“I have no time for being embarrassed,” Aidy Bryant says.
For the performer responsible for Officer Chubbina Fazarelli in “Dyke and Fats,” an International Nasty Girl on a penis-seeking mission in “Dongs All Over the World,” the Everywoman with the randy streak in “Booty Rap,” and Tonkerbell—no descriptor needed—it’s taken a while to get here. And we’re all a little better off, or at least laughing a little harder, because she did.
“I just don’t give a fuck anymore,” she says, giggling a bit but always earnest. “I just want to be myself and I really, like, can’t say I’m sorry for it. I just can’t.”
It’s been almost four years since Bryant, now 28, was hired to SNL at age 25, one of the youngest cast members in the show’s history.
Since then she’s stealthily and unassumingly become one of the show’s most valuable cast members, earning an Emmy nomination for co-writing the music video sketch “(Do It On My) Twin Bed,” celebrating the show’s historic 40th anniversary, and parlaying its spotlight into guest arcs on Broad City, Girls, and Louis C.K.’s new show Horace and Pete.
Last week, she celebrated the release of her most personal non-SNL project yet: the short film Darby Forever, which she wrote, starred in, and produced for Vimeo. “It was really, truly emotional for me,” she says.
Bryant is finishing a taco lunch in a corner office at Vimeo that is named—I kid you not—“Tortellini Tina Fey” when we meet. (Disclosure: Vimeo and The Daily Beast are both owned by the same company, IAC, although The Daily Beast depressingly does not name its offices after pastas or SNL icons.)
It’s the day before the official premiere of Darby Forever, in which Bryant plays an employee at a fabric store with a quiet demeanor and loud daydreams.
Despite being surrounded by bolts of rainbow-colored fabrics, sparkly festoons, and scores of confetti and ribbons, there’s a drabness to Darby’s life, one of eternal stretches of fabric-store boredom punctuated by explosive bursts of imagination in which her quirkiness and unusualness is celebrated and fawned over instead of ignored.
The first project to come out of Vimeo’s Share the Screen initiative, designed to support female filmmakers by investing in a minimum of five projects by female voices in 2016, Darby was loosely inspired by a woman who worked at an independent fabric store in Chicago where Bryant used to buy materials for her improv shows at the famed Second City.
“She wasn’t anything especially kooky or crazy, but when I mentioned Second City she was always like, ‘Oh, really? OK. Wowww,’” Bryant says, adopting an impressed, showbiz-y character voice. “Like, ‘Better carefully do this fabric because it’s important fabric.’”
Once she knew she would be shooting Darby Forever, Bryant wanted to go back and visit the fabric store. While in Chicago for a quick Christmas trip, she went to check it out, only to discover that it had been demolished and is now a Bally Total Fitness, she says in a fit of laughter. “It’s like this insane glass building.”
As we learned during a previous interview with Bryant for The Daily Beast a few years ago, milestones in her career can be a little…emotional for her. “I am a maniac, yes,” she says.
Bryant was, for example, wandering a Chicago antique mall with her mom when she found out she got the SNL audition. When she struggled to find her mom amongst the dusty baubles to tell her the news, she regressed to the mental state of a lost toddler in a Macy’s, wandering and screaming, “Mom?!...Mom?!”
Weeks later, the conversation in which Lorne Michaels offered her the job was so bizarre she had no idea if she was actually hired when it was done.
Then there’s the first time she got to shout the iconic, “Live from New York…” line at the top of an episode, after a presidential debate sketch in which she played moderator Candy Crowley. When the sketch wrapped, Tom Hanks, who hosted that week, and Bill Hader flanked her and ran with her down the hallway, which was lined with people clapping.
She had to quickly change for the next sketch, but Fred Armisen nabbed the cue card with the line on it for her to keep, handing it to her with a hug while she stood with no pants.
The Darby Forever shoot was just as memorable, not least because the cast and crew served as veritable guests in an episode of “This Is Your Life, Aidy Bryant.”
The graphics were done by a middle school friend, and the embroidery by a college buddy who now teaches textile design in Brooklyn. She met cast members Retta and Natasha Lyonne through SNL, the art director is an old roommate, and the director of the actual short (Oz Rodriguez) is another friend from SNL.
She even borrowed her dad’s SUV and drove it from her hometown in Arizona to the shoot with all the supplies.
“It felt like a full circle Oprah moment for me,” she says. One of the final scenes of Darby Forever has Bryant standing in the store while confetti rains down on her. “We had all these people positioned to shoot off the little confetti cannons and each one of them was from a different portion of my life. I was, like, looking around and having this beautiful moment while confetti rained down on me.”
