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SNL's Vanessa Bayer on Playing Miley Cyrus

by Christine Champagne, posted Mar 3rd 2011 1:00PM
Vanessa BayerIt will be an epic meeting of the Mileys when Miley Cyrus hosts 'Saturday Night Live' on March 5 and comes face-to-face with freshman cast member Vanessa Bayer, who quickly made her mark on the show this season with a remarkably funny impression of the former Disney darling.

The Cleveland native and University of Pennsylvania graduate interned at 'Sesame Street' and 'Late Night With Conan O'Brien' and performed with a musical sketch comedy troupe called Bloomers while she was a student. After graduation, Bayer worked Chicago's improv scene as a part of iO Chicago, The Annoyance and Second City before being cast as a featured player on 'Saturday Night Live' last year.

TV Squad recently caught up with Bayer and, like Miley would say, she's pretty cool!

Christine Champagne: I love your Miley Cyrus impression. Actually, a lot of people do. It must feel great to feel like you've done something so memorable during your first season on the show.
Vanessa Bayer: Thank you. I've been so excited to do all of the different things that they've allowed me to do.

There's something I've always wanted to ask you: How did you get on 'Saturday Night Live,' and what were you like in high school, and did you know you wanted to be on 'Saturday Night Live' when you were in high school, and what was it like when you were an intern on 'Sesame Street,' and is Oscar really that grouchy, and have you ever met Steve Carell?

Please answer in 50 words or less because this is going to run on the Internet, and we have limited space.
That was amazing!

One of my favorite parts of 'The Miley Cyrus Show' is when you ask your guests those run-on questions. Where did that idea come from?
That's a really good question. I'm not sure how we came up with that, but I will tell you the questions change from when we first write the sketch to when we rehearse it to when we do it in dress. That run is one of those things that is always changing up until the show. We'll take out one of the questions that didn't get a laugh and put a new one in. It isn't final until the show.

It always makes me laugh. I'll ask you one question at a time now: Did you have to audition to get on the show?
I did. I had been on this improv team at this really great improv theater. It's called iO now. It used to be called Improv Olympic. They have showcases for Lorne Michaels and other writers and people who work at SNL usually about once a year, although I don't know if it always happens. But this past summer, I was put in that showcase, and I had to do about five minutes of original material--characters and impressions. You can basically do whatever you want for five minutes.

They saw me perform, and they called me about a week later and said they wanted to fly me to New York to audition on the stage, so I auditioned. Where the host comes out is where you audition, it's called home base ... I talk about it like it was so normal, but it's still so surreal that they flew me out and everything. And so I auditioned in New York, and then they told me about a week after I was hired. It all happened in the span of a month.

What characters did you do when you auditioned in New York?
I did Miley. That was the first thing I did both in Chicago and New York, and I did a scene where I play a girl who overacts. It was based on my middle-school theater program.

So, middle school is where you got your serious theatrical training.
Right! We all thought we were such good actresses.

Have you met Miley Cyrus yet?
No. I have not met her yet. [Ed. note: This interview was conducted the week before Miley Cyrus arrived at 'Saturday Night Live' to prep for her hosting gig.]

Have you heard what she thinks of your impression of her?
I've heard that she likes it, and she likes 'The Miley Cyrus Show.' I'm very excited to meet her. I think it's going to be so much fun having her as a host.

When you meet fans, do you they ask you to do Miley?
I don't get recognized very often, but when people do recognize me the first they they say to me is, 'I love Miley.' They've rarely asked me to do it, though. Maybe once or twice.

I also love another character you do: Jacob, the awkward teen.
I didn't write that scene, but I had done stand up before as that character, so I was really lucky they wrote me in as bar mitzvah boy. I had told one of the writers that I had that character. When I was in seventh grade, we had bar and bat mitzvahs every weekend, so I had a lot of experience with that kind of boy. I was bat mitzvahed, and there were so many awkward boys running around.

It sounds like you mine your childhood for characters.
I guess I do sort of subconsciously. There are just so many funny kids and teenagers. They're just not aware of how funny they are.

How much writing do you get to do on the show?
I stay up all night Tuesday and write alongside all the other writers and cast members, so I do a good amount of writing every week. It's just the stuff I write doesn't always make it into the show.

I would never have the fortitude to stay up all night writing.
I definitely had to get used to it. When I was in Chicago, I worked a lot at night doing shows, but it wasn't nearly as late. You sort of adjust to it. [Even on hiatus], I don't think I've gone to bed before 2AM. I also have cable now, and I didn't have cable now while I was in Chicago, so that's contributing to it.

What are you watching?
Oh my gosh. What am I not watching? I've been watching a lot of A&E's 'Intervention.' I know that's sort of depressing, but I love watching it.

Have you seen 'Hoarders?'
Yes, I have watched that. It's so crazy. That's a good one to watch. There's a new one called 'Heavy.' Have you seen that?

Yes, I love it!
I have Showtime free for a year, so I've been watching 'Dexter' and 'Weeds.'

Can you use your pull to get Michael C. Hall as a 'Saturday Night Live' host? I've been lobbying for him to host for years, but I don't have any pull.
I don't know if I have any pull, but I will tell you that I've brought that up before.

I would have to imagine that standing on the stage and waving goodbye to the audience after your debut on 'Saturday Night Live' must have been an incredible moment for you.
Yeah, I was so emotional. I started tearing up. It was so surreal. I actually stayed on stage because I wanted to hug Amy Poehler. She was the host that week, and I wanted to thank her because she was such a wonderful person to work with. So I gave her a hug, and I can't remember exactly what I said, but I said something like, 'It was amazing to do my first show with you,' and she held my hand and walked offstage with me. I don't think I'll ever forget that. She was so kind and generous.

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Samuel McConnell

So if this interview was conducted a week before she met Miley Cyrus, how in the world is this article "Vanessa Bayer on Meeting the Real Miley Cyrus"? I mean, it was a great interview, but that headline is just flat-out wrong.

March 03 2011 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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