Maya Rudolph is WSJ. Magazine’s Comedy Innovator of the Year!

Posted on October 28, 2022

Emmy-winning actor, writer, and producer Maya Rudolph covers WSJ. Magazine’s highly anticipated November Innovator’s Issue, out on newsstands Saturday, November 12th., one of eight covers representing each of this year’s groundbreaking award recipients.




On her early career discomfort at not being funny during interviews, talks shows and red carpets: “It would always feel like someone was stealing my soul. That’s where, over the years, I created a persona to protect myself.”

On her first appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman in 2009: “I did not have a good time,” she reflects. “He said my name wrong, and I just sat there, like, I grew up my whole life in love with you. And now my heart is broken. And I’m sitting here embarrassed and humiliated. I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know how to come up with something funny to say. My public persona muscle wasn’t strong yet.” Over time, she adjusted. “I’ve definitely gotten much better. When I’m uncomfortable, I try to be funny.”

On turning 50: “I’m like, Why didn’t I ever stretch before doing things like that? I could have really hurt myself!” she exclaims. “Little things add up, and when you turn 50, you start to think, Holy shit! I’ve been here for 50 years. Like, OK, I’m really examining my life right now. What needs to happen?”

On prioritizing family time: “Believe me, I am not a Pollyanna who’s like, I smile all day, every day. I get stressed out, I get pissed off, but I learned I could make a choice for myself, and it’s liberating,” she says of valuing downtime. “Maybe people who’ve worked as long as I have make other choices and have nicer cars. I don’t know, but it’s so important for me to [try to] have that balance.”

On not considering herself a celebrity: “I know I’m a working actor and people know who I am, but I don’t feel like a celebrity, because that word means something else today to me,” says Rudolph. “There are a lot of different types of celebrities these days and a lot of self-made celebrities where people are famous for being famous, and that isn’t what I do.”

On her aversion to irredeemable characters: “There’s nothing worse than watching a show and hating somebody. I mean, it exists,” she says. “You know, people love Succession. Like, ‘Oh, my God, they’re such assholes!’ It’s such an incredible show, but I think there is something to human nature in that we want to empathize. And that’s why we watch other human beings in stories. We want to connect somehow to ourselves.”


This article is featured in WSJ. Magazine’s November Issue out on newsstands Saturday, November 12th.


[Photo Credit: Gioncarlo Valentine/WSJ. Magazine]

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