There’s a long, proud tradition of crazy girlfriends on films: Amanda Peet in Saving Silverman, Isla Fisher in Wedding Crashers, Cameron Diaz in Vanilla Sky, Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls. They’re the obsessive, manipulative, outrageously annoying characters that you would never want to spend more than five minutes in a room with, yet, in these films, you relish every second they’re on screen and miss them terribly when they’re not there.
Now you can add Kate McKinnon in Intramural to that canon. In the quirky comedy that debuted this week at the Tribeca Film Festival, McKinnon proves why she’s destined to become Saturday Night Live’s next breakout star.
The film is about a former college intramural flag football team whose ragtag members reunite for another hurrah when their real lives start to look depressingly bleak and rudimentary (sort of like Wet Hot American Summer meets The Bad News Bears). McKinnon plays Vicky, the team captain’s girlfriend who is having none of this intramural football folderol. She’s also a screeching wacko prone to meltdowns—both real and faked for attention—delusions, epic fits of entitlement, and who puts a ring on her boyfriend’s finger (yep, she proposes) but clearly would be happier putting a lasso around his neck instead.
Horrible on paper? Yes. But a frigging delight to watch on screen.
Anyone’s who’s watched McKinnon run away with nearly every episode of Saturday Night Live since she joined the cast in 2012—whether it’s playing Ellen DeGeneres, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, or one half of a fictional buddy-cop team name “Dyke and Fats”—will hardly be surprised that the star, showing off an alarming ease playing psychotic that would make the likes of Molly Shannon proud, is the comedic highlight of Intramural.
With the performance coming at the tail end of yet another standout year in Studio 8H, we chatted with McKinnon about why she plays crazy so good, her fondness for bad kissing, and the origin of that brilliant “Dyke and Fats” SNL sketch.
What have you been up to today?
Oh, I have a bunch of things to tell you. I woke up in Michigan this morning. I came back.
Was waking up in Michigan a planned event, I hope?
Is it ever?
[Laughs] I was doing standup at a college! That’s what I was doing.
So this movie. I loooove me a good crazy girlfriend character. And it’s your first big role in a movie. Why her?
Well, I really wanted to do a movie over the summer, because I had never done one. I had done small things, but never a big role. This offer just came in and I thought, “Well, lucky me.” I was just so jazzed that it was a big, goofy, crazy character and that the director Andrew and the writer Brad Jackson, who are just great guys, knew enough about me to know that it’s something I would want to do.
Talk to me about creating the crazy girlfriend character. How do you decide what ticks to give her to make her seem annoying and off-the-wall, but keep it tempered enough that she still resembles, you know, a human?
Well, calling her dad “father” was in the script, and a lot of it was just great details that Brad had written in the script. And then, I think it’s always a balance of a crazy person tries to behave normally. Or maybe in her mind, she’s doing well. I think that’s what it is. I think she thinks she’s fine. There’s an optimism there that belies all of the craziness. And that’s what I like to play up, the cute parts of that crazy person.
And there has to be something there that’s tolerable enough for someone to date her, like Jake Lacy’s character does in the movie, or be able to spend more than five minutes in a room with.
Right. She’s got a lot of charisma, and a lot of zest for life. Those are great things. They’re not something you’d want to maybe be married to, but there’s something there that’s great about that person.
When you’re creating a character like this, are you basing any of it off of traits of people you know in your life?
No, I’ve never met anyone like that. But I’ve seen them on reality TV, so I know they exist! I don’t know, to me that kind of character is just a beautiful, bizarre little creation like a little cactus. It’s just so interesting to look at. It’s nice, like other things, but it’s…interesting. And I always gravitate towards things that are not beautiful, but broken and weird and fascinating.
Last time we talked, you mentioned that, on SNL, you love doing sketches where you get to give people big, gross kisses. You and Jake Lacy have a pretty epic sloppy kiss in this movie.
I don’t know why it’s so fun for me, but I just love bad kissing. I don’t know if Jake thought it was as fun…It’s just a funny way of playing with someone. Like, we’re just going to rub our mouths together. You really have to be involved in the moment then.
There’s a wild range of emotions in the movie, too, including some crying scenes. How are you with those?
Well, this is over-the-top fake crying, so I was not actually crying, I have to admit. But I cry plenty in real life.
Did you say you “cry funny in real life”?
I cry plenty in real life. I also cry funny, I’m told. I’m told I look like a monster when I cry. Like a disgusting face. A wrinkled old monster.
So when you’re so good at pulling off playing a character so crazy, like you are in this movie, does it spark any self-searching as to why you’re so good at it?
Oh, Kevin. I don’t know. It’s something I’ve thought about and wrestled with. Because I don’t get angry. I do not get angry in real life, and I never yell. I’ve never carried on. I had a tantrum once when I was 5 because my mom wouldn’t let me have the last scallion pancake. And that’s the only time I ever yelled. Never again. It’s just not in my nature, so I don’t know why I gravitate towards these characters.
Well, it sounds like it’s because they’re so clearly a release for you.
Maybe. I’m just going to snap one day.
Yeah. And it’s going to be huge, after all these years of keeping it in.
Well, now that you’re a movie star, too, it’s about time for the inevitable question: SNL has a long, if rocky, history, of turning sketches into movies. If I had my way “Dyke and Fats” would be next.
Oh, thank you. Maybe one day! I would die. I would kill.
It’s so good. How did that sketch come about?
Well, it was born of Aidy and I, one night, we were so tired and I looked her and was like, “Ohhh, Dyke’s gotta go to bed.” And she was like, “Fats’s got to go to bed, too.” It’s really just a product of our friendship. And our love of those kinds of ladies, which are pretty close to who we are on the inside.
So we’ve all seen you meet Ellen in real life, but have you had any other interactions with people you’ve played on SNL in the real world?
I ran into Teresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium. That was so wild. She was so sweet and so exactly what she’s like on TV, which I was shocked by. I know once I almost ran into Tabatha Coffey from Tabatha’s Salon Takeover. I was meeting someone at a restaurant who also happened to be Australian. And we were talking, and she was like, “Oh, you know Tabatha was just here, but she left!” And I was 10 minutes late to the meeting, so if I had just been there on time I would have met her. So I’m still pissed off at myself.
And no run-ins yet with Angela Merkel?
Ha! No. I don’t think she’s been stateside in a while. I don’t know where she goes. But I love her. That has been such an unexpected thing that I have been delighted to get to do.
Oh we quote it allll the time. It’s brilliant.
It’s a German Chancellor. Why is she a hit on a comedy show? Who knows. But I love it.