For people who never realized that Tony Award-winning actress Laura Benanti was funny, she’s now got a new Broadway show that proves otherwise. Also a TV series. And a recurring character — a certain smoldering Slovenian-American first lady you might recognize — on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” She’s funny, people. Got it?
She’s also up for the challenge of performing alongside established comedians like Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key, who each make their Broadway debuts in “Meteor Shower,” a new play written by Steve Martin, which opens at the Booth Theatre on Wednesday, Nov. 29.
On TBS’ “The Detour,” a comedy created by Jason Jones and Samantha Bee, Benanti plays a U.S. Postal Service inspector hot on the trail of Jones and his family. The role was a recurring character but she was promoted to series regular for Season 3, which premieres Jan. 23.
Then there’s her stint this past year as Melania Trump, in sketches with Colbert, who introduced her to a whole new audience.
Benanti, 38, is married with a 9-month-old daughter, Ella Rose.
You’re working with some major comedy stars these days — Amy Schumer, Keegan-Michael Key, Steve Martin, Jason Jones — so let’s cut to the chase. Who’s funniest?
No pressure. You can whisper it.
I mean . . .
It’s OK. Just kidding.
They’re all the funniest in their own ways. But I gotta say there’s a way that Amy makes me laugh that’s pretty amazing.
She just tickles me. She’s so special.
So in this play, we’ve got two couples gathered at a house to watch a meteor shower. And Amy plays the more uptight wife?
Yeah. My character is essentially the id to her character, not confined to social norms.
It’s hard to imagine Amy doing anything that might conform to social norms. She’s known for not kowtowing to notions of how a woman should look or act.
Exactly. That’s why I think she’s doing an incredible job. The character is the exact opposite of her. She’s a wonderful actress. She really is.
We know Steve Martin on-screen. What’s he’s like as the writer?
He is . . . always funny. Because he can’t help it. And he’s very much a gentleman. So smart, kind, generous. He’s one of my comedy heroes. So there’s definitely . . . extra pressure. It’s a little nerve-wracking.
This is your first play postpartum. How’s that going?
It’s tricky. We rehearse during the day, then do the show at night. I’d been giving my daughter a bath, putting her to bed — so to leave her all day and not see her till the next morning has been challenging. I look forward to the play being open so I can have more consistent time with her. I’m just tired. She’s up at like five in the morning. I try to take a nap before the show. But can’t always. So sometimes it’s like . . . OK . . . I’m running on fumes at the moment. Y’know, it’s being a working mom.
Getting bumped to a regular on “The Detour” — I imagine it’s nice to get confirmation that you made a real impression with people.
It felt great. I was so honored. It’s my favorite TV job I’ve ever had. The writing is so good, and the people are fun and loving and family people — they all have kids, so they get it if something’s going on with your child and you need to tend to that. They’re actually human beings, which in this business can be hard to find sometimes.
And how’s your Slovenian accent these days?
Ha! [She laughs.] I dunno, I haven’t used it in a while. It sorta stays under the radar. But she sure is fun to play. I wish there was more cause to play her . . . but it is enjoyable to do it.
Impersonating Melania Trump on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” must’ve introduced you to a whole new audience, and exposed you to a different level of fame.
Yes. It’s made a difference in terms of how people view me as a comedian. Which is great because that’s something I’ve been fighting for my whole career. People don’t necessarily think of me as funny.
I don’t know why. My first few jobs were more serious, I guess. Now it’s like, oooOK, they get it. Which is a relief.
Why is that important to you?
Because that’s how I see the world — through the lens of humor. That’s my personality. So it felt like I was misunderstood. I’m not this serious person. I’m a funny person. And I want to work more in comedy, because for me it’s so joyful.
Well . . . a TV comedy, a Broadway comedy — it seems to be working out.
I feel really lucky.