Aidy Bryant (BA ’09) talks about landing her dream job on Saturday Night Live—”How Comedy Studies led me to The Second City stage and on to New York City.”
Growing up in Arizona, Aidy Bryant (BA ’09) “obsessed” over Saturday Night Live cast members like Molly Shannon, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler—and she even dressed up like SNL characters for Halloween. For college, she knew she wanted to come to Chicago, home of The Second City (famed launching pad for the SNL players). Hard work with Columbia’s Comedy Studies program and the Chicago improv scene paid off: Now in her second year at SNL, Bryant writes sketches and appears weekly as a repertory player.
I always felt wacky or quirky or weird in high school. And then when I got to Columbia, I was surrounded by other weirdos, other creatives, people with all kinds of interests and passions.
When I was a freshman, I would do my normal theatre classes by day. By night, I started taking classes at iO and other Chicago comedy theaters. So it was a lucky thing that the [Comedy Studies] program was just getting started as I was an upperclassman. I had done all these different things in the improv community, but I had never gotten my foot in at Second City.
It was a great way to start there, and really immerse myself in seeing the Mainstage and e.t.c. shows, and taking writing classes—really writing in a way that I hadn’t before. I really got my legs underneath me; ultimately, that led to me writing for Second City.
After working there for about two years, I was writing and performing on the e.t.c. stage, doing a two-hour sketch revue with five other cast members. I was very lucky in that Lorne [Michaels, Saturday Night Live creator and executive producer] and the producers came to see my show at Second City. Later that week, I was called to come and audition [for SNL]. So I put together a five-minute showcase of my best material, and then I was flown out to New York and did my five-minute audition. I did one more audition, and then I was hired.
My advice for aspiring comedians? Just get up in front of audiences as much as you can because the good experiences and the bad experiences, they all will make you a better performer, and you only learn from being in front of a big group of people that you don’t know.
That is really where I cut my teeth, doing that. And really, I did it all over Chicago. I went everywhere to be in front of an audience and practice honing my voice so that by the time I got to where I am, I know what I like to write, and I know my strengths, and I know my weaknesses. It really helps when you get into these high-pressure situations to know who you are as a performer. — As told to Kristi Turnbaugh
Top Image: Aidy Bryant, left, and Cecily Strong (pictured with Josh Hutcherson) write for and star in SNL’s recurring sketch “Girlfriends Talk Show.” “Fifty percent of my job is writing,” Bryant says. “Every cast member writes for the show. It’s a huge part of the job.”