Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Things You Might Not Know About Kristen Wiig

Whether you're a long-time Saturday Night Live devotee, a lover of romantic comedies like Bridesmaids, or a fan of superhero flicks like Wonder Woman 1984, you're probably pretty familiar with the work of comedy superstar Kristen Wiig. After rising to prominence on SNL thanks to her pitch-perfect impressions and original characters like Gilly and the "Target Lady," Wiig became one of the most in-demand comedy players in Hollywood, using her incredible comedic timing and goofy, endearing performances to become a huge star.

Even if you consider yourself a pretty big fan of Wiig, there's probably a lot you don't know about this huge star, from her pre-fame life experiences and stories from her teenage years to the original character she debuted during her Saturday Night Live audition. As Wiig continues to take Hollywood by storm, you'll probably want to learn more about the multi-talented writer, actress, and producer. Here's just a few things you might not have known about Kristen Wiig.

Kristen Wiig's family originally hails from Scandinavia

Kristen Wiig might not come from a traditional show business family, but you might be able to tell from her extremely distinctive last name that her lineage can be traced back to the region of Scandinavia. Born and raised in upstate New York, Wiig is Norwegian on her father's side. And as it happens, her grandfather, Gunnar Wiig, was a pretty big name in Rochester, New York.

After moving from Norway to the United States as a young child, Wiig's grandfather grew up in Rochester and originally planned on becoming a chemist. However, he eventually found himself working in the radio business, performing broadcasts for the Rochester Red Wings baseball team. Beyond his broadcasting work, Gunnar Wiig was also an executive in local radio, working for Rochester stations like WHEC. Wiig's whole family isn't involved in show business, but it certainly seems like Gunnar's work in radio paved the way for her to pursue a performing career.

Kristen Wiig has some seriously unexpected skills

Beyond her obvious comedic chops, which she's shown off in everything from Knocked Up to Saturday Night Live to Bridesmaids, Wiig has a unique set of skills you probably wouldn't expect. Specifically, they're related to staying alive out in the wilderness.

During an interview with fellow comedic actor Alec Baldwin on his podcast Here's the Thing, Wiig revealed a pretty fascinating pastime — outdoor survival. After returning to Rochester after college, Wiig told Baldwin, "After I was back in Rochester I did a NOLS [National Outdoor Leadership] semester. Do you know what that is? It's like Outward Bound where you live outside." Naturally, the host pressed Wiig, asking if it was real or if she was going through a "ring-a-ding-ding phase," to which Wiig responded, "It's soul-searching, for three months."

Clarifying that it was a course in "outdoor leadership," Wiig concluded, "It was like you learn how to live outside. ... If you get lost in the woods, I would know what to do. And if I was with you, I would bring up this conversation and say, 'You're on your own.'"

She's said she was a 'troublesome' teenager

Wiig has played some pretty outlandish — and even rule-breaking — characters throughout her career, but in interviews, she definitely comes across as a quiet, intelligent soul. However, according to Wiig herself, she wasn't exactly an angelic teenager.

In a 2011 feature in Interview magazine where she chatted with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, Wiig made a shocking confession — she was kind of a terrible teen. When Grohl told Wiig that rock stars he knew had crushes on her based on her SNL performances, Wiig responded, "I probably lived more of a rock star life when I was 15. I got in trouble a fair amount. I cared more about hanging out and skipping school than studying. Which I am not recommending teenagers do if they read this."

"Stay in school," Grohl agreed. "Stay away from drugs. All of those things you should not do, we did them, but we shouldn't have done them." Wiig then added, "I definitely ran with a pack of hoodlums, that's for sure." It's a little hard to imagine Wiig as such a rebel, but we'll have to take her word for it.

Kristen Wiig studied art before she started acting

It may seem as if Wiig was always destined to perform, but at one point in her life, the future star had no desire to act at all. In fact, when she went to the University of Arizona, she actually ended up studying a completely different subject. But as fate would have it, a required class inadvertently guided Wiig towards her now-amazing career.

As Wiig told The New York Times, she majored in studio art — like painting, photographer, ceramics, etc. — at the University of Arizona. But a required performing arts class led her professor to encourage Wiig to keep acting. Though she had her doubts at first, she ended up moving to Los Angeles to pursue the goal after just one acting class, and she was instantly hooked when she attended her first Groundlings improv show. (The Groundlings, L.A.'s famous improv training ground, has produced several Saturday Night Live stars over the years.) Clearly, following her gut to Los Angeles worked out pretty well for Wiig in the end.

Her pre-acting work is pretty interesting

Plenty of actors work interesting jobs before they get famous, but Wiig's non-acting resume is even more eclectic than you'd expect. Across a New York Times feature, her interview with Alec Baldwin on Here's the Thing, and her episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld, Wiig has detailed some of the interesting jobs she's held over the years, as well as a stint living in another country.

Throughout multiple interviews, Wiig has revealed that she worked at the popular clothing store Anthropologie, as a florist in a flower shop, and even took time off from work to travel, eventually landing at a monastery in India for three months. As a particularly odd twist, some of her previous jobs made for some awkward interactions after she got famous. As Wiig told the Times, after working in the executive dining room at Universal, she later met with executives she once served. "I just had a meeting with Adam Fogelson," Wiig revealed to The New York Times, naming a former chairman of the studio. "And I was like, 'Oh, my God! You used to sit at Booth 10!'"

Kristen Wiig unveiled one of her signature SNL characters during her audition

In a 2017 episode of Jerry Seinfeld's casual talk show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Wiig revealed that one of her most popular Saturday Night Live characters made her debut during her SNL audition. So which one was it? It was none other than the Target Lady, a cashier at a chain store who's way too enthusiastic about the store's wares.

