“The Maya Rudolph Show” airs Monday night on NBC with your favorite “SNL” veteran (and future supporting actress in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” –for real. Look it up) putting on sketches, musical numbers, and a “variety” of other entertainment pieces for your viewing pleasure. Whether or not the show’s a success has yet to be determined, but the one-and-done format makes you imagine that if it works, there will be more of the same in the pipeline. With optimism in mind, we put together a list of our favorite female comedians who we think could excel in the dated format.
Now, there are some parameters. Comedians who are already fronting their own shows are out, like Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, and Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome, whose series “Garfunkel and Oates” is coming soon from IFC. We also ignored some of the bigger names who can kind of do whatever they want, the cut off being whether or not they can carry a feature. Sorry Tina Fey and Melissa McCarthy — we would love to see what you come up with, but we’re guessing you’ve got bigger fish to fry.
With that, our choices, in alphabetical order:
Bamford is probably most well-recognized by the general public for her role on the fourth season of “Arrested Development” as Tobias’ drug-addicted love interest, Debris Bardeaux, but anyone who listens to podcasts or frequents stand-up comedy shows is much more familiar with Bamford as just a damn funny comic. Her comedy specials have been named on more Top 10 lists than can be counted, and her extensive voice work experience would come in handy for a variety hour as well. More importantly, Bamford has a unique voice — in more than the literal manner. Even for a stand-up, her humor is subjectively appealing and objectively hilarious, guaranteeing whatever she came up with for a variety hour would be new, exciting, and unconventional. Plus, let’s put that vocal range to work.
“How Was Your Week with Julie Klausner” is a staple of the Travers household. Not only does my older sister listen to the podcast and consistently giggle to herself while performing boring chores around the house, but even my knowledgeable but technology-troubled mother finds a way to hear the show as often as she can. It’s a testament to its addictive nature — and not an accurate sampling of the many, many Klausner fans — but the comedian is more than just her podcast. She’s the “Media Ambassador” at Vulture, making weekly videos for the pop culture hub while also writing “On the Street” bits with the man whose popularity has increased as fast as the decibels of his voice: Billy Eichner. Adding to her appeal as a variety host is her long list of sketch-friendly contacts, including Amy Poehler, Fred Armisen, and Patton Oswalt.
While not a stand-up comic, Mullally has showed off her range with an astounding array of guest spots on major and minor network TV since “Will and Grace” ended in 2006. She’s done voice work on “Bob’s Burgers” and “Axe Cop,” and co-starred with her husband Nick Offerman as his librarian ex-wife Tammy Two on “Parks and Recreation.” That only begins to scratch the surface of her post-Karen career — which included a stint as a talk show host on “The Megan Mullally Show” — but for a woman who was best known for her high-pitched voice and brash attitude, Mulllally has built a new reputation with a diverse range of roles. As a variety host, Mullally has the voice to sing, the energy to dance, the friends list needed to build up a solid lineup, and the talent to burn the place down. Plus, there’s a pretty good chance her loving hubby would stop by to help out, and we’re all for more of that.
Tig Notaro + Lake Bell
Okay, I know I snuck in an extra woman here, but come on! If anyone deserves a little lenience for cheating the system it’s Tig Notaro, who was rocketed to fame with her instantly legendary set in 2012 at the Largo in Los Angeles. Her routine centered around her recent cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments. While incredibly funny, the performer first, actor second attitude of Notaro may not lend her to solo hosting duties on a variety show, so we’ve included her recent director and co-star Lake Bell from “In a World…” to help her out. It’s cool. They’re friends.
Jenny Slate is about to set the world on fire with her dynamite performance in “Obvious Child,” and when she does, we hope her first pick of the projects thrown at her is a variety show. Okay, maybe there are better uses of her immediate time, but the frank-speaking stand-up would knock a one-hour special out of the park. She wasn’t on “SNL” very long after dropping an f-bomb on live TV, but Slate continued to excel with creating characters and disappearing into them, whether as Liz B on “Kroll Show,” Mona-Lisa on “Parks and Recreation,” or Marcel the Shell on YouTube. Her talking points might be too crass for network TV, but the content would speak for itself.
I don’t know if I can come up with another reason outside of her voicing Lana on “Archer,” and I’m not sure I need to. Fine! I’ll go on. In addition to her history in stand-up comedy, Tyler has considerable hosting experience with stints on “Talk Soup,” “The Talk” and the upcoming revival of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” More importantly, Tyler guest starred on “MADtv” and sang at Dartmouth during her college years. Even more importantly, she’s Lana on “Archer.” She can do whatever she wants.
Williams is just starting to get hot, despite being a “Daily Show” correspondent since 2012. She landed a plum recurring role on the last season of “Girls,” and has been lighting things up as a stand-up in her home base of Los Angeles. A Upright Citizens Brigade alum, the training shows in her varied coverage on Comedy Central’s long-running news program. It might be a little early to say she’d be perfect for a variety show, but I doubt anyone would be opposed to seeing what she could come up with.
Bonus – Tina Belcher (“Bob’s Burgers”)
Some may argue the real life voice actor who plays Louise on “Bob’s Burgers,” Kristin Schaal, would be the better choice, but to them I say, “Watch Schaal on ’30 Rock’ then get back to me.” In a dream world where everyone loves ponies and no sex question is too uncomfortable, Tina Belcher would be a dream variety show host. She’s confident, determined, and incredibly watchable. She’s still growing, obviously, so she hasn’t even reached her peak talent level. As long as she stays away from cartwheels, a live show with Tina — possibly sabotaged and thusly enhanced by little sister Louise — is the stuff every little girl’s (and boy’s) dreams are made of. Just leave the real-life people behind.