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Mary Lynn Rajskub Lets the “Sunshine” In

Mary Lynn Rajskub Lets the “Sunshine” In (photo)

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“24” star Mary Lynn Rajskub (pronounced “rice-cub”) is having an art show next month, which actually isn’t half as surprising as the path that led to her widely recognized dramatic role as tech analyst Chloe O’Brian. Having attended college for fine art painting, Rajskub realized she could make people laugh doing performance art, and so in her early 20s, alongside cutting edge talent like Jack Black, David Cross and Janeane Garofalo, she became a stand-up comedian. From acclaimed programs like “Mr. Show” and “The Larry Sanders Show” to films like “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Punch-Drunk Love,” Rajskub’s career is chock-a-block with memorable characters, even if most first think of her as the hardware expert who helps Kiefer Sutherland fight terrorists. Most recently, Rajskub can be seen in the indie dramedy “Sunshine Cleaning,” in which she plays the lesbian daughter of a woman who has recently died, as discovered by two sisters (Amy Adams and Emily Blunt) who run a crime scene cleaning company. By phone, Rajskub and I spoke about awful jobs, playing guitar, stalkers and the sci-fi movie she and Alan Arkin are destined to make someday.

In the spirit of the film’s titular business, what are some of the most degrading jobs you’ve ever held?

I don’t think I can top cleaning up after the remains of people. I worked in a greenhouse, which I thought would be really quaint: “I’m going to be around plants and flowers.” But it was just cleaning up piles of dirt and moving heavy stuff onto a truck. I worked at a movie theater, which again doesn’t seem like it would be disgusting, but when you have to sweep up and clean the bathrooms, it’s pretty gross. I waited tables at Denny’s, which was kind of exciting for me because it was one of my first jobs. It has a special place in my heart because there was nowhere else to hang out where I’m from. You could be a teen sitting there drinking cups of coffee, and I got to see the inner workings. You have to memorize the codes of all the meals, and put it into the computer. And their guacamole is frozen in a can. I didn’t know what an avocado was. I had never had that until I moved to California. I have a fond memory of making a big vat of ranch dressing with the buttermilk. It’s super depressing, but there’s something weirdly comforting about it, too.

In the film, Emily Blunt’s character befriends you after stalking you. Have you ever had any uncomfortable run-ins with overeager fans, harassing exes, or other undesirables?

03112009_Sunshinecleaning2.jpgI dated a guy who I wasn’t really attracted to, but I thought, “I’m going to go out with him again, just to see. Maybe the attraction will grow.” We went to kiss, and right away, I was like: “I’m not into this.” And he said, “That’s the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me.” He proceeded to write me longer e-mails than I’ve ever written in my life. If you took all the e-mails I wrote in a week and put them together, it would add up to one of the 40 e-mails he wrote me describing how I just don’t know that I’m into him yet, and he’s a really good guy. I’m like, “You’re a great guy, but it’s just not happening.” I don’t even understand how he found so much to say about us. For a while, I was talking to him, and then I was like, “Why are we still talking about this?” He couldn’t stop. He was begging me to call him so we could talk about it. Really weird.

Then last night, I was coming out of this restaurant, and this guy asked me for my autograph. It was [one of] these guys with white cards, which means that they sell them on the Internet. He was like, “You snubbed me at the Walk of Fame.” Kiefer was getting a star on the Walk of Fame, so I guess this guy was there, where I did sign some autographs. I was thinking about that this morning: “You snubbed me.” What are you talking about? You want something from me, I don’t know you, I don’t really know what you want. It’s not like I wouldn’t do it. I just happened to not do it that day. That sucks! I did not snub you! [laughs]

That kind of thing probably happens more often than you’d like. With the success of “24,” how strange is it to be so easily recognized on the street?

It’s totally bizarre. You know, it’s fine, I enjoy it. I’m lucky to be on a show that people like so much. Most of the time, it’s people saying, “I love the show,” which is cool. You feel the attention: “Oh, I’m on this thing, and people watch it,” and that’s nice. But then the day before yesterday, this guy came up to me. I had my baby in the stroller, and I was crossing the street. I was looking at the baby, then suddenly he was right next to me, and his voice was really loud. He was nice, but he was like, “Hey! Are you the girl on ’24’?” I said yes. He said, “You look so much better in real life. I just wanted to tell you that.” What do I say, but thank you? He didn’t have the faintest idea of why that might not be a compliment.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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