Who would have thought that the six years of laughter comedian and actress Heidi Gardner has delivered to the world on Saturday Night Live all traces back to the lost art of prank phone calls? It may be hard to believe, but the Kansas City native harnessed her craft of character creation on random people in the 816 area code well before she even considered SNL to be an option.
Gardner spoke with Awards Radar and explained the origins of her comedy/acting career, “As a kid I was a big prank caller. I would do get a lot of character work out that way. But I grew up in Kansas City,” said Gardner. “And even though I was like obsessed with comedy and pop culture and movies, SNL did just didn’t seem like there was a path in the Midwest. I wasn’t like a kid actor and do, like, the community theater. So it just felt like something that like happens in LA and New York, somehow – maybe just people who are born there, do it. I just didn’t understand how that was ever a possibility. I kind of always thought I would be just a funny person that would quote movies and TV shows. That was how I’d get my humor out and prank calls.”
Thankfully, the journey did not end there, even if the route was not as direct as you would expect. “Then I moved to LA to pursue hair and makeup. I was working in a salon and happened to meet a friend who was in The Groundlings, which I’d heard of. She invited me to a show. I went and saw that just like for pure entertainment. After I watched it. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you know, this is so cool. I can take all my friends and family to this when they come in town and visit like this is everyone will love this.’
Lacking confidence in her ability it took some prodding from friends and family to push her from to take the next steps. Gardner recalled the discussion, “I said ‘I’m not an actor.’ Then she (her friend) was like, ‘You leave me seven minute voicemails in character all the time. I know you can do this.’ And so it was her pushing me and my older brother and just other friends that were like, ‘We’ve been waiting for you to do something like this.’ That was kind of where it all started.” All it took was a little push – a Boop, dare I say.
My conversation with Heidi had a continuing prank call theme throughtout and even after. As someone who appreciates the artistry put into those fleeting moments of hilarious hijinks, I ate up every word. Lucky for fans of SNL, SuperMansion, Apple TV+’s Shrinking and others, Gardner did take those next steps. We discuss her starting on SNL, the first time she shouted ‘Live from New York!,’ where she mines her characters – like fan-favorite ‘Angel, Every Boxer’s from Every Movie About Boxing Ever,’ and more.
We also discuss her big acting role as Grace on Shrinking and the one word/scene that has everybody talking – ‘Boop!’ If you do not know what this means, don’t spoil it for yourself, watch season one on Apple TV+. Otherwise proceed to watch my the full conversation with Heidi (below). You can also watch all of Heidi’s awesome work on Saturday Night Live streaming on Peacock.
And next time you receive a prank call, don’t get angry. Instead say, “Good luck,” you may just have the next Heidi Gardner on the other end of the call.