From outside appearances, it would be easy to assume that Ana Gasteyer was raised in highly charged political family. After all, her father was a long-time D.C. lobbyist before becoming mayor of Corrales, New Mexico.
But Gasteyer, best known as a former cast member of “Saturday Night Live” (1996-2002), says that despite those positions, her family wasn’t political at all and only involved in politics in a “tertiary way.” In fact, her family, she states, more than anything, was musical.
As such, music became “like a member of the family.” So the sketch comic, who delighted us with her impersonations of everyone from Hillary Clinton to Celine Dion to Martha Stewart, started her career on a musical path, playing violin for years and eventually majoring in voice at Northwestern University.
While most know her from her SNL days, Gasteyer also starred in movies like “Mean Girls,” television shows such as “Suburgatory” and even went to Broadway to play the role of Elphaba in “Wicked.” She has also recorded two albums and has toured the country with various iterations of her cabaret show.
Yes, she sang in her Marty and Bobbi Culp SNL skit when she and Will Ferrell played middle school music teachers. But Gasteyer has some serious vocal chops, which she will bring to the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts
8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, in her latest show “Holiday Tipple.”
I spoke with Gasteyer, who I found to be lovely, gracious and — a trait that you don’t see much of anymore — polite.
At The Shore: You sing, you play violin, you act, you do comedy. Do you have a preference or does the combination of them simply just make you an all-around entertainer?
Ana Gasteyer: I really feel super grateful to do it all. Well, singing is on a much lower profile. But I adore it. And I love working in Broadway musicals. But, for sure, it (singing) is the passion project part of my career. There’s something really lovely in the world of screens and distance … but being in a room uninterrupted with people for 90 minutes is fun. It’s a much more personal experience. It’s the most work with the least payoff (laughs). You can make a lot of money in TV, but it (cabaret) is greatly gratifying.
And though I was trained classically, jazz has been my home base for a while now. Not jazz in a sincere way — much happier and fun and ... I get to fuse my multiple personalities.
Would l love to tour like Bette Midler? Sure! But I celebrate the stuff I love doing.
That’s a long-winded way to say that good fortune is not lost on me.
ATS: Tell me about your band.
A.G.: They are all incredible musicians.
I befriended (singer, writer, producer, performer) Julian Fleischer. He helped record and produce my record. (Then) he developed my act. Through him we have this group of guys — all jazz players — and they’re fantastic.
When I’m on the road now we’re no bigger than a quintet. Next year we hope to score a big brass section. I have a big belty voice. My dream is to be in a big room like in an Atlantic City casino.
ATS: In your show, how do you make the transition from a true standard like “Cheek to Cheek” to a modern-day, love-gone-wrong song like “Before He Cheats?”
A.G.: It all kind of lives within the story (I’m telling) and the silliness. Songs should all have character behind them. And “Cheek to Cheek” is just one of my favorites. And it’s not done in a serious way. The other is a revenge song — but it’s fun! I also do “Dark Lady,” which is the same fun idea. It’s ’70s country with the story of a scorned woman. It brings out my inner diva (laughs).
We don’t take it terribly serious.
ATS: What can the audience expect from “Holiday Tipple?”
A.G.: You know, I’ve been touring for long time now — on and off for the last 10 years. My last album came out three years ago and we’re recording a Christmas album in January. So we’re kind of testing the waters, giving audiences a delicious holiday sample. A festive feast for the year. We’re putting together our own little Hickory Farms basket. We’ll have a couple of originals and because it’s Christmas, we’ll lead with traditional tunes by some of my favorites like (composers) Cy Coleman, Irving Berlin — as you’d expect — and Frank Loesser.