Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch are no strangers to parody.
The Saturday Night Live veterans, who have made careers out of finding comedic nuance in their characters both real and not-so-real, have now brought their talents to Clüsterfünke.
Gasteyer and Dratch wrote and star in Comedy Central’s A Clüsterfünke Christmas, a comedic take on the Lifetime and Hallmark holiday movies that dominate the cable guide this time of year. For the pair, who have been friends for decades, it presented an opportunity to collaborate on something wholly their own, while recalling where they came from.
The holiday season has become something of a creative paradise for Gasteyer, between her iconic Schweddy Balls sketch on SNL to her 2019 album Sugar & Booze, the movie marks just her latest step in becoming the true queen of the Christmas season.
Daniel Trainor spoke to Gasteyer and Dratch about their relationships with schmaltzy Lifetime movies, holiday traditions, their TV guilty pleasures and the upcoming Wicked film adaptation.
A Clüsterfünke Christmas premieres December 4th at 7/6c on Comedy Central.
Daniel Trainor: Well, first of all, I have been a huge fan of both of yours for so long. This is a thrill. Thank you for taking some time.
Ana Gasteyer: Oh my gosh, thank you so much!
Rachel Dratch: Thank you!
Trainor: The movie is clearly spoofing the flux of Lifetime and Hallmark movies we get this time of year, but it also clearly has an affinity for them. Why do you think people are so obsessed with these movies, especially around the holidays?
Gasteyer: I think it’s a really stressful time of year. It recalls tradition and familiarity and it’s literally like comfort food. It’s the time of year that you get to eat mac and cheese on television. As our friend Will Ferrell used to say, it’s a “brain vacation.” There’s something very, very comforting about it. In the first few weeks of the pandemic, Hallmark started airing all of their holiday movies. You just get this comfy, cozy, warm and funny feeling. You don’t have to think too hard or work too hard, you know? Rachel, do you have anything to add?
Dratch: I could not have put it better myself.
Gasteyer: Great teamwork here.
Trainor: Did you guys watch a bunch of them and have little Lifetime movie marathons to prepare?
Dratch: We had sort of seen a few, just in the background. Honestly, I watched two to prepare.
Trainor: That might be all you need.
Dratch: You kind of just need one of these and you’ve got it. Especially the plot we were after. There are a few plots that rotate through these Hallmark movies. The biggest one we saw was the one where the big city executive with no time for love or Christmas gets sent to a small town to take over a quaint business.
Gasteyer: And there’s always some kind of hunky craftsperson.
Dratch: They don’t get along, but you know they’re destined to fall in love in the end. And find the spirit of Christmas.
Gasteyer: Yeah, that framework is part of it. Because we come from a parody background on “SNL,” we were both super interested in piling on as much parody as we possibly could. We wanted the structure to be super airtight. We tried to hit as many tropes as possible. Everything from the dog with the spirit of Christmas, to some of the larger conversations about race and culture and the way that they’ve been handled in these movies.
Dratch: We also knew right away that we were going to play these two spinster aunts. We didn’t even have much discussion about it. We turned to each other and were like “oh, we’re playing the aunts, right?” We wanted to do these broad, “SNL”-style characters that we don’t get to do as often anymore. That’s our comfort zone.
Gasteyer: The other piece of that, too, is that one of the tropes is that there’s an eligible ingenue and everybody else is like Mrs. Claus. There’s no female life in between the two. It was fun for us to play these dowdy old frumps. And, of course, we had to have makeovers. Because that’s a big trope, too. You have to have a transformational makeover experience.
Trainor: I hate to use the term “guilty pleasure” because it’s kind of obnoxious, but a lot of these Lifetime and Hallmark movies are guilty pleasures for people. Outside of those, do you guys have any TV guilty pleasures that might surprise people?
Gasteyer: I’m right smack in the middle of my psychosocial demographic. If I’m on the road in a hotel room alone…
Dratch: Hardcore porn.
Gasteyer: It’s not porn. I know that’s where you go first when you look at me. But no, it’s “Dateline.” I go to true crime and a generous pour of Sauvignon blanc. I’ll also do the Hallmark movies with my daughter. The same day that my mother-in-law passed away, we got under the covers and watched a Hallmark movie. It’s ridiculous and you laugh at it, but you can also love it.
