Vanessa Bayer knew she wanted to be a comedian when she was in college. It helped that her parents, Todd and Carolyn Bayer, are funny. Dad is great at impressions, and Mom has a great sense of humor.
“I don’t know if she knows how funny she is,” Bayer said in a Nov. 19 telephone interview from New York, where she works as a cast member of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
Bayer’s parents, who live in Chagrin Falls, are expected to be in the audience Sunday evening when their daughter returns home to perform at the Improv, a Flats comedy club.
Bayer, whose Orange High School classmates named as the student “Most Likely to Succeed” when she graduated in 2000, majored in communications and French at the University of Pennsylvania, where she began to do stand-up.
Twelve years later, after stints in Chicago’s Second City, The Annoyance and iO Chicago, Bayer is in her third season as a SNL cast member, living a dream she’s had for years. She is known for her impression of pop singer Miley Cyrus and her portrayal, on “Weekend Update,” of a childhood friend of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Who’s next for the Bayer treatment? Bayer wouldn’t go into detail.
“I sort of choose just by people being interesting, who have voices I feel that are interesting that I can do or have certain mannerisms I can imitate,” she said. “I’m not sure exactly how I pick. Things just sort of catch my eye.”
Bayer continuously scans pop culture, largely on television. “I try to stay up-to-date with a lot of popular TV and news as well, so I know what’s out there,” she said.
Writing for SNL is a group effort, she suggested, though she has a lot of input into her own skits. “I don’t write everything that I’m on, but I write a fair mount of the things that I’m on,” she said. “Most of it is collaboration, but depending on what it is, I collaborate with different people.”
According to the Orange High School website, Bayer was a straight-A student who graduated in the top 5 percent of her class, survived childhood leukemia and was involved in many student activities, including membership in the National Honor Society. In September 2010, she became a member of the cast of SNL from iO Chicago, a theater outlet whose alumnae include Tina Fey, Mike Meyers, Chris Farley and SNL alum Amy Poehler.
According to the Second City website, Bayer worked in “Jewsical” and “Girls Night Out,” was an understudy in that famous comedy troupe’s traveling show, and graduated from its training center conservatory program.
Has Bayer always been a star? “I don’t really know about that,” she said, laughing. Her “most likely to succeed” label in the high school yearbook likely had more to do with grades than her thespian talent, she suggested. “But I really appreciated that,” she said. “It was fun when I saw I‘d been called that.”
Vanessa isn’t the only young Bayer to move to New York. Also living in that area is her older brother Jonah, a guitarist and former music editor of Alternative Press in Cleveland.
“We’re really close,” Bayer said. “He’s a musician, he’s a music journalist, he‘s a critic, he supports me a lot with comedy and I support him a lot in writing… I think my parents are really happy we’re in the same city.”
WHAT: Vanessa Bayer
WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 25
WHERE: Improv, 1148 Main Ave., Cleveland
TICKETS & INFO: 216-696-4677