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What You Need To Know About Paula Pell

This content was paid for by Quibi and created by Looper.

There's a brand new murder mystery show on the scene, and what it lacks in the gritty pathos of True Detective or Luther, it makes up for with a bucolic New England setting and plenty of LOL-worthy moments. Quibi's original comedy series Mapleworth Murders is a loving parody of the cozy mystery genre, and specifically pokes fun at shows like Murder, She Wrote and Miss Marple.

The series follows Abigail Mapleworth, a mystery writer who lives in the quaint town of Woodstream. Similar to the shows it parodies, our hero must solve the truly ridiculous number of murders that occur around her using her wits and powers of deduction. However, in Mapleworth Murders, the absurdity is turned up to 11. Case in point: the first episode begins at a wine tasting event and ends with the owner of the vineyard being flattened under a rolling barrel like a bit from Loony Tunes.

Abigail is played by Paula Pell, who co-created and co-wrote the show alongside John Lutz. Even if Pell's name doesn't sound familiar, it's very likely that you've encountered her work. The writer, actress, and producer has been a fixture in the entertainment industry for over two decades and was once called "the funniest person on TV" by comedian Patton Oswalt (via AV Club). If that's still not ringing a bell, don't worry — we'll bring you up to speed on everything you need to know about Paula Pell.

Paula Pell is an Emmy-winning comedy writer

Pell is best known for her work as a writer on Saturday Night Live, for which she, along with the rest of the writing staff, won an Emmy in 2002. She worked on the iconic sketch comedy show from 1995 through 2013. During that time, she was credited with conceiving some of that era's best-loved characters and sketches, including Debbie Downer and the Spartan Cheerleaders, according to Indiewire. In an interview with CBS Los Angeles, Pell said that she was especially proud of creating characters that appeared on the show over and over. "In that day and era, recurring characters were solid gold," she explained. "If you could come up with a recurring character that was funny and relatable, the audience would lose their minds."

SNL is Pell's most notable writing credit, but it's hardly her only one. She's a regular collaborator of Tina Fey's, with whom she worked at SNL for many years. Pell is credited with writing two episodes of 30 Rock and penned the script for the Fey and Amy Poehler feature vehicle Sisters. And it's not just behind the scenes that Fey and Pell have combined their comedic talents.

As an actress, Paula Pell has turned in some scene stealing work

In addition to her lauded work as a comedy writer, Pell has also appeared as an actress in a number of TV shows and movies. Most recently, she co-starred as Val in the Netflix original film Wine Country along with Fey, Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Rachel Dratch, among others. Pell also appeared in a number of episodes of 30 Rock as Paula Hornberger, the wife of hapless TGS producer Pete Hornberger (Scott Adsit).

Pell was a series regular on NBC's high school-set comedy A.P. Bio, where she played Helen, the secretary to Patton Oswalt's Principal Durbin. She was also a recurring guest star on Netflix's Love and does regular voice work on Big Mouth. Some of her memorable one-off roles include Ron Swanson's (Nick Offerman) terrifying mother, Tammy Zero, on Parks and Recreation, and as an Elaine Stritch-inspired musical theater matron on Documentary Now!

While playing Abigail on Mapleworth Murders is hardly Pell's first acting role, it is the first time she has starred in a series that she created. Being the creative force both behind and in front of the camera gave Pell the opportunity to imbue her character with some of her own life experiences.

Paula Pell drew inspiration from her real life to create Abigail Mapleworth

One thing that Pell has in common with the character she plays on Mapleworth Murders is that both she and Abigail are out and proud lesbians. In an interview with The Advocate, Pell talked about how her own personal life wound up influencing the character. She noted, "It just kind of came naturally that our version of this spinster would be gay since I am, so it worked out perfectly."

Pell went on to describe the specific influences that went into Abigail's character. She told The Advocate that she looked back at the older LGBTQ+ women she remembers from her own life as inspiration for Abigail: "All of us grew up with that one aunt that shared expenses with another friend. They baked together, and you're like, 'How long have they shared an apartment, you know, just for safety reasons?'... 'Forty-eight years... forty-eight years they've been together.' I love those old-timey ladies that are also just queer as hell... it made me very happy."

Those types of well-observed personal touches are what has made Paula Pell a force in the comedy world, whether she's working behind the camera or stealing scenes in front of it.