a laugh. “The shows are my stand-up act so expect to see a lot of jokes. A lot of them are personal and you will get a lot of stories from my life in joke form. Depending on the audience, it could go any number of ways.”
Along with acting, writing and performing, Ratjskub also released a new stand-up special in 2021. Mary Lynn Rajskub: Live From The Pandemic features a hilarious set of material inspired by the comedian’s life as well as the ongoing situation with COVID. It’s filmed in her garage without a traditional audience.
“There’s Zoom alone where you know people are there and then there’s really alone where it was just my friend and I, and the Amazon truck outside, the hum of the refrigerator, and my dog drinking toilet water – that was my audience,” she said laughing. “Even that version of my stand-up is different from my live stand-up. It’s been interesting pivoting to these different formats and seeing what that feels like.”
Click here to pick-up tickets to see Mary Lynn Rajskub’s shows at the Comedy Shrine in Aurora on April 15-16 and here to pick-up tickets to the Juke Box Comedy performances in Peoria on April 22-23. Fame-ish: My Life at the Edge of Stardom can be pre-ordered at Abramsbooks.com.