The Mighty Jennifer Coolidge
Updated: Sep 14, 2022
Jennifer Coolidge was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Gretchen and Paul Constant Coolidge, who worked as a plastics manufacturer. She attended Norwell High School in Norwell, Massachusetts, and received her bachelor’s degree in theater from Emerson College in Boston. From there she joined the improv troupe Gotham City Improv, where she strengthened her natural comedic chops. Seemingly unable to obtain too much knowledge she joined the Class of 1982 at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. After graduation, she continued to stretch her comedic muscles, joining the famed Los Angles comedy troupe, The Groundlings - her fellow castmates at the time were Will Ferrell and Chris Katan.
Coolidge began appearing in television shows and tv-movies throughout the nineties with appearances on Seinfeld, Rude Awakening, and King of the Hill; and even had a few small parts in big-budget movies like Trial and Error, A Night at the Roxbury, and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. It was her memorable turn as the Stifler’s Mom in 1999’s American Pie that shot her into stardom and made her a cultural phenomenon. Her funny cougar persona was born, and Coolidge has ridden it with style and grace ever since.
The year 2000 gave Coolidge two solid films starting with The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy, which starred Timothy Olyphant, Dean Cain, and Zach Braff about a gay clique in Los Angeles, with the next being her bang-up appearance in the second film of Christopher Guest’s acclaimed mockumentary trilogy, Best in Show. A whacky comedy, Best in Show follows a handful of couples who live for nothing but the annual dog show. Coolidge plays a hapless gold-digger married to an extremely old man who doesn't speak a word throughout the entire movie and seemingly doesn’t know what is going on. Coolidge is the reigning champ of the dog show, due to the extravagant amount of money she has been able to spend on her dog, and all others must attempt to dethrone her. Coolidge’s understated; off-beat style of humor fit perfectly into Guest’s dry, satirical look at the comedic lengths people will go to in order to place first in the annual dog show.
2001 was a busy year for Coolidge with a spot on the Kelsey Grammer led sit-com Frasier, a
cameo as Stifler’s Mom in American Pie 2, a small part in Ben Stiller’s outlandish comedy about a fashion model brainwashed to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Zoolander; as well as appearing in one of her most famous roles, Paulette in the cult teen classic Legally Blonde.
A Mighty Wind is a perfect example of the unique ability Coolidge possesses to take a throw-away character with limited screen time and make you laugh out loud. The second the film cuts to the introduction of her character you snicker and when she opens her mouth it turns that snicker into a full-fledged laugh. Released in 2003, Wind was the conclusion to Christopher Guest’s mockumentary trilogy. After a famed Folk music producer dies his son decides to put on a show featuring the hit bands whom his father helped claim a minute of fame. Riddled with laugh-out-loud moments, the film takes a warm-hearted satirical look at the folk scene and what happens when bands split up and reunite after several years. Coolidge appears briefly in the movie as a publicity agent with an off-beat accent but has a lasting effect.
Coolidge is one of those actresses that are constantly working, after A Mighty Wind, she appeared in Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde; an episode of both Sex and the City and Friends; once again as Stifler’s Mom in American Wedding; and A Cinderella Story opposite Hillary Duff. She began to lend her voice to animated works such as an episode of Father of the Pride, and an episode of Nickelodeon’s As Told by a Ginger; as well as the
beloved Blue Sky Studios’ production of the animated classic Robots. With a stacked cast, including Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Robin Williams, Paula Abdul, Jim Broadbent, Amanda Bynes, and Greg Kinnear; Robots was an enduring tell of grand ambitions and idealism following a young robot as he joins the company that has inspired him only to find there are sinister workings behind the scenes that he must put a stop to. The film has stayed a favorite of the early-2000s generation.
Click is a staple in every Adam Sandler fan’s collection for its wholesome message mixed with Sandler-quirks in a performance only he could give, as well as Christopher Walken’s likable but ire presence. The film follows Sandler as he fast forwards through the parts of his life that he is bored by with a magical remote given to him by a man (Walken) in the back of a Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Sandler learns that even though life is often hard and humdrum, it makes the good times all that much better and if you wish it gone, you’ll miss the important parts. Jennifer plays Janine, Adam Sandler's wife’s best friend who is obsessed with her outward appearance.
