A veteran of Los Angeles' famed Groundlings comedy troupe who would later find fame as a key cast member of Saturday Night Live, Maya Rudolph set her sights on a comedy career early on when, as a young girl, she would sit before the television screen marveling at the comic talents of SNL star Gilda Radner. The daughter of 1970s soul singer Minnie Riperton and music producer Richard Rudolph, the future comedy star lost her mother to breast cancer at the tender age of six, leaving father Richard to raise both her and her older brother, Marc, as a single parent. Though her mother was gone, the musical influence lived on, and after majoring in photography at the University of California it was finally time to try her own hand at music as the keyboardist for Weezer spin-off band the Rentals. Of course, performing was always the thing that interested Rudolph most, and what better way to become a performer than to join one of L.A.'s hottest comedy troupes? A stint with the Groundlings gave Rudolph the skills she needed to hone her comic talents, and between 1996 and 2000, the aspiring starlet made a name for herself on screens both big and small with a recurring role on the television medical drama Chicago Hope, and opposite such screen heavies as Jack Nicholson, Uma Thurman, and Gwyneth Paltrow in As Good As It Gets, Gattaca, and Duets.
A popular cast member from the moment she joined SNL in 2000, Rudolph successfully navigated the notoriously testosterone-laden hallways of Studio 8H to create a variety of original characters in addition to skewering such celebrities as Christina Aguilera, Oprah Winfrey, and Donatella Versace. One of the few SNL cast members who had the luck of establishing herself as a feature-film player before joining the cast of the weekly comedy staple, Rudolph always seemed to find time for the big screen even when her status as a late-night queen was exploding. With roles in such films as Duplex, 50 First Dates, and Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion giving great testament to Rudolph's remarkable versatility, it seemed like only a matter of time before she made the leap to features full-time. A hilarious trip into a dim-witted future came when Rudolph took a role opposite Luke Wilson in Mike Judge's 2006 sci-fi comedy Idiocracy, and in 2007 filmgoers could hear her familiar voice when she essayed the role of Rapunzel in the animated children's film Shrek the Third. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi