Paula Pell Says She Played ‘Mom’ to Will Ferrell-Era ‘SNL’ Cast to Her Own Detriment

“There’s devastation [there] all the time, so I would just put all my devastation away,” the former “Saturday Night Live” writer says

Paula Pell (Getty Images)
Paula Pell (Getty Images)

Writer and comedian Paula Pell said her time on “Saturday Night Live” wasn’t only spent writing funny jokes, she also often played the role of a mother for the show’s stars — particularly when they needed to be comforted.

“At ‘SNL,’ I was mom. I was the teet. I was a big caretaker there,” Pell told Marc Maron of her 18 years at the sketch comedy series on Monday’s “WTF” podcast. “But I also was creating comedy with them, which — some of these people are all just wonderful friendships, wonderful — but I made that my role. Even if they didn’t want it, I was the comforter. And you need a lot of comfort when you’re at ‘SNL,’ because you’re either failing miserably, or you’re the absolute s–t-talk of the most incredible thing of the night.”

The “Girls5Eva” star’s comments came as she was describing to Maron how she used to always come to others’ aid, even to her own detriment. There were many occasions, for example, where she’d go out with coworkers and insisted on paying the bill. The writer admitted her desire to bring others happiness was a “kink” that she now knows she shouldn’t have indulged.

“So there’s devastation all the time [there], so I would just put all my devastation away — because maybe my sketch got cut — I would just put all of that away,” Pell explained. “It would all be about me comforting them and I would go home and eat three pizzas and put a cork in my sadness. And so I did that in relationships and I did that at work for sure.”

Over time, and with the help of therapy, she said she overcame that need for codependency she felt during the Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch days.

“I just kind of turned a corner at some point in my 50s where I started going, that muscle is gone,” Pell said. “It atrophied. I just don’t have it in me to just be that role. I want to comfort myself. It’s exhausting … My therapist said codependency is pulling on fumes in your car to a gas station and putting the gas in the other car and watching it drive away.”

The writer-turned-actress started her career at “SNL” in 1995, where she crafted some of the show’s most popular sketches and characters, including Spartan Cheerleaders and Debbie Downer. She left the program in 2013.

Pell can currently be seen in Peacock’s “Girls5Eva,” now on Netflix. “SNL” airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. EST on NBC.


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