Mary Lynn Rajskub isn’t afraid of any part. Whether popping up on Mr. Show, wearing a bubble wrap suit in Dude, Where’s My Car?, rushing around as Jack Bauer’s right-hand woman in 24, or drooling on herself as a guest star on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, the Michigan-born comedian has made a career of her memorably offbeat antics. Prior to her four performances at The Bentzen Ball, Rajskub spoke to The A.V. Club about the difference between comedy and drama acting, Gail The Snail, and why she hated her newborn baby.
The A.V. Club: Do you still find time to do stand-up with your busy shooting schedule?
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Yeah. I always love performing live and that’s what I was doing that started getting me acting parts, so I still find time do it.
AVC: Is that how you got your part on 24?
MLR: Paul Thomas Anderson saw me performing live and gave me a part in [Punch-Drunk Love]. A producer of that saw me and gave me the part on 24.
AVC: You have a primarily deadpan sense of humor. Does that translate well onto the show? Do you get to work with any of your lines?
MLR: 24 is a pretty serious show—there isn’t a lot of improv that is happening. Having said that, I do play around with the delivery. A lot of the humor comes from playing a character who is very furious and really up in her own brain and in a serious situation. That is humorous to me. I’m not playing it for humor, but it comes out funny sometimes, if that makes any sense.
AVC: Is anyone ever surprised that you can do both comedy and drama well?
MLR: I recently starting doing shows at the Laugh Factory and one of the guys there said I was funny but I wasn’t a draw. He was going online and asking people on their database [about me]. No one knew who I was. Everyone thinks of me as dramatic actor now. When I first got the part on 24, the executives at Fox were like, “We didn’t know you could do drama!”
AVC: Will you be continuing with the show after this season?
MLR: I’m under contract with them but I don’t know if the show is going to keep going. We’ll find out.
AVC: Do you like doing dramatic acting or comedy better?
MLR: They’re just different, but the approach is the same. I’m working on a one-woman show and that’s been really challenging in a good way. When I started 24 that was really challenging. It’s just switching back and forth.
AVC: You were great on a recent episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia as the clingy disheveled Gail The Snail. How did you make that character so annoying?
MLR: To be honest, the first day of shooting we were figuring it out and I was way too sympathetic. And frankly, I was too good looking. [Laughs.] We were like, “We gotta make her very unlikable.” [Deadpans.] I’m so naturally likeable though. We just kept turning it up. I wasn’t afraid, I think, because of 24. I just had to play with how far I could take it and still be believable. We just kept amping her up. I kept going back to the hair and makeup trailer. I started standing differently. I was getting all this spit in my mouth they were like, “Keep it coming!” It wasn’t like I showed up as her. Over about an hour we kept amping it up and playing around. I was with Danny DeVito right away, and he’s really fun to work with.
AVC: Is Gail going to be a recurring character?
MLR: I would love to come back if they’ll have me. I’m their cousin and I don’t go away very easily. She’s an important part of my psyche and I want her to come back. I did a set at the Laugh Factory and I thought I should do a set as Gail The Snail. She would just get up there and scream, “I’m having sex!”
AVC: Like when she screams “I’m sexually active, mom!” in the episode.
MLR: [Loudly.] “I’m sexually active ahhhhhh!” I could wear sweatpants and a dirty T-shirt. I wouldn’t have to try so much. Well, she’s trying…but I dunno. She’s got problems.
AVC: The highlight of that episode has to be when Gail lets a glob of saliva dribble out of her mouth.
MLR: I was so happy to be able to do comedy like that. Those guys are so funny. It was a great atmosphere. The characters were yelling, “Intervention!” like it means, “excuse me.” It was so funny.
AVC: What will you be performing at The Bentzen Ball?
MLR: I’m doing stand-up comedy. I’m working on a one-woman show about how I don’t like my baby. There is a period of time where a baby is born where the next 3 months is harrowing. A lot of people say it’s the most wonderful time, but for me it was harrowing.
AVC: What’s the one-woman show called?
MLR: I’m going to unleash the title on you. I’m on my way to rehearsal now. We’re narrowing it down, but I think it’s going be called Mary Lynn Spreads Her Legs. What do you think?
AVC: That’s a great title.
MLR: Yeah, I mean, the show is about what happens when you spread your legs.
AVC: Is it really about how you hate your baby?
MLR: Yeah, in a general sense. There’s more to it. But yeah, that’s where the kernel started. Now I love him because he can take a bath, eat an apple, and brush his teeth at the same time.