You’d have to live under a rock to be unfamiliar with the Hallmark Channel’s monopoly on Christmas content. But Lifetime and Netflix have, over recent years, also thrown their hats in the ring, pumping out plenty of trope-heavy, middle-of-the-road, comforting holiday movies with ridiculous plots that could only be pulled off in the name of Christmas.
This year, Comedy Central has emerged with the antidote: A Clüsterfünke Christmas, the holiday movie satire from the brilliant minds of Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch. In the parody, Dratch and Gasteyer play the spinster aunts who run a small-town inn. Vella Lovell, whom you may know from her role as the disaffected neighbor on the cult dramedy series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and in her current starring role on the NBC sitcom Mr. Mayor, plays the big city executive who hates Christmas and is sent by her boss to a remote town outside of New York to destroy the inn and build a high-rise. Does she fall in love with the handsome lumberjack in Yuletown? Maybe!
Lovell, the Juilliard-trained performer who has a wonderful sense of humor about the parodic nature of the many comedy projects she has starred in over the years, told W all about filming A Clüsterfünke Christmas in Vancouver earlier this summer, and working with two of Saturday Night Live’s most legendary performers. “They’re very down to earth and grounded. It was amazing to get to know them as people too,” she said of her time working on the special, which airs December 4. “The whole thing was one of those special times.”
Read on for more of Lovell’s thoughts on holiday satires, her current social media obsessions, and her guilty pleasures.
How did you get cast as the Grinch-like business executive who is ordered to travel to a small town and stay at a tiny bed and breakfast in A Clüsterfünke Christmas?
I have the same question. We shot in Vancouver, and at the time we had to quarantine for two weeks. I got an email about five days before asking if I wanted to do it, and I was like, how do Ana and Rachel know me? I felt I was dreaming. I thought it was a joke. As an actor, you can’t make plans, so of course I had plans to go to New York for the summer, but when you get this email, you do it. I said yes, mentally, after reading the script for 10 pages. I love bad TV holiday movies. They’re my guilty pleasure. When I realized what this was, I was like, this is right up my alley!
What are some of your favorite TV holiday movies?
They’re all special in different ways. Do you remember when Netflix tweeted something like, “Whoever watched A Christmas Prince 300 times in the last three weeks, who hurt you?” I didn’t know about A Christmas Prince and I watched it. That was my gateway movie.
Let’s get into some of these Culture Diet questions. What’s the first thing you read in the morning?
This is really sad, but I think I just mindlessly scroll Twitter. Even though I would love to say I read an inspirational quote, I don’t. I scroll until my mind forms coherent thoughts. And then I slowly gather that I’m in a new day and things are happening in the world.
How do you get your news?
Twitter. Especially in California, Twitter will know there’s an earthquake before anyone else. If you’re not sure that you felt an earthquake, you go on Twitter and within five seconds, it’s confirmed. I was kind of late to joining Twitter, but it’s great for news—if you know what you’re searching for.
What books are on your bedside table?
I just started The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. It’s really good. I will have dips where I’m not as inspired to read, and I’ve found what gets me going is YA novels, or stuff that’s a little more fun, for the early twenties demographic. I just read Such A Fun Age, The Other Black Girl, and Children of Blood and Bone. I like to read those in between reading what I “should” be reading, and I have a big stack of books, which probably stresses me out more than anything.
What are your favorite social media accounts to follow?
I’m truly obsessed with Roxane Gay. I just think she’s incredible—she’s aspirational on Twitter because she’s so direct and will not let anyone troll her. I subscribed to her newsletter, and she sends you videos on Twitter that she likes, so I’ve also found funny videos and people to follow on Twitter, via Roxane Gay. Also, Bolu Babalola, I’m a huge fan of her. Some people have perfected the art form: little bite-sized pearls of wisdom. I also love Vinny Thomas; I found him through Roxane Gay and he makes me giggle a lot.
What’s the last thing you Googled on your phone?
I can definitely tell you. I am just now comfortable fully admitting I am a huge Bachelor person. The Bachelorette was on last night, so I was Googling information about the contestants. I am far too invested at this point. [Laughs.]
What other shows have been keeping you up at night?
I watch The Bachelorette live every week. I watch Succession and Insecure. I really liked the second season of Love Life, that was a pleasure to watch. I haven’t done a full Real Housewives deep dive, but I started watching The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City from the ground up, and it’s really excellent reality TV.
What’s the last movie you saw in theaters?
My boyfriend and I saw Dune in the theaters a couple weeks ago. That was our first time back. I’m not really a sci-fi person so I could not repeat the plot back to you, but I had a great time. I was thoroughly entranced and it was so great to see it in a theater. But I have no idea what happened. [Laughs.]
Do you listen to any podcasts?
I’m a huge podcast person. These are all of my hobbies. Especially in L.A. with all the driving time, podcasts are my go-to commute thing. Again, Roxane Gay has a podcast called Hear to Slay with Tressie McMillan Cottom. It’s so good. I listen to Who? Weekly. What I love about them is they’re hardcore journalists who put that energy into pop culture. I listen to The Daily and Still Processing. I have a bunch of friends who have podcasts, and everyone has a podcast, but my friends have good ones—my friend Traci Thomas has a book podcast called The Stacks that’s excellent, and my friend Therese Barbato has a podcast called That’s What She Said, which is conversations about love with women. I love listening to people talk.
What song or album have you had on repeat lately?
It’s just been Adele for the past few days. Nothing new here. Specifically, “My Little Love” is my favorite from 30.
What’s the last concert you went to?
I saw Erykah Badu at the Hollywood Bowl a few weeks ago. She just brought Los Angeles out, everyone was there. She doesn’t get enough credit for her high notes, they’re really amazing. Her voice is so special and good live. She was drinking tea on stage and it was magical.
What’s the last piece of art that you bought or ogled?
Lorna Simpson had a show at Hauser and Wirth in L.A. that was really incredible. And actually my father who passed away a few years ago was an artist and I’m kind of discovering his body of work after his death, which is really bizarre, but he was an abstract expressionist artist. So discovering that has been really special.
Are you into astrology at all?
I am a Virgo sun, a Virgo moon, and a Leo rising. I have pockets of friends who are all Virgos. My two best friends and I did a big Virgo birthday bash. We know how to plan. You cannot tell us we don’t know how to plan! I read Chani Nicholas’s horoscopes and her app is excellent. I really appreciate her astrological tweets.
Final Culture Diet question—what is the last thing you do before you go to bed?
I moisturize, that’s very important. But I also have two cats and I have learned I cannot sleep with them because they will have a full cat festival in the middle of the night. You can’t sleep through a cat festival, so I have to lovingly kick them out of the bedroom every night, and I feel terrible about it. They’re really cute, but I kick them out and apply lotion.