Between 2004 and 2006 she was a series regular on the Friends spin-off Joey. After which, she once again teamed up with Christopher Guest and his merry band of players for the satirical look at how far actors and actresses will go to generate award show buzz in For Your Consideration. The film was a mild hit with critics.
When Werner Herzog was casting his next film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans he had never seen Legally Blonde or American Pie or any of Coolidge’s famed comedies, understandably, he was a very serious German director who didn’t have time for those silly American comedies. Either way, it turned out well for Coolidge because he thought she was “just another actress” so, she was cast in this dark, dramatic film about a corrupt detective investigating the murder of five illegal Senegalese immigrants in crime-ridden New Orleans. Jennifer plays an alcoholic stepmother to Nicolas Cage’s coked-out detective.
The cast also includes Eve Mendes, Val Kilmer, Tom Powers, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Shea Whigham, and Michael Shannon. The film fared well with critics, with famed movie-critic Roger Ebert giving it four-out-of-four stars. The role was a different turn for Coolidge as it showed off her dramatic chops.
The movie spawned a love for New Orleans in Coolidge, buying two homes there that got “pretty bashed up” during Hurricane Katrina. “One was in the French Quarter, and of course, that was the only home blown to bits in the French Quarter. And then [I bought] one in the Lower Garden District. But they were the only sections that weren't submerged underwater" (Source). She planned to rebuild and stated emphatically that she plans to retire there.
After one more hit as Stifler’s Mom in American Reunion, she landed a role in CBS’s hit comedy show 2 Broke Girls about two polar-opposite girls who dream of a better life as they work as waitresses at a greasy diner. The show ran for six seasons and 138 episodes with Jennifer appearing in 124 of them. It was around this time that she started to do stand-up comedy, after hosting a “Women in Film” event at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “I had never done this sort of thing, but I took the job before this crowd of really famous Hollywood women, Sandra Bullock included. It went over well, so I decided to take an act on the road. I ended up doing shows all over the country and the world for two years, Scotland and Australia included.” Her act includes stories of her “really weird Hollywood auditions,” and all “...the strange stuff guys say when they're trying to get you to sleep with them…” (Source). Sounds exquisitely Jennifer Coolidge.
She continued to lend her voice to animated projects both adult and child-friendly in nature such as; The Emoji Movie, Rick and Morty, Netflix’s I Heart Arlo, HBO Max’s 10-Year-Old Tom, and Nickelodeon’s The Loud House. She once again got to showcase her dramatic abilities in Emerald Fennell’s crime-drama, Promising Young Woman in 2020, as well as, Todd Stephens’s Swan Song in 2021. She took the world a-storm when she helmed HBO Max’s beloved dramedy The White Lotus. The series follows several couples’ escapades as they spend a week at a tropical resort in Hawaii and the decreasing patience of the underappreciated staff. The series brought a slew of award nominations and wins; including a Golden Globe nomination, SAG Award nomination, and a win at both the Critics Choice Awards and the Primetime Emmy Awards for Coolidge. Along with all the award recognition, starring in The White Lotus, Coolidge found new confidence saying, “There were so many years where I was sitting around… I didn’t have the confidence to really go after something…. But there’s been a huge shift for me. I probably wouldn’t want to do multiple seasons of a show I wasn’t involved in creating now; I wouldn’t want to do a sitcom again. I’m not putting down any job I’ve had, as I’m grateful for all of it, but at this moment in my life, I want to take more control of what I’m doing” (Source).
With over six projects currently in different stages of development, including the long-awaited Legally Blonde 3 and the highly anticipated season two of The White Lotus, Coolidge shows no signs of slowing down - a staple of her long and storied career.
What can be said about Jennifer Coolidge other than she is unapologetically herself. She’s not just an actress she’s a persona, a call-back to those old Hollywood days when actors/actresses created an image for themselves that helped fuel their onscreen portrayals.