Nasim Pedrad debuts her new TBS comedy series Chad this week. Created, produced, and written by Pedrad, the series follows an 14-year-old Persian-American boy, played by Pedrad, as he attempts to navigate the choppy waters of adolescence, his mother's dating life, and his own cultural identity.
If that seems like a far-left turn for a comic actress, you likely haven't been paying much attention to Pedrad, whose off kilter brand of comedy was on full display during her five years as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. She left the show after the 2013-14 season to co-star in the ill-fated FOX comedy Mulaney, but her prolific character work lives on in our memory and in this ranked list:
Guest host Bryan Cranston played the father to Pedrad as she played one of her many kid characters during her SNL run, this time a squeaky-voiced little squirt who gets some amateur boxing lessons from dear old dad, only for dad to repeatedly land knock-down blows on the kid. The punches are depicted so cartoonishly that you can laugh without thinking it's child abuse, and Pedrad is playing a verbose-but-hapless kid character, something that should serve her well in Chad.
With a long roster of recurring characters to her name, Pedrad was arguably the the last of SNL's true character players. Shallon was a chill high-school student whose extreme confidence leads to her missing the point of most school lectures, like when host Edward Norton tried to teach the class about being aware of strangers.
This sketch, featuring Jay (Jay Pharoah) and Bey (Maya Rudolph) receiving guests after the birth of baby Blue Ivy, was pretty much just an excuse for a parade of SNL celebrity impersonations. Pedrad stepped in as Nicki Minaj, all decked out for Pink Friday, singing baby Blue a lullabye featuring Minaj's signature schizophrenic vocal stylings and nightmare imagery.
In this sketch, Pedrad and Andy Samberg play girlfriend and boyfriend whose night alone together is interrupted by Taylor Swift as Pedrad's roommate coming home from work. The sketch then shifts into Pedrad and Swift's exuberantly bester-than-besties continually, loudly affirming their friendship to the exclusion of Samberg. Pedrad and Swift worked great together here, making us wish they'd had more things to do together.
If only we'd been able to get more Heshy, the motivational speaker who Pedrad played only twice in Season 39, her final season. Heshy's multi-media seminars on self-help subjects like career advancement and dating were anchored by her exuberantly confident presentation, punctuated by hip thrusts and music cues. The dating seminar sketch (which, like the career week sketch, with Kerry Washington, is tragically not available on YouTube) saw Pedrad joined by Charlize Theron as a similarly dowdily-dressed dating dynamo.
Bedelia may have been the best of Nasim Pedrad's recurring SNL characters, capitalizing on her uncanny ability to play child characters anywhere on the spectrum of sheltered to precocious and giving each of them their own individual spin. Bedelia's thing is that she's the kid who wants to be an adult, to hang out with adults, to talk with the world-weariness of adults, and she has no ability to socialize with the other tweens in her midst. She's both lovable and deeply strange, and Pedrad's choices in syntax make every line reading a joy.
The cultural dominance of Adele's "Someone Like You" coincided perfectly with this Emma Stone-hosted episode, where the setup of this sketch is that Pedrad's character is at an office party, coming off of a breakup, and all she wants to do is listen to Adele's aching breakup ballad and weep. And sometimes eat ice cream. The gag is that the other women in her office (and, later, some of the men) are all dealing with their own personal heartbreaks and are also looking for a chance to listen to Adele and cry. Pedrad's character gets to tandem weep with Stone over their pints of ice cream, getting perhaps the sketch's biggest laugh.
One of Pedrad's best celebrity impression was as Greek political commentator and media mogul Arianna Huffington, whose continental accent and wordy descriptions of political news was mixed, in Pedrad's version, with a confidently flirtatious relationship with Update host Seth Meyers.
In this digital short, Pedrad, as herself, approaches host Helen Mirren in her dressing room and works up the courage to ask … "Can I touch them?" When Nasim does in fact grasp Mirren's celebrated breasts, she experiences a thrill and awe that can only be represented by a series of flashes to dancing horses, Middle East peace agreements, the climax of the film Rudy, the Bee Girl from the Blind Melon video (Bobby Moynihan), and much, much more.
Saturday Night Live often struggles when it comes to making fun of the campier side pop culture, as such their track record for satirizing Bravo or Logo (or basically anything gay people like) is very hit-or-miss. This one was a hit. On the heels of the glitzy marriage and divorce of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries came this sketch that cast Pedrad as Kim, Kristen Wiig as Kris Jenner, and made phenomenal use of Pedrad's perfectly baby-voiced Kim impersonation.
Chad premieres on TBS April 6 at 10:30 PM ET.
Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: Nasim Pedrad, NBC, TBS, Chad, Saturday Night Live, Adele, Andy Samberg, Arianna Huffington, Beyonce, Bobby Moynihan, Bryan Cranston, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Helen Mirren, Jay Pharoah, Jay-Z, Kerry Washington, Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Nicki Minaj, Seth Meyers, Taylor Swift