Dratch: I can’t really think of any. I’m kind of blanking.
Trainor: That probably just means you have better taste than me.
Gasteyer: She watches reality TV, she’s just not admitting it. You like real estate shows.
Dratch: Oh! I did like “Selling Sunset.” That was…oh my god. I stumbled onto that.
Trainor: There’s a new season, are you aware?
Dratch: Oh, I heard. But I’d probably watch it all in one day!
Trainor: Ana, the holidays have become such a big part of your career, between the movie, your holiday album Sugar & Booze and your tour. Did your love for the holidays start in childhood?
Gasteyer: It’s really odd, because it didn’t. But it has become this extremely meaningful time of the year for me. Even as far back as the holiday stuff I did on “SNL,” which is well known. I’m kind of old fashioned.
Dratch: I’m going to jump in.
Gasteyer: Oh, here comes Dratch.
Dratch: Ana played Martha Stewart and I think Ana has an inner Martha because she’s very good at decorating her home. She’s very good at adulting where holidays are concerned. You know, arranging little tablescapes. The holidays really give her a boost of self-esteem. She sets up a good holiday home.
Gasteyer: I do. It’s silly, but I did really write my song “Sugar & Booze” from my heart. It’s about a moment in time where you can just stop for a second, eat too much food and have too many drinks. I would be perfectly happy if nobody ever gave anybody a present again. That part of it exhausts me. But I love food, I love parties. I like music. The holidays are like taxes. They come every damn year, you might as well enjoy them.
Trainor: How about you, Rachel? Do you have a specific relationship with the holidays or did Ana just pull you into this?
Gasteyer: Well, I did give her a light-up Hanukkah sweater last year and she just wore it to a Hanukkah party.
Dratch: It was a big hit! I didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas, so I had Christmas envy, I guess.
Gasteyer: But you do it up for Thanksgiving.
Dratch: Thanksgiving is a big tradition for me. We go to Vermont with the whole extended family. It’s a funfest. But I never got to do, like, the “let’s get the stockings up!” thing. I kind of Debbie Downer-ed Christmas.
Gasteyer: That’s appropriate.
Dratch: But I like going to other people’s parties!
Gasteyer: She’s good at parties.
Trainor: Ana, it sounds like you’re good at throwing them and Rachel, you’re good at showing up.
Dratch: I’m good at attending. (laughs)
Trainor: Is there an increased feeling from the two of you that, if you’re going to make a movie like this, you’re going to have to make it yourselves? Have you been forced to take the reins and create these opportunities on your own?
Gasteyer: That’s very hard to answer.
Dratch: I think Ana and I were really craving to do something really, really goofy. Even though this movie has some grounding to it, we were looking to do something in the vibe of “Airplane!”. We were like “well, we don’t know if we’d get cast in something like this” and we had the idea. So, we decided to try and do it ourselves. That’s how it came about. In my career, any time I’ve…not hit bottom, that sounds too dramatic, but any time stuff wasn’t really coming my way, I’ve been like “ugh, I guess I have to write something.” Because writing is difficult! But you’re able to create something that really makes you laugh and the rewards are great when you can actually buckle down and do it.
Gasteyer: I think because we were working within the structures of the Hallmark holiday traditions, we granted ourselves a lot of goofball permission. We did genuinely laugh way too hard at ourselves. It’s a luxury! As challenging as it is, it’s a luxury to be able to write something together. We’ve known one another for almost 25 years now. We’ve been good friends for a long time, we’ve worked together in a million capacities. Everyone from the “SNL” family tree has a shorthand and even when you go out and live your adult life after the show, you always have that shorthand with people. So, when we’re given the opportunity, we jump at it.
Trainor: Ana, I know you played Elphaba in “Wicked.” I’m curious if you have any thoughts about Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo being cast in the movie adaptation?
Gasteyer: I was ecstatic! They are both incredible vocalists. Sometimes it doesn’t go that way with these movie adaptations. I mean, no disrespect to the people who want to do it. But they are both real, hardcore musicians. They both have amazing vocal chops. I think it’s going to be thrilling.
Trainor: Congratulations on the movie, you both! I’m excited for people to check it out.
Gasteyer: Thank you so much for your support. Happy holidays!