Marty and Bobbi-Mohan Culp — as played by Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer since 1996 —returned to the Saturday Night Live stage for the show's 40th anniversary special in February. The extremely unhip middle school music teachers did their gosh darn best to show they've still got their fingers on the pulse of today's music, with their buttoned-down medley of "Uptown Funk," "Turn Down For What" and "All About That Bass." Gasteyer — in Coke-bottle glasses, feathered hair and wardrobe from 1982 — sang in her over-the-top, operatic lilt.
"The crux of me is this weird crossover space between comedy and music," she tells Gambit. "I'm best known for comedy, but I was trained originally as a singer. I'm sort of a musical flunky, basically."
The one-time voice major turned member of The Groundlings in Los Angeles and Saturday Night Live has returned to theater, including roles in The Threepenny Opera, The Royal Family and Wicked on Broadway. Gasteyer's first-ever visit to New Orleans includes a performance with longtime friend and performer Seth Rudetsky accompanying her on piano. The duo performs Saturday, March 28 at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts as part of the Broadway @ NOCCA series.
"It ends up being this bizarre living room chat where I end up telling more personal stories than I mean to," Gasteyer says. "He always ends up getting me to sing something I would never sing in public. He's obsessed with high belting, so that's where he generally likes to start the evening."
Last year, Gasteyer released her first album, I'm Hip, a mix of jazz cabaret, lively big band and standards with plenty of room for humor — Gasteyer counts the ways in which she's with the times on the martini-slinging title track, crooning, "If I prattle too fast on my edgy podcast then it's my bad."
"That's my wheelhouse of fun stuff to do," she says. "The era from which a lot of the music in the songs are derived, that '50s and '60s entertainers era where girls would sing in front of a band and were very much expected to be funny. ... I sang in the room, there were very few overdubs. We wanted to do a record that harkened back to that era. I like fun and a good time. I like the feeling of the boys in the band and the feeling of people coming to my party. That's very much what we were going for."
Music, however, wasn't a part of her audition on SNL, where she was known for her singing as the Beyonce analog in Gemini's Twin, a humbly showboating Celine Dion and overly politically correct Lilith Fair performer Cinder Calhoun. She also found the absurd in milquetoast characters completely lacking self-awareness, like her deadpan Martha Stewart and host of NPR's Delicious Dish.
"I find people who are not very self-aware incredibly funny," she says. "Obviously I have a lot of characters and impressions that were based off music, but that didn't really emerge until late. I remember it was a trick in my toolkit but it wasn't the thing. I didn't audition with anything musical, and it wasn't until I think Celine Dion or Cinder Calhoun that people were like, 'Whoa, she can actually sing.'"