Whether she was impersonating Martha Stewart and Celine Dion or taking a bite out of “Schweddy Balls,” Saturday Night Live alum Ana Gasteyer built a career making millions laugh. Last year, she returned to her vocalist roots and released a jazz album, I’m Hip. She’ll be singing at The Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz Room Feb. 20-21. But first, we talked to Gasteyer about fanny packs, SNL’s legacy and becoming everyone’s favorite crazy aunt.
Your album is a departure from how we’ve seen you on TV and film. Why ’60s throwback jazz?
The ’60s were a moment in entertainment where you could sing, but you were also not completely without reason to be funny and to be entertaining and have the expectation of a glamorous evening out. There’s a big sound to it, vocally. That’s why I go back to it as source material over and over again. We call it “happy jazz” or “up-tempo jazz.”… The goal is for people to have a great time. I throw a lot of dinner parties, and I wanted the record to be like that. That’s what the evening is, too. I want it to feel like you’re coming to my party.
That’s perfect for Las Vegas.
It’s no surprise that I love Las Vegas. My husband and I are sort of those people who are always embarrassed because we’re the last people to leave. I’m like, “Vegas is so perfect for us!” You’re never made to feel like you stay too long.
How does your personality manifest when you sing?
I try to make it as fun-loving as possible. I would say it’s an entertaining musical show … with kazoos. Occasionally, I’ll do a fanny pack giveaway.
Why not? It’s a good time. I would never sit there and go on some horrible monologue about my childhood. We’re there to have fun.
SNL just marked its 40th anniversary. How does it feel to be a part of that legacy? Specifically, for all that it’s done for women in comedy?
I feel outrageously fortunate. For whatever reason, it’s a piece of history that clicked when we got there, that shift in perception about women in comedy started changing. There are a lot of people who are responsible for that shift. Part of that is just being among incredibly talented peers. Part of it is writers like Adam McKay, who was the head writer when I was there, who understood what women had to offer. Lorne [Michaels] had a willingness to go with what was trendy and cool and promote women internally. This is going to sound really stereotypical, but—as a woman, I tend to want to connect with people, and the fact that we were able to do that as a big group was really meaningful to me. We’re all good friends still. I feel super lucky.
What’s next for you?
I really would like to do a Christmas album. This kind of music lends itself so happily to that. Especially because Christmas can be the worst time of year! [Laughs.] It would be a dream come true if my album was played at Christmas parties in the happiest possible way. I actually feel freer the older I get because everyone’s got a crazy aunt. I look forward to going into my “crazy aunt” phase. I’m on the early side of that. Eventually, I’d like to find my inner Kathy Lee.
You have two young children. Have they watched your TV appearances and movies?
They were huge fans of Suburgatory. I did The Goldbergs. My daughter really likes that show and I have a recurring part on that. My daughter is in seventh grade so she’s in prime Mean Girls territory. My son was more into Suburgatory. They’re proud, I think. I really want to bring my daughter to an SNL rehearsal or something because I do feel like eventually they’re going to grow older and—you know, it’s such an American institution at this point—I even think it’s so crazy that I was a part of it. Especially now that she’s in middle school, she might really think that’s cool. On the other hand, she might be embarrassed by me. It’s sort of understandable.
7p.m. Feb. 20-21, Cabaret Jazz in The Smith Center, $39-59, 702-749-2000.