The Genius of Kristen Wiig

Rosalind O'Connor/NBC

Regardless of your film or television tastes, chances are you’ve seen something starring Kristen Wiig. With over eighty acting credits to her name, she has built an enviable career and achieved international popularity, all whilst maintaining a reputation as a genuinely-likeable person. What most people don’t realise, however, is just how diverse she is, both as a performer and a writer – and how many of her best roles you’ve probably never watched.

Wiig originally became a household name as a cast member on U.S. comedy institution Saturday Night Live, spending seven seasons on the show. During this time, she gained fame as a number of iconic characters – many of which she wrote herself. SNL creator and boss Lorne Michaels actually stated that there had only ever been two cast members who he would happily have put on stage immediately after their initial auditions, and Wiig was one of them.

SNL is by no means her only television role, with some of her best appearances being cameos. Her role in the Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp may be minor, but she still manages to be memorable and hilarious. Similarly, her appearance in one episode of Portlandia as kidnapper Gathy is delightfully ridiculous.

Unsurprisingly, Kristen Wiig’s comedy talent translates seamlessly from television to film. The success of Bridesmaids (both written by and starring Wiig) propelled her into global fame, with a number of iconic scenes that cemented her place at the top of the comedy game. More recently, she played strait-laced physicist Erin Gilbert in the reboot of Ghostbusters – a film praised by many as important for its realistic portrayal of women.

Whilst comedy-drama Welcome to Me may have been criticised for its portrayal of mental illness, Wiig’s leading performance as Alice is heartbreaking and sensitive.

What many people don’t realise is that not all of Wiig’s roles are comedic. One of her most underrated roles is in The Skeleton Twins, in which she co-stars alongside fellow SNL alumnus and close friend Bill Hader. It’s a cliché to say that a film will make you laugh, cry and fall in love, but with its exploration of depression and family relationships, this one is undeniably a beautiful emotional rollercoaster. Similarly, whilst comedy-drama Welcome to Me may have been criticised for its portrayal of mental illness, Wiig’s leading performance as Alice is heartbreaking and sensitive. The Diary of a Teenage Girl features yet another more serious appearance from Wiig, as she plays the mother of a young woman discovering what it means to be an ‘adult’.

All of these roles – along with many, many others – fit together to make the body of work of a truly talented individual. If you haven’t seen some of these titles (particularly The Skeleton Twins), you are missing out on something special. Despite her global recognition, the real extent of her talent is rarely acknowledged, especially as people seem to feel obliged to compare her to SNL predecessor and fellow all-rounder Tina Fey. For that reason, if you’re trying to decide what to watch this weekend, go on Netflix and search ‘Kristen Wiig’ – you’ll probably discover something good.


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