Who doesn’t love Maya Rudolph? The comedian and actor lit up the screen with her hilarious impressions during her long tenure on America’s biggest comedy show, Saturday Night Live. Following that, she had everyone laughing in films like Grownups and Bridesmaids, as well as shows like Up All Night and The Good Place. No matter what she’s doing, Rudolph always manages to extract comedy gold out of thin air.
But believe it or not, there’s more to Rudolph than her ability to crack people up. For one, the Groundlings alum is a mother of four children, which is a full-time job in and of itself as any parent will tell you. She’s also quite the singer, though you may have picked up on that from her SNL skits. And of course, Rudolph is quite the feminist, unafraid to demand an equal seat at the table in the entertainment industry for women.
So what else is there to know about the versatile and talented Maya Rudolph? Scroll down to discover her untold truth.
Maya Rudolph discovered the power of laughter as a little girl
If there’s one thing that’s not particularly surprising about Maya Rudolph, it’s that comedy came very naturally to her. From an early age she discovered just how good it felt to make people laugh, which made her want to do it all the time. "There’s this moment I remember from when I was seven or eight," she told Interview magazine. "I was with a friend and she hurt herself and started to cry, and I just started talking in a funny voice. I thought, This is much better than feeling bad; I want to make her feel good." And it worked. Her friend stopped crying and started laughing.
That was a valuable first lesson for Rudolph, as she was able to understand what she could do with her talent. "There’s the power that comedy gives you, and enjoyment," she continued. "It’s like, ‘Yes, you’re deferring pain, but isn’t it more fun to laugh while you’re doing it?’" That would be a hard yes, Maya!
Wait, who’s Maya Rudolph’s mother?
In case you were wondering where Maya Rudolph got her good looks, you can thank her parents. The star’s father is the producer and songwriter Richard Rudolph and her mother is none other than the late singer Minnie Riperton. "When I was a little girl, I would stand on the side of the stage and watch my mom singing out there in beautiful gowns," she recalled to Interview magazine. "She was a diva in the most exquisite sense." Now you know who the "Maya" is that Riperton croons to at the end of "Lovin’ You."
Although those days were quite a long time ago, Rudolph hasn’t forgotten them — quite the opposite, in fact. "Those are very vivid memories for me," she added. "I always had the idea of wanting to be on a stage, in these beautiful gowns, with a microphone in my hand, and that comes from my mom." Well, who wouldn’t want to be a singer when your mother is that incredibly gifted?
It took a long time for Maya Rudolph to talk about her mother’s passing
The loss of her mother is one of the saddest parts of Maya Rudolph’s story. Just two weeks before she turned seven years old, her mother tragically passed away from cancer, leaving her father to raise her and her brother alone. Of course, Rudolph was devastated. She spent a long time grieving such a profound and heartbreaking loss. "For many, many years, I couldn’t even touch this conversation," she confessed in an interview with The New York Times.
Rudolph’s wounds got a little raw once again in her 20s, when a chance meeting with musician Questlove led to the discovery that he had television footage of her mother she’d never seen. "It’s been a slow burn for me, to get to a place where I can really enjoy those things," she revealed in an interview with The Guardian. "When I first tried to watch I couldn’t — too hard, I was too emotional, it was so upsetting." Eventually, however, Rudolph was able to watch the footage and admitted she’d become "kind of … tickled" by them.
This is who Maya Rudolph idolized when she was a child
When it comes to Maya Rudolph’s idols and inspirations, there’s one woman in particular who captured her imagination at a young age and truly inspired her: the trailblazing Saturday Night Live all-star Gilda Radner. "I just fell in love with her," she gushed in an interview with HuffPost. "She had some sort of special quality. Something in her spirit was really sweet and lovable and endearing and I found it incredibly funny." That’s not surprising, as plenty of Rudolph’s fellow comedians feel the same way about Radner, who held her own in rooms full of male comedy greats.
Indeed Rudolph just found herself drawn to the legendary comedian, even though she didn’t really know anything concrete about her at the time. "She has incredible warmth and it looked like the people who were in scenes with her genuinely liked her. I just responded to that," she continued. "I found her take on stuff really specific, particular, sweet and funny."
