What a pair of jokers! Chris Parnell and Ana Gasteyer cracked up audiences in the 1990s with memorable Saturday Night Live impressions like Tom Brokaw and Celine Dion. They now bring that same level of wackiness to ABC's Suburgatory as married suburbanites Fred and Sheila Shay. The duo took the stage at Los Angeles' premier improv school, the Groundlings, and reminisced about their comedy roots.
TV Guide Magazine: You met in the early '90s at the Groundlings. How does it feel to be back here?
Ana Gasteyer: It's definitely a lot less gross. The dressing room used to open straight into the bathroom.
Chris Parnell: Well, there was a curtain.
Gasteyer: It was flimsy. And there would always be that one perv in the [group], and you'd be like, "Can I get the curtain closed?"
TV Guide Magazine: What were your first impressions of each other?
Parnell: I have no idea. I have no memory!
Gasteyer: I love that you don't even remember. I didn't mean anything to you, did I? [Laughs] I remember he was super talented, super professional. Grounded, real, focused. At the Groundlings, you're writing your own material, so you're always looking for people who are not only nice and cool and fun to hang out with, but reliable in your sketch. Chris was the go-to guy. We worked together early on as a husband and wife.
Parnell: With a stay-at-home son.
TV Guide Magazine: You've been playing a married couple for a long time, then.
Parnell: Yeah. In fact, we did that same scene on SNL.
Gasteyer: [Former SNL cast member] Horatio Sanz used to call us the "uptight whites" because we were the go-to intense couple. It just came really naturally to us.
Parnell: Frighteningly, disturbingly.
TV Guide Magazine: How do your real-life spouses feel about your chemistry?
Parnell: Very threatened by it.
Gasteyer: Really? Good to know. My husband is in New York, so while I am filming, I stay [in Los Angeles] with this mutual friend of ours who happens to be gay. My husband calls him my "gusband" and he calls Chris my "wusband" — he's my work husband. So [at any time] I'm balancing what subject will be most interesting to which of my three husbands. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: How does your improv background help on a scripted show like Suburgatory?
Gasteyer: I know I'm less inhibited. I'm hired to be a moronic trained monkey, so now I'm not as embarrassed landing on my silly face.
Parnell: There's also sometimes the opportunity to actually improvise [on the show] should we want it.
Gasteyer: But the writing's so good that I genuinely don't feel the need to weaken it with my crappy improv. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: What can we expect from the Shay family as Suburgatory's second season winds down?
Gasteyer: There are some big-time dynamic power shifts on the way. And their son is going off to college, so that's going to be a blow. Even with what they've been through with him [distancing himself after he found out he's adopted], he's still the better-liked child. There's no real Sophie's choice in the Shay household. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: Fred and Sheila also played in a band this year. Any chance they'll return to their musical roots?
Gasteyer: God, I hope so.
Parnell: I had some intense drum lessons for a very brief window of time.
Gasteyer: This one does his homework. When we did Cinderella on the show last year for the Mother's Day episode, he watched [Disney's] Cinderella so that he could properly imitate the footman.
Parnell: The mouse.
Gasteyer: He's the only man in America who rented Cinderella for the sake of one line.
TV Guide Magazine: Is there anything else we might be surprised to know about either of you?
Parnell: I've seen her naked!
Gasteyer: Have you? Sorry about that.
Parnell: Skinny-dipping at Michael Chiklis's house, but Michael Chiklis was not there.
Gasteyer: [Laughs] We were in our twenties; someone was house-sitting.
Parnell: So we went to swim in the pool there. It was gorgeous.
Gasteyer: We were all living in crappy apartments in Hollywood and we were like, "Woo! Michael Chiklis is out of town!" Splash! Cannonball!
Suburgatory airs Wednesdays at 9:30/8:30c on ABC.