How 'SNL's' Chloe Fineman became the comedian we need right now

  • Chloe Fineman is a cast member on "Saturday Night Live."

    Chloe Fineman is a cast member on "Saturday Night Live." Courtesy of Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC

 
 
Posted10/5/2020 6:00 AM

Chloe Fineman, 32, is a comedian, actress and writer who made her debut last year as a cast member on "Saturday Night Live." She lives in Los Angeles and New York.

Q: You do these takes on celebrities like Drew Barrymore, Reese Witherspoon and Timothée Chalamet that are spot-on but also really weird and funny. Do you think of yourself primarily as an impressionist?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A: No, I think that's a more recent realization that I could do that. I probably started doing them four years ago. And definitely in quarantine I feel like I've leaned into impressions. But when I'm doing an impression I'm trying to turn that person into a character, if that makes any sense.

Q: Yeah, they completely take on a life of their own. I read that Carole Baskin, the woman from "Tiger King," said she could slap you for your impression of her. Has anyone else not liked your takes on them?

A: Yesterday I did Tiffany Trump on my Instagram because I'm so fascinated by the RNC speakers. I think any Republican probably wants to slap me. I used to do Tomi Lahren a lot, and I don't think she was a fan of those impressions. But it's usually that I just don't hear from the celebrity. Usually I'll hear something like "Shia LaBeouf has seen your impression." And then that's kind of awkward. It's kind of like no feedback. And then, you know, I can neurotically be like, "They hate it!' or assume that it's OK.

Q: Your Tiffany Trump is kind of amazing.

A: I mean, there's so much there. The whole RNC just feels like a big "SNL" sketch. And then it's like, Oh, pick your favorite. And I thought Tiffany was a safe choice. Just her trying to be a relatable millennial is really funny to me.

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Q: Was being a comedian or comic actress something that you envisioned doing as a kid?

A: No, I really fell into this. I have a really funny, loud Jewish family. My dad is hilarious and extremely unfiltered. My mom's a painter, but I was really into trying to be like Meryl Streep. A classic actress. I thought I was going to be doing Chekhov plays. Like, my big wish was to do Shakespeare in the Park.

Q: Did you have any favorite sketches you pitched for "SNL" that they said no to?

A: Yeah, definitely. I have this character Ooli, and I pitched her first my first week at work. And she was way more crude. I think that's a big learning curve on "SNL." Like, how do you say private parts? The writers have created an art of how to say words without saying them. So, yeah, I definitely had her a little too dirty, and then in the pandemic got to turn her into something different. I do see that a lot on the show, which I think is really cool. People will pitch stuff in the beginning of the year, and maybe it doesn't work, but then they sort of reformulate it, and it'll end up on the show in the spring. So there's a creative process I didn't realize, which was really comforting. You could pitch an impression or character and maybe it's not right for that week, but then it could turn into something else.

Q: 2020 hasn't really been anyone's idea of a funny year. Is it hard to find comedy in it?

A: Hard? No, if I'm being honest. I mean, it's definitely a dark time, but I think just how upside down everything is kind of funny. And I think my nature is to find the funny in it. Like, initially being quarantined with my boyfriend was like, "Oh my God, are we going to kill each other?" And then it kind of has turned into a beautiful rom-com.

Q: Do you feel like the pandemic fundamentally changed you in any way?

A: Yeah. I think the weird part about the pandemic -- and being isolated -- is that immediately you're like, Oh, I can't be alone. And I do feel like I value my friendships more. So, not that I didn't before, but I think I make a much bigger point to be like, How can I help my friends? What can I do for you? And then also just dumb stuff like walking -- I don't know, I feel like I kind of regressed to an infant. I'm relearning a bunch of stuff.

Q: Will you be back in New York for "SNL" this fall, or is everyone still operating from a distance?

A: I personally plan to go back mainly because I don't know what I left in my refrigerator. And it's been six months.

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