Landing Saturday Night Live was a childhood dream for Maya Rudolph
When Maya Rudolph was selected to be one of Saturday Night Live‘s stars in the 1999-2000 season, she was over the moon with joy. "It was my childhood dream," she shared with NPR. "To have your childhood dream realized is a really big deal." Given how hard it is to land a role on that show, that’s something Rudolph can forever be proud of.
But, being a part of the SNL team isn’t easy, as Rudolph tells it. The hours are long, for one, and the demands of the show swallow your entire life. "It can be tough sometimes, too, when you don’t get your pieces on or things get cut at the last minute or you flub a line," she confessed. "I still remember the lines I’ve flubbed."
Fortunately, Rudolph was able to rely on her fellow cast members for connection and support. "You help look out for each other and talk to each other about what’s going on in your life elsewhere," she added.
Maya Rudolph burned the candle at both ends on Saturday Night Live
Being a star on Saturday Night Live was quite literally all-consuming. "It was literally my everything, my baby and my husband all at once," Maya Rudolph told The New York Times. "I cared about it more than my laundry or my food, which — neither were being well taken care of. I gave all my energy to that show." While it did require her to make a ton of sacrifices, Rudolph liked the creative intensity on set.
However, once Rudolph started a family with her longtime partner Paul Thomas Anderson, juggling the show with family life proved to be unsustainable. So in 2007, when her first child was two years old, Rudolph left the show. "It was too hard," she shared. "And nobody else understands or cares, when they don’t have kids."
Rudolph has since returned to SNL several times as a guest — notably as 2020 presidential hopeful Kamala Harris — so she’ll always be a part of the 30 Rock family.
Before she was in comedy, Maya Rudolph worked in the music industry
Before Maya Rudolph was working in comedy, she had an active career in another field: music, just like both of her famous parents. For a while she toured with her band The Rentals, opening up for Alanis Morissette, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Garbage.
"Music is such a natural part of me, it was something that I always did," she explained to Interview magazine. "So a gig came up, and then it became a job, and the next thing I knew I was just out of college and I thought, All right, I’ll do music, because it’s the one thing I can do easily without ever worrying about it."
But all the while, Rudolph couldn’t shake the feeling that she belonged somewhere else, despite her success in music. "The truth is that I had always felt most comfortable doing comedy," she explained to the publication. So she made the decision to pursue her dream, and put life on the road behind her.
Maya Rudolph was in a Prince cover band
Maya Rudolph may have put her music career on hold to pursue comedy, but that doesn’t mean she stopped making it altogether — far from it. In fact, Rudolph was in a female-fronted Prince cover band fittingly called Princess, which she chatted about on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. "Me and my friend Gretchen, we played here," she shared. "We’re playing Bonnaroo. I think that’s a big deal, right?" Indeed it is, as nearly 50,000 people attend the festival every year, according to the Tennessean.
Rudolph has been a Prince fan since she was a child and can even pinpoint exactly where she was when she first heard him. "I remember dancing in socks, on the rug and on the bed. It was just the jammiest, funkiest, most exciting, interesting. … I’d just never really heard that before," she recalled in an interview with NPR. "I fell in love with Prince when I saw Purple Rain, the movie. That’s really what cracked it wide open."
Maya Rudolph was supposed to be in the movie Anchorman
In 2004, one of the most beloved Will Ferrell films, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, debuted in theaters to great box office success. But what you might not know about the movie is that Maya Rudolph had a part in it. Well, at least at first. "I had the coolest character," she shared in an interview with The Guardian. "I was a bank robber, with an afro, and I had a good joke about a diaper."
However, Rudolph didn’t receive an invitation to return to the set when it came time for reshoots. As it turns out, her character was no longer included in the film. "All my scenes were cut. I was devastated," she lamented.
Fortunately, her partner was able to give her some perspective that helped her feel better; he asked her if she had fun making it — she did. He said that’s all you can count on in the industry, which helped give Rudolph some peace of mind.
