Throughout her career, Vanessa Bayer has demonstrated that she has a unique gift for comedy. Frequently playing characters who are more than a little awkward – and often imbued with an almost frantic energy – she also manages to excavate some of the deeper emotions these characters carry with them. This is certainly true of her most recent effort, I Love That For Youin which she plays a woman lying about her cancer in order to keep her job.
Her newest role is undeniably unforgettable, but she has a long and impressive resume prior to I Love That For You. Thus, it is worth taking a look back at the numerous other roles that she has played through the years.
Office Christmas Party (2016) – 5.8; Not Currently Streaming
As its title suggests, the movie Office Christmas Party is about the hijinks that occur during an office Christmas party. It’s the sort of comedy movie that very much relies on the chemistry between its various cast members, which include Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, and Olivia Munn. In the movie, Bayer plays the character Allison, the assistant to the head of the company.
As is so often the case with Bayer, she manages to create a character who is by turns irritatingly effusive and yet oddly charming.
The Polka King (2017) – 5.9; Streaming on Netflix
There have been many movies (and TV shows) about scammers, including The Polka King. Starring Jack Black in the role of Jan Lewan, who was put in prison for running a scam, it’s the type of comedic biopic that relies heavily on its very talented cast.
Bayer plays the character of Bitsy Bear, part of Jan’s ensemble. Despite the fact that she spends much of her time on-screen dressed in a bear costume, Bayer still manages to endow the role with her singular charm.
Trainwreck- 6.2 (2015); Not Currently Streaming
Amy Schumer has shown, time and again, that she is one of her generation’s finest comedic actresses, and she has been in many great roles. One of her finest movies is Trainwreck, in which she has undeniable chemistry with Bill Hader. As has often been the case in Bayer’s career, she plays the small but important role of Schumer’s best friend, Nikki.
She’s the kind of secondary character with main character energy, as she not only provides a shoulder to cry on, but also her own brand of cynical relationship advice.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021) – 6.3; Streaming on Hulu
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it stars the immensely talented Kristen Wiig in one of her best roles. However, it is also notable for including her Saturday Night Live costar Vanessa Bayer in the role of Debbie, the woman in charge of the group known as the Talking Club.
Bayer imbues this character with a sort of sinister (but also hilarious) charisma, given that she rules the group with absolute authority.
Sound Advice- 6.4 (2013-present); Not Currently Streaming
Even though she has established herself as a very successful supporting character, Bayer is also no stranger to having her own show. In the case of Sound Advicethis involved her playing the character of Janessa Slater, a media coach who gives (largely unneeded and often clueless) advice to various musicians.
In less capable hands, her character would have become nothing more than an irritant, but somehow Bayer manages to turn her into someone audiences want to witness and spend time with.
Will & Grace- 7.3 (1998-2006; 2017-2020); Streaming on Hulu
Will & Grace is notable for being one of the most influential representations of LGBTQ + people on television. In both its original run and its revival, it was a series that made a point of giving supporting characters a great deal of depth and complexity, even as it never loses sight of the fact that they are supposed to be funny.
In this case, Vanessa Bayer plays Amy, the owner of a cake shop. She would go on to play another character in the series named Friday.
Portlandia- 7.8 (2011-2018); Streaming on AMC +
Portlandia, like so many other great comedies of the 2010s, is skilled at gently mocking its subjects, in this case, the eccentric hipster residents of Portland. It features a number of exceptional performances, particularly from its lead cast members Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.
As is often the case with series headlined by Saturday Night Live alums, it makes good use of Vanessa Bayer, who guest stars in one sketch as a woman contending with the difficulties inherent in going to the post office.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-2021) – 8.4; Streaming on Hulu
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has definitely earned its place as one of the best comedies to have come from the mind of Michael Schur. Like so many other great sitcoms, it not only manages to give viewers compelling central characters, but also new faces, including Vanessa Bayer’s character of Debbie Fogle.
Though she has the signature Bayer eccentricity, she eventually emerges as something of a sinister villain, as she is secretly in the employ of a crime boss. It’s one of the most effective uses of Bayer’s comedic talents.
Saturday Night Live- 8.0 (2010-2017); Streaming on Peacock
Arguably Bayer’s greatest triumph as an actress has been her turn on Saturday Night Live. During her time on the series, she created a number of notable characters, including Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy, Dawn Lazarus, and Miss Meadows.
With all of these characters, she repeatedly showed how skilled she was at creating people who were simultaneously charming and irritating. And, of course, she also never forgot that her primary job was to make the audience laugh.
What We Do In the Shadows (2019-present) – 8.6; Streaming on Hulu
There’s no doubt that What We Do in the Shadows is one of the best TV series about vampires. It manages to be both funny and disturbing in equal measure, and it features a tremendously talented cast. In this series, Bayer makes a memorable appearance as Evie Russell, an emotional vampire who has the ability to drain energy from others with her stories of her various misfortunes.
It’s a role in which Bayer is perfectly cast, and she makes a very effective, and hilarious, foil for What We Do in the Shadows‘resident energy vampire, Colin Robinson.
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