Heidi Gardner has developed a knack for portraying women in troubled relationships, dialing up the melodrama until she gets a laugh. On “Saturday Night Live,” where she has been a cast member since 2017, she sometimes plays Angel, “every boxer’s girlfriend from every movie about boxing ever,” according to the show’s Weekend Update anchors, who is perpetually threatening to take the kids to her sister’s.
“I was around a lot of interesting characters growing up that were going through pretty intense things in life,” Gardner, 39, said in a phone interview last month. “But when that’s your life, there’s some comedy in that, too.”
The same can be said of the Apple TV+ series “Shrinking,” which stars Jason Segel as a grieving therapist. One of his patients is Gardner’s Grace, who is in an abusive relationship. Both of them get plenty of chuckles.
“I happen to find a lot of comedy in tragedy,” she said.
Gardner, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., talked about her go-to comedian, the decades-old TV show she discovered during the pandemic and why Easter candy is the best candy. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Brownies From a Box
Foods are constantly being elevated, but I never want a brownie that’s not from a box. When I have a brownie that’s from outside of the box, I’m like, yeah, this just isn’t it. And I have a feeling that most people agree with me. A brownie is to be made at home from a box with burnt crispy edges. Yeah, try and elevate it, but the box is still going to be better.
‘The Virgin Suicides’
I first read the Jeffrey Eugenides novel when I was a teenager, almost like proving myself: I read the book, and I’ve seen the movie, and it’s this cool thing. But I loved it. Reading it as an adult, the language he uses stuck out to me from a more mature place. The way he describes things are feminine, they’re nostalgic, they’re girlie, they’re womanly, and they bring me so much joy.
He’s my guiding light of comedy. When I was in college, he started blowing up in “Orange County” and “Saving Silverman,” and I was a massive fan of his band, Tenacious D. To this day, if I really need to laugh, I’ll go on YouTube and look up, like, his first Conan appearance. I can’t not laugh at him and find him completely enjoyable. He’s the most reliable source of comedy I think I’ve ever had in my life.
Girls Night Out, Let’s Have Fun Club
When I was a kid, my mom had a group of five friends who called themselves the Girls Night Out, Let’s Have Fun Club. They’d go to a bar on a Friday night, they’d take trips to San Francisco, and sometimes they’d have lingerie parties where a saleswoman would come to one of their houses with a rack of lingerie, negligees and teddies. They would try things on, have drinks and have so much fun. I’ve had a couple hangs like that recently with some friends, and I’ve thought: Oh, this is Girls Night Out, Let’s Have Fun Club. This is what my mom was doing. Part of my essential life is having good girlfriends.
When I was stuck at home during the pandemic, I started watching “Dallas” for the first time. I loved it. So many of the plot twists shocked me. I’m so jealous of people that were watching it as it was happening, back at a time where there were so few channels. It’s amazing that now we can watch whatever we want any time, but back then there was some limit to conversations. A lot of people were doing the same things, and I like that.
Outside Times Square, there’s not a lot of accessible chain restaurants here in New York like I grew up with in the Midwest. But Cowgirl in the West Village has a lot of the comfort food we would get when we went out to dinner when I was a kid. They have a chicken fried steak, they have onion rings, and I love the tartness of their frozen margaritas. They taste like you’re drinking straight concentrate.
Growing up, my parents were divorced, and my dad used to take me to the flower shop in Kansas City to pick out flowers for his dates and get me flowers as well. We would step into the walk-in cooler full of flowers, and it was the best smell ever. I loved how chilly it was. His go-to flower was the Stargazer lily, a big, blooming, excessive pink and white flower. Every few weeks at 30 Rock, they change out the flower display at one of the main entrances with Stargazer lilies. If I see them when I walk in on a Saturday, I think, ‘Ooh, this is going to be a good show.’ I get why my dad would buy them for a woman he was trying to impress.
I think Easter candy is just the best and most joyful candy: It’s bright, it’s colorful, and the things that you get for Easter are more rare and better than the candy you get for Christmas, Halloween and Valentine’s Day. I think a Cadbury Creme Egg is an incredible, rare gem, and the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in egg form are better than any other formation of Reese’s.
Le Grand Strip
C.C. McGurr, the owner of this vintage store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, pulls things for me that I wouldn’t immediately think will look good on me, but I always try them on because it’s neat when someone sees something in you that you don’t see. She hits estate sales and gets the back story on some of the clothes. So, when I’m trying on a feather robe that I don’t have any use for except that I like how I feel in it, she’s telling me about the previous woman who owned it — about the woman’s closet and how she arranged her scarves.
Kansas City Chiefs
I have a few tattoos that I got when I was, like, 21, but I really have no reason for them now. Lately, I’ve been thinking maybe I’ll get the number 15 — Patrick Mahomes’s number — just somewhere really small, because the Chiefs are something I’ve never grown tired of. I love them.