As an actress, frequent awards show fixture and Saturday Night Live veteran, Maya Rudolph knows how to think — and joke — on her feet. But in a new interview with WSJ. Magazine, the Loot star admits struggling to find her footing as a celebrity who also needed to be funny off stage, citing an awkward appearance on Late Show with David Letterman, in 2009.
Though by that time she already had a slew of screen credits — including seven seasons at SNL, which she left in 2007 — under her belt, this marked Rudolph's first (and, per IMDB, only) appearance on the CBS late-night show. This was also during a time when the Bridesmaids star says dealing with interviews and the other trappings of fame "would always feel like someone was stealing my soul." Letterman's mispronunciation of her name added to her discomfort.
“I did not have a good time,” she told the magazine of being Letterman's guest. “He said my name wrong, and I just sat there, like, I grew up my whole life in love with you. And now my heart is broken. And I’m sitting here embarrassed and humiliated. I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know how to come up with something funny to say. My public persona muscle wasn’t strong yet.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Letterman apologized to Rudolph for botching her name.
“I’m sorry that I mispronounced your name,” he said later in the show. “I’m just a boob, there’s no excuse for it, and from the bottom of my heart, I sincerely apologize.”
Rudolph says she has since "created a persona to protect myself" during red carpet interviews and talk shows.
"I’ve definitely gotten much better. When I’m uncomfortable, I try to be funny.”