“We Went to School Together, Right? I think that would be the movie people recognize me from the most.” Kathryn Hahn is cracking wise; check her IMDb film stats, and you will not find any such title listed among her credits. But when the 40-year-old actress gets stopped on the street, that’s the go-to line people use — the old chestnut you trot out when you recognize someone famous but can’t quite place him or her. “It’s only started happening recently; I find it hilarious, but it drives my husband crazy,” she says. “I get ‘We loved you on SNL‘ a lot as well, and I have to say ‘Thank you, I’m not Ana Gasteyer, but I hear you and totally appreciate it, she’s amazing!'”
Even if you couldn’t place her face, trust us: You’ve definitely seen Hahn steal scenes in movies by going for the uncomfortable comedy sweet-spot. She’s the one singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” while getting it with John C. Reilly at Thanksgiving dinner in Step Brothers; the pregnant woman who accidentally gets fisted by Sacha Baron Cohen when she goes into labor in The Dictator; the suburbanite awkwardly feeling up Jennifer Aniston’s breasts in We’re the Millers; and the Type-A nightmare of a political consultant who keeps dropping TMI tidbits in the last few seasons of Parks and Recreation. (She’s also the female rabbi who gets pulled into the Pfefferman’s family feuds in the Amazon hit Transparent, which starts filming its second season in June.)
And though her latest high-profile project, the Showtime series Happyish, could ultimately nip the were-you-in-my-math-class questions in the bud, the show about a couple frustrated by professional instability and middle-age malaise does not necessarily feature a gentler, tamer Hahn: Within the first few episodes, she goes on a rant about Dora the Explorer that ends with her flipping the cartoon character the bird. Though, as she’s keen to point out, that’s child’s play compared to the cartoon coitus required of her costar Steve Coogan. “I mean, he does fuck a Keebler elf,” Hahn says. “Not just any Keebler elf — a topless, geriatric one. I got off lucky.”
Taking a brief break in between production duties, Hahn spoke with us about Happyish‘s revival after its original star Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away, why the uncomfortable laugh is her comfort zone and finding her inner “Fartist.”
You were involved with Happyish early on, right?
Pretty early, yeah. [Showtime president] David Nevins sent me the script to read about three years ago. No one was attached to it then, and I had no context for what it was about or who [showrunner] Shalom Auslander was. I just thought, Oh my god, this is so brave and risky. And then realizing that Shalmo never scripted anything before — his background was as a memoirist — I just thought this is great, he doesn’t know what rules there were to break. Okay, I’m in. Then about a year passed, and Phil came on.