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Maya Rudolph remembers being "humiliated" during David Letterman interview early in career

Maya Rudolph "did not have a good time" when David Letterman said her name wrong in 2009 interview

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Maya Rudolph recalls being "humiliated" in David Letterman interview
Maya Rudolph; David Letterman
Photo: Anna Webber; Theo Wargo (Getty Images)

The lifestyle of the rich and famous may be a pampered one, but it nevertheless requires a tough skin. Maya Rudolph, who rose to fame on Saturday Night Live, learned this lesson the hard way during her first-ever appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman in 2009—two years after she’d left the famed sketch show.

“I did not have a good time,” she tells WSJ. Magazine of her conversation with Letterman. “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.” (A representative for Letterman tells NBC News, “We must respectfully decline comment.”)

Rudolph has gotten “much better” at navigating these press appearances by deflecting with humor, but “It would always feel like someone was stealing my soul,” she admits. “That’s where, over the years, I created a persona to protect myself.”

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Finding that persona took some doing: “I remember saying to someone, ‘What am I to you? What’s my brand?’ Because I don’t know what it is,” she reflects. “Do I have a brand? Like, what is it?”

It is not, in her opinion, a “celebrity,” even if she is technically famous. “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,” she says. “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.” If there are lots of different types of celebs, surely Rudolph must qualify as one of them? She’s certainly well past “talk show flubbing her name” level now.