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Jennifer Coolidge has been a big deal for years; with an Emmy nod, she's starting to believe it

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES — Here are two stories told by an actor; try to guess who it is.

One: She is among a star-studded group at the home of a very famous writer for a play reading. Afterward, the writer unexpectedly suggests the guests help him scatter the ashes of an equally famous comedic actress in his garden. "She left him part of her ashes and he said he had been waiting for the right time to sprinkle them." Now was that time. "It was an unusual moment. I did a Broadway show with her; her dressing room was right down the hall. It was ... not what I expected when I went."

Two: She is working with a trainer, running up and down the steps of the Hollywood Bowl. "It's killing me and just as I get up to the final step, there is this family, scattering someone's ashes and — I swear to God this is true — I inhaled a face-full of those ashes. It was terrible. I felt so bad."

I could mention that the actor in question just received an Emmy nomination for playing a woman obsessed with the need to scatter her mother's ashes, but I shouldn't have to. If you think about it, there is really only one person who could — and would — describe not one but two inarguably hilarious encounters with cremated remains. Only one person you could visualize in both of those situations.

It could only ever be Jennifer Coolidge.

Too long "best known" as "Stifler's Mom, the original MILF" from "American Pie," or Paulette from "Legally Blonde" (films that came out more than 20 years ago), Coolidge, at 60, is finally having the moment her career, which includes three Christopher Guest movies and a slew of television series including, most recently, "2 Broke Girls," deserves.

 

It is, in fact, very difficult to place Coolidge in the Hollywood hierarchy.

Just as Mike White's scathing HBO resort-satire emerged unexpectedly from the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Coolidge was, from the moment she staggered onscreen as a woman in need of a massage and a place to scatter those ashes, a revelation.

Even by Jennifer Coolidge standards.

My interview with Coolidge begins with a classic comedy setup. We are both sitting in separate parts of a restaurant wondering where the other one is. Only when Coolidge glances at a text message from her publicist is the situation rectified. "I didn't realize he had put the reservation under his name," she says. "I mean, it's not like I'm Lady Gaga."

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