Mary Lynn Rajskub Is Ready to Spill All Her Hollywood Secrets

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Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

You know Mary Lynn Rajskub’s face even if you don’t necessarily recognize her name. That conflict is at the center of her new book of essays about an unconventional career that started with cult comedies like Mr. Show and The Larry Sanders Show and took an unexpected swerve into drama with her role as Chloe O’Brian on Fox’s 24.

In this episode of The Last Laugh podcast, Rajskub shares wild stories from her Hollywood journey, including what she learned about acting from Garry Shandling, her make-out scene with Tom Cruise that was cut out of Magnolia, the origins of her Gail the Snail character on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a very public and unwanted kiss from Rush Limbaugh, and why she’s “not sure what happened” to her insurrectionist co-star Jay Johnston.

“I was on the most popular show that was on television at the time,” Rajskub says of 24, which she joined in its third season as Jack Bauer’s resident computer genius nearly two decades ago, and stayed on through a 2014 reboot. “And then cut to 10 years later, when I’m a road comic just by myself in these clubs,” she adds, explaining that the audience is often split between casual comedy fans and 24 fanatics who bring along their DVD box sets for her to autograph.

Rajskub writes in her book about a memorable interaction with a guy who recognized her from 24 on a plane and couldn’t believe she was flying coach. “Aren’t you set for life?” he asked her.

As the actress puts it, 24 “changed” her life but definitely did not make her “set for life.” And when it comes to the show’s controversial depiction of torture, she says she “absolutely feels uncomfortable” about it in retrospect.

“People can’t imagine that there are different layers to this experience,” she says now. “But I think that everyone can relate to an expectation of how you thought something was going to be and then it’s not that way.”

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Rajskub started out doing stand-up comedy that could be better described as performance art without any traditional setup-punchline structure. “I was really being vulnerable on stage,” she says now. “And the laughs came from like, ‘Is she OK? What’s going to happen to her?’”

She quickly fell into the alternative comedy scene of the early 1990s, performing on shows with comedians like David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, who would later tap her to be an original cast member on their seminal HBO sketch series Mr. Show, and Janeane Garofalo, who she would go on to replace as the talent booker character on The Larry Sanders Show.

“It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me because I really felt like, for the first time, I was just giddy with, ‘I’m around my people!’” she recalls.

Rajskub confirms that her exit from Mr. Show did stem from the fact that she had been dating Cross and broke up after the second season. “So I think they decided that I was no longer funny to have around, and so I did not have that job anymore,” she says, adding, with a laugh, “It was a different time.”

‘Bob’s Burgers’ Actor Jay Johnston Confessed He Was at the Capitol Riot, Says Director

Another original Mr. Show cast member, Jay Johnston, has been in the news of late for his alleged participation in the January 6 insurrection. Rajskub says that they were “sort of in the same social circle” for years but eventually lost touch.

“I saw that picture,” she says of the photo posted by the FBI soliciting tips on the actor’s whereabouts. “And I saw the people that confirmed it was him online and the people that didn't say anything. But I still have not heard what happened after that. And I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t heard from anybody to follow up.”

“Everybody loves him. I love him. I don’t want anything bad to happen to him,” Rajskub adds of Johnston, who, until recently, voiced the role of Jimmy Pesto on Bob’s Burgers. “Of course, I do not support storming the Capitol in any way. I question where you’re at mentally if you want to do something like that. But that’s his choice.”

Ultimately, Rajskub describes Johnston as “brilliant and beloved,” concluding, “So I’m not sure what happened.”

Listen to the episode now and subscribe to ‘The Last Laugh’ on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts, and be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Tuesday.

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