Based on a real-life Target lady's unusual vocal stylings, Wiig told Seinfeld that she wasn't sure, but she thought that she had done the character during her audition. Sure enough, the show found footage of Wiig's actual audition where she did exactly the same voice that viewers would come to love on SNL. (She also told Seinfeld that she didn't expect to get hired, but eventually, she got the call four episodes into the show's 31st season, starting a little later than most.) 

However, the Target Lady isn't the only character inspired by real life who made it onto SNL. Wiig also revealed to Seinfeld that Aunt Linda — an out-of-touch film critic — was inspired by a confused woman on a plane. Wiig was on the flight and noticed the woman watching The Matrix and shouting about how baffling the film was. Wiig even said she wrote down things the woman said, creating the character of Linda right then and there.

She survived a huge SNL budget cut

Shortly after arriving on the set of Saturday Night Live, Wiig faced a totally unexpected obstacle – a huge budget cut. After NBC faced lower ratings and revenue than normal during the 2005-2006 season, Wiig managed to survive, even as longtime repertory players like Horatio Sanz and Chris Parnell were let go due to cost-related issues.

Luckily for audiences, SNL head honcho Lorne Michaels kept Wiig around, and eventually, she earned widespread fame and acclaim for original characters like Penelope and Mindy Elise Grayson, as well as her impersonations of real-life figures like Kathie Lee Gifford, Suze Orman, and Björk. Ultimately, Wiig earned multiple Emmy nominations — including four consecutive ones during her SNL career. And when she left the show in the spring of 2012, she got an unusually emotional send-off, set to a live rendition of the Rolling Stones' "She's a Rainbow," which was performed by musical guest Mick Jagger, showing just how much the SNL crew valued her presence.

Kristen Wiig wrote Bridesmaids with a friend

After Wiig played a small but hilarious role in Judd Apatow's 2007 comedy Knocked Up alongside Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen, the director took notice, and he eventually helped the writer and actress helm her own film. As the story goes, Apatow asked Wiig if she had any screenplay ideas — an approach he also took with Steve Carell, which eventually formed into The 40-Year-Old Virgin — and in response, she teamed up with her former Groundlings writing partner, Annie Mumolo, to work on their idea.

The resulting film, Bridesmaids, turned out to be the biggest turning point in Wiig's career. As the writer and star of the hugely successful movie, Wiig was now a marketable movie star, and she ended up earning some other enormous accolades, as well. In the end, Bridesmaids scored an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay — as well as a Best Supporting Actress nod for Wiig's unforgettable co-star Melissa McCarthy — proving that Wiig is a Hollywood force to be reckoned with. In 2021, Mumolo and Wiig teamed up again for the zany comedy Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar, continuing their clearly ideal creative partnership.

She showed off a secret talent alongside Sia at the 2015 Grammys

Throughout her career, Kristen Wiig has stolen the spotlight at several awards shows, even when she's not nominated. Frequently, her presenting gigs — whether she's appearing alongside Will Ferrell or real-life friend and Bridesmaids co-star Maya Rudolph – are hailed as the best moments of any given awards show. However, one of her most remarkable appearances was a complete surprise, and it showed off a shocking secret talent.

In early 2015, during the Grammy Awards, Wiig made an utterly unexpected appearance, not as a comedian but as a dancer. Here, she was working alongside Sia and the nominated singer's frequent collaborator, professional dancer Maddie Ziegler, for a performance of "Chandelier," clad in a wig mimicking Sia's signature look. In a show-stopping performance, Wiig matched Ziegler's skills and emotionality at every turn, keeping up with the young and extraordinarily skilled dancer. Wiig is definitely a woman of many talents, but not many people could've said that they could see this "Chandelier" cameo coming.

Kristen Wiig actually hated one of Bridesmaids' most famous scenes

When fans think of Bridesmaids, there's any number of iconic lines or scenes that might come to mind, from Annie's (Wiig) drunken tirade that gets her kicked off of an airplane or a bridal shower gone horribly, horribly wrong. However, when all is said and done, Bridesmaids' most famous scene is probably one where Annie, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), and the rest of the group eat at a dingy steak restaurant right before their dress fitting ... where all of the women develop food poisoning — except for Rose Byrne's haughty Helen, who didn't eat a bite of the food.

The resulting scene is one of the grossest — and funniest — sequences in recent movie history, but as it turns out, Wiig really didn't like it. As the actress told The Hollywood Reporter's podcast, Awards Chatter, in 2017, she was against including the scene, going against producer Judd Apatow and director Paul Feig. "The scene was not our idea, and it was not in the original script and we didn't love it," Wiig admitted to THR. "It was strongly suggested for us to put that in there. I didn't want to see people sh****ng and puking." Obviously, the scene ended up in the final cut of the film whether or not Wiig wanted it there, but she's made her objections clear over the years anyway.

The actress became a mother in 2020

Though Kristen Wiig has mostly kept her private life, well, private, she has made a few important announcements over the years, including her journey into motherhood. In 2020, after getting engaged to her longtime boyfriend — actor and writer Avi Rothman — Wiig later revealed that the couple had twin babies via a surrogate.

In conversation with InStyle, Wiig told the magazine, "We tried to keep the [surrogacy] process private for as long as possible because it is a very private thing. Unfortunately, we were photographed with them — and, well, it's out there! ... I'm trying to find that space where I can keep my privacy and also be there for someone else who may be going through it." It's devastating that the process was so difficult over the years for Wiig and Rothman, but happily, the two are now proud parents. And Wiig's openness about the experience could help fans going through a similar struggle.