Tiger of the Week: Ellie Kemper ’02
Ellie Kemper ’02 landed a dream job last week: She took over as Dunder Mifflin’s new receptionist on NBC’s The Office. Any role on a hit comedy would be a big boost for a young actress, but this one was particularly special for Kemper, a “huge fan” of the show. “Being on set with them is like being in a dream, except the dream is real and I can reach out and touch them,” she told PAW. “Except I am trying not to touch them too much, because I was raised right.”
Kemper’s character made an immediate impression on office mates Dwight and Andy, who angled for her attention on last week’s show. The performance also impressed PAW: She’s our Tiger of the Week.
Kemper, an English major from St. Louis, Mo., honed her comedic skills as an undergraduate with the Princeton improv group Quipfire! and the Princeton Triangle Club. For more from her brief e-mail interview with PAW, click below.
PAW: You were a member of Quipfire! at Princeton. Had you done comedy before that, or was that your introduction?
E.K.: That was my introduction to improvisational comedy. Before that, I played field hockey. But I use the term “played” loosely. I sat on the bench for roughly 97 percent of my field hockey career at Princeton. So I guess that’s sort of funny.
PAW: Have you been able to apply any lessons from improv in your acting career?
E.K.: The big rule of improv is “yes and…” When someone gives you information, you accept it, and then add your own information to build on the scene. I think this is the greatest rule ever. You can apply it to anything from polite cocktail party small talk to making a really great sundae.
PAW: What was your career path after Princeton? Did you know you wanted to act professionally? Did you have other ambitions?
E.M.: After graduating, I studied English for a year at Oxford. That’s where I got really good at English. Then I moved to New York and started taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and the People’s Improv Theatre. Fellow Quipfire! alum Scott Eckert [’02] and I wrote a bunch of sketch shows together and performed on various improv teams. I also started writing for The Onion and McSweeney’s. I was paying the rent by doing commercials, which allowed me to perform improv for free at night. I auditioned for Saturday Night Live last August, but I guess we all know how that went.
PAW: What was it like to land a role on The Office? Had you been a fan of the show?
E.K.: Umm, HELLO! AMAZING!!!! I am a huge fan of the show. Being on set with them is like being in a dream, except the dream is real and I can reach out and touch them. Except I am trying not to touch them too much, because I was raised right.
(Photo by Josephine Sittenfeld ’02)
Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW’s Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.