Maya Rudolph’s squad is the stuff of dreams
In 2019, Maya Rudolph starred in Wine Country, a Netflix film directed by Amy Poehler. Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, and comedy great Melissa McCarthy all star in the film — and all are members of Rudolph’s squad.
"I’m very lucky that over the years I have had these women in my life — when we first started, we were working at SNL in our 20s and 30s, and in a lot of ways we were kids," Rudolph mused in an interview in The Oprah Magazine. She added that she had just moved to New York City when 9/11 happened, so having a support system helped her get through it.
Rudolph’s squad didn’t dissolve when she left Saturday Night Live either. No, they’ve continued to be there for one another as the years pass by. "Through late nights writing together, and intense rehearsal schedules, we built a community — I wrote with these women more than anyone at SNL," she continued, "and to this day that’s what we do for each other."
Maya Rudolph once ambushed George Clooney
Given that Maya Rudolph is partnered to a film director — Paul Thomas Anderson helmed Magnolia, Boogie Nights, and There Will Be Blood, to name a few — you’d expect that she’d accompany him on the red carpet to the Academy Awards. But what you might not expect is that, when doing just that in 2008, she was overcome with self-consciousness upon entering a room full of celebs.
In a confused moment, she approached George Clooney, thinking that she’d met him before. "As I was walking over to him, I thought, ‘I know this guy. We’ve worked together,’" she recalled to The Guardian.
Despite the fact that Clooney was cool about the whole thing, Rudolph was mistaken. "This was all happening so quickly," she confessed. "It was only as my arms were closing around him that I thought, ‘No. No, wait. I had a part on Chicago Hope, not ER. Different hospital show. I don’t know this person at all.’" Oops!
Maya Rudolph isn’t actually married
Maya Rudolph and Paul Thomas Anderson have been together since 2001, which is pretty impressive by any metric — let alone by Hollywood standards. Although the couple has welcomed four children together, these stars never got married.
But, just because Rudolph and Anderson are not legally wed, that doesn’t stop Rudolph from referring to Anderson as her husband. Rudolph told The New York Times that calling her longtime partner her "boyfriend" felt "ooky" after they started a family. Instead, she prefers to label him as her husband, since "people know what that means."
She continued, saying, "It means he’s the father of my child, and I live with him, and we are a couple, and we are not going anywhere." Whether or not Rudolph and Anderson will ever officially tie the knot is uncertain, but it could very well happen someday.
Childbirth took a real toll on Maya Rudolph’s body
Although Maya Rudolph never pictured herself having four children, she told Us Weekly that she feels "really lucky that everyone is healthy and amazing." However, Rudolph didn’t exactly have an easy time giving birth to her children. In fact, she suffered from Diastasis Recti, which is when the abdominal muscles separate after pregnancy and birth — resulting in pain and a bulging stomach.
"My body went through a lot," she revealed in a chat with The Oprah Magazine. "Working publicly and having body issues is f****** tough. And as an aging woman, it’s especially f****** hard, and it can do a number on your head." That couldn’t have been easy to deal with.
Rudolph later went under the knife to, as she said, "put the muscles back together." After her surgery, she took up Pilates to strengthen and heal her core. "I’ve now learned that if I don’t move my body, I don’t feel that great mentally," she continued. "It’s just really, really tough to make that time, and I’m bad at making time for myself. I tend to talk myself out of it. I fight with myself."
Watching this Coachella performance changed Maya Rudolph’s life
While Maya Rudolph may not be big on going to festivals and concerts — parenthood keeps her quite busy when she isn’t working — there was one performance that Rudolph couldn’t miss: Beyoncé‘s headlining performance at Coachella in 2018. And as Rudolph tells it, the experience was absolutely unforgettable. "It changed my life!" she gushed on an episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. "We all witnessed something that had never been done, that was made with love, that was made with beauty, that was made with pride." It really was an incredible show, so if you haven’t watched it yet, you’re missing out!
Rudolph was absolutely thrilled to see black culture honored in such a big and beautiful way for all of the world to see. "It was a nod to historical black colleges and universities," she continued. "And no one knew it, it was a surprise — all of a sudden this pyramid came down and there was all this beautiful blackness."