TVGuide.com: A bio of you I read online starts out, "Nicole Sullivan is strikingly beautiful and very talented." Guess it paid to get Mom that DSL line, eh?
Nicole Sullivan: [Laughs] I have not seen that! Well, I'll take it. And if you knew me better, you'd know that my mother would actually never say that about me. She's like, "She can work on herself."
TVGuide.com: Still, it's nice to be pegged as funny and beautiful.
Sullivan: It's good, as far as parts go in TV Land. It's a lot easier, I think, to be an actor in a movie, than to spin a joke on a sitcom. Any pretty girl can tear up in a movie but it takes a special sort of crazy to make a sitcom funny!
TVGuide.com: You had a cushy gig there walking Jerry Stiller on King of Queens. Were you nervous about making the break?
Sullivan: Absolutely. King of Queens is such a well-oiled machine, and it's fun to be part of a hit show that I also enjoy. But then you sort of go, "All right, I'm going to go out and give it a shot." I wanted more — that's the best way I can put it. I figured I'd get out while that ship was still sailing and jump onto a little dinghy.
TVGuide.com: Was the decision similar to leaving MADtv?
Sullivan: No, leaving MADtv was sad, because I loved the show, but easy because King of Queens was already up and running. That was like stepping from a little dinghy to a frickin' yacht.
TVGuide.com: Besides, you could always live off of your poker winnings. [Sullivan was the overall champion on the first season of Celebrity Poker Showdown.]
Sullivan: [Laughs] My kitty cats could rely on my poker winnings.
TVGuide.com: You were there right when the poker craze took off.
Sullivan: Yes, I was. It was hilarious, because I had never played No-Limit Texas Hold'em. But I practiced one round before I went, and when I got there I read some literature. Turns out I really liked it!
TVGuide.com: Are you glad that King of Queens left the door open?
Sullivan: It was one of those things where you're like, "Well, let's wait for the numbers to come out before you kill me." But they could not have been nicer. They're like, "Listen, we're not going to put you through a shredder, but we're going to write you out. If you ever want to come back, you can."
TVGuide.com: I can hear Stiller's character now: "It was the oddest thing. We were crossing the street when a city bus came by and WHAM!"
Sullivan: Exactly! Part of me wanted something bloody and really fun. But this way I can always visit.
TVGuide.com: So where does Chloe fit into Hot Properties' Designing Women-esque scheme of things?
Sullivan: Someone else asked me, "Which Designing Woman is she?" I'm still trying to figure it out. I would say she's closest to Annie Potts — sort of the one who can't quite get it together. But Chloe is honestly just like me in my early twenties, sort of stumbling through life and boyfriends, wondering why they never call me back after I've spent the first date crying about my dog dying.
TVGuide.com: Is the cast gelling? Or can we expect a Vanity Fair exposé?
Sullivan: It's the most amazing cast, a dream cast. We laugh all the time.
TVGuide.com: You studied the classics at Northwestern. How does that prepare a person for sketch comedy?
Sullivan: Probably not at all! But the main thing is, if you want to be an actor you need to learn how to act first, even in sketch comedy. You take risks in doing the classics — you're out there stumbling around, looking like a fool — and that's the best training you can have. Once you're able to look like an idiot and be OK with it, it opens up your [potential].
TVGuide.com: If you were on MADtv these days, who would you be dying to send up?
Sullivan: Oh, that's a good question. I love my Britney — I honestly do think she's kind of adorable — but I wouldn't mind getting in on a little of that Katie Holmes action. I wouldn't mind getting in on the reality-show people, like Trista and Ryan, the Apprentice people who think they're suddenly stars. I'm like, "Who are you?!"
TVGuide.com: Who makes you laugh?
Sullivan: We were once talking about the best sitcom actors of all time, and I put No. 1 as David Hyde Pierce, tied with Lucille Ball. After that, Sean Hayes, Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow.
TVGuide.com: Let's play Inside the Actors Studio: "Your breakout role came in 1991, as Young Woman in Herman's Head. Tell me about that."
Sullivan: What's funny is I'm friends with Hank Azaria, and we always remember that we were on a show together 800 years ago and we laugh every single time. I was only in L.A. for two weeks when I got that job. I was like, "This is going to be easy!" [Laughs] And I didn't work again for two years.
TVGuide.com: You have three rescue dogs. Are we talking like, "Lassie, save me from the well"?
Sullivan: Let's just say that if I were buried in snow, I'd like to think one of them would come get me, but... they don't rescue me so much as I rescued them from shelters. I'm a big animal-rights person, and the simplest way to help control the animal population is to have all of our pets spayed and neutered. If everyone did that, we would see a dramatic drop in how many animals are put down every year.
TVGuide.com: You've been hanging out with Bob Barker.
Sullivan: [Laughs] Exactly. God bless him.