She starts laughing again. (Aidy Bryant, blessedly, laughs a lot.) “It was like my bat mitzvah.”
It’s a standout moment for Bryant, too, who shows off a broader range of acting chops than what we’ve already seen and fallen in love with on SNL. Darby is quieter, more observational, than the “zing, zang, zong!” characters Bryant says she plays on Saturday nights.
People really respond to her SNL roles, characters who, on the surface, seem boring, understated, or buttoned-up, but then shock you with a big, loud, ribald streak that can’t help but escape the cardigans. Given her penchant for playing these roles, is it a fair assessment of who Bryant really is?
“I think maybe it’s a me of the past,” she says. “I’m really comfortable with myself now. I’m pretty confident, I guess I would say. It sounds very Demi Lovato to me. I definitely think in middle school I wanted to be the way I am now or more comfortable with myself, but there’s not an ease to it. You’re trying to be confident or trying to be comfortable.”
She attended an all-girls Catholic school in Arizona, where she would get in trouble for having a “flippant” attitude when performing her duties reading the morning announcements.
“I don’t take well to rules,” she says. “I just instantly become like ‘FUCK THAT!’ It’s a bad part of me. So I think that was part of that. But I think also I’m such a goody two shoes, but just being myself made them like, ‘You’re crazy! You’re a bad kid!’ Or they took any lightheartedness or joking qualities as rudely flippant. And it haunts me to this day, where I’m like ‘I’m not flip! I care about everything.’”
Her Demi Lovato confidence has been good for her, though. It made her comfortable enough to find what she says is her authentic voice and, more importantly, use it on SNL and outside projects like Darby Forever.
When Bryant joined SNL, much was made about the institution being lost in the throes of transition, reeling from the departure of longtime veterans and flooded with new cast members struggling to make their marks. In the years since, the show has undeniably righted itself and honed its point of view and work process. Like Bryant, it too found its voice.
“It never felt bad, but it definitely felt like we all were trying to figure out what role we play in the cast and how we work together and how we make the best show possible,” Bryant says. “Now it feels a little easier.”
The night before our chat, Bryant was a guest on the Bravo talk show Watch What Happens Live, where she was asked to dish about what she observed of Kanye West backstage at that week’s episode, in which he was the musical guest.
“It is weird to have people always hunting for dirt,” she says. “It really is not much of my week-to-week experience, where I’m like, ‘Oh, man, I saw this person take a dump on the stairs.’ People are pretty well behaved. Nobody’s doing coke anymore. It’s not the ’70s.”
She cackles. “We’re a boring bunch of little sweethearts.”
It’s on the subject of little sweethearts that the conversation turns to Conner O’Malley, Bryant’s longtime boyfriend and a writer for Late Night With Seth Meyers. When they met, Bryant worked at a barbershop and he was a garbageman. “A literal garbageman who worked for 1-800-GOT-JUNK and pulled garbage out of hoarders’ homes,” she says. “It’s very special, eight years later now, to be doing this and still together.”
O’Malley has a horrifying portrait of Bryant hanging over his desk in his office at Late Night With Seth Meyers, made by an Instagram user named randythevampire who took a break from posting photos of feet with lotion on them to sketch Bryant with roughly 150 teeth. Somehow, that hasn’t scared Bryant off Instagram, and we can endorse her as an excellent follow from your own account.
You’d be gifted with, for example, posts like the one on Valentine’s Day, of her dog gazing at the camera in extreme distress.
“Oh my god!” she screams, both exasperated and beside herself laughing at the situation. “I was like, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day to us, our dog is having a butthole meltdown.’”
The poor pup was in so much pain that he began scooting all over the apartment, finally to the bathtub, “I think because the cold porcelain felt good on his butthole.”
At the time, Bryant had been working on shooting Horace and Pete and SNL nearly every day for five weeks. Valentine’s Day was her first Sunday off, and she pleaded to O’Malley: “Conner, I need you to take him to the vet. To do the butthole stuff. I am so tired. Please, baby.” And he did it.
After the kind of 30-second cackle that leaves a person buoyant with joy on a Tuesday that saw New York City drenched with an almost Biblical rainstorm, I suggest that, on the fitting topic of expressed anal glands, we wrap the interview up.
“Yes, that is perfect,” Bryant says. “And you should know that I have had my pants unbuttoned this whole time because I ate too many tacos. I’ll button them now.”