The Maya Rudolph Show Represents for the Ladies

by Amy Carlberg

The Maya Rudolph Show is like being kicked in the face with a sparkly tap shoe, and I want more.

Maya Rudolph, long-time former SNL cast member and star of the hit movie Bridesmaids, said in an interview with Seth Meyers, “Young folks have probably never experienced the joys of corny but wonderful but grand, feather boas and sparkles and people singing songs and telling corny jokes but guests dropping in and stopping by…” True, I don’t think I have experienced whatever it is she’s describing.

And Maya was right. I haven’t seen much else like it. The Maya Rudolph Show was all three: corny, wonderful, and grand, and proceeded in much the same fashion as the rambling description above. Every stop was pulled out; every zany possibility explored. Maya Rudolph is an absolute firecracker, so I guess we shouldn’t have expected her eponymous TV show to be anything less than a fireworks display. 

It’s like My Super Sweet 16 if what the birthday girl wanted was her own variety show. Maya even gets a pony. She even gets British schoolchildren. But I think more important than the fact that this tactic might have been more disorienting than hilarious at times is the fact that she could make these demands at all.

Watching Maya Rudolph pet a pony on TV made me feel like I could do anything. My generation has mostly seen men running the show and taking goofing off to an absurdist level.  Not only was she not assisting or corresponding with a male authority, she also isn’t a surreally young, skinny girl. In fact, guest stars Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg and Sean Hayes ended up somewhat assuming the traditional role of a fawning gaggle of cookie-cutter assistants. Not to mention how inspiring it was to see a mom of four running the show, singing, dancing, cracking jokes and making a million costume changes. Maya’s moves remind us that it’s so much less about how your body looks and so much more about what it can do.

This brings me to one my favorite moments from the show: Maya Rudolph’s duet with Chris Parnell, a silly lullaby about parenthood. Maya mentions motherhood almost right away on the show, which a sexy young feminist might balk at, but I dare you to hold back tears when you hear this number. 

The Maya Rudolph Show closed out with musical guest Janelle Monae. Once again, it’s like, is the question really whether Janelle Monae is a good performer or not? She’s obviously pulled off numerous stellar performances on late night before, but not on a program run by a fellow woman of color. I love seeing Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Fallon play off one another, but Monae and Rudolph sharing a stage is genuinely exceptional. How come Stephen Colbert gets to sing with Kenny Rogers on TV? How come it’s Jimmy who gets to jam out with Billy Joel, also on his own show? To me, Janelle’s appearance is about a solidarity which increases visibility in the media for women of color. 

Like I said: I want more. Sadly the show is currently a one-off, and I’m not sure how they’d pull off an extravaganza of this nature every week, or even every month. I’d settle for something bigger annually, or a scaled-down version every week. Since special effects and big blockbusters have become the norm, we’ve forgotten what hard work it is to create an entertaining illusion onstage in the real world. My only hope is that it’s not so difficult that I don’t get a taste of that old-school magic every once in a while, with a Maya Rudolph twist. We need more powerful ladies twirling across our late night TV screens.

What do you think? Must the show go on? Leave a comment below.

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