Rachel Sennott Talks Getting Hooked on Comedy and Starring in Shiva Baby

Welcome to On the Rise, a BAZAAR.com series featuring the breakout talents everyone will be talking about. Get to know these fresh faces on the verge of stardom.

Rachel Sennott makes it easy to laugh with her deadpan humor. Her starring performance as Danielle in writer-director Emma Seligman’s indie film, Shiva Baby, is no exception.

A self-proclaimed “theater nerd,” Sennott strove to pursue a career in acting from a young age, but discovered a particular passion for comedy while attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Despite her academic focus on the stage, she found herself resonating most with film acting, seeking outside opportunities in student film. Along this path, Sennott met Seligman, who after having discovered Sennott’s performances from other student projects recruited her to star in her own.

Shiva Baby began as a comedy short but was adapted into a full-length film, which was released on April 2. It follows Danielle (Sennott), a bisexual college student, who runs into her ex “sugar daddy,” Max, and his family at a shiva. In this #OnTheRise episode, Sennott talks reprising her role, bringing her humor to Twitter, and what propelled her into her up-and-coming career.

On pivoting to comedy …

Her initial experience in comedy was thanks to her then boyfriend, a stand-up comedian himself, who had invited her to perform in her first open mic show. “We went to this, like, grimy bar and there was probably, like, 10 people. They were all older men,” Sennott recalls.

Among the bits debuted in her first set was one about being fingered. “It felt like he was trying to, like, get something out of a vending machine,” Sennott describes, unconstrained in accompanying hand motions.

I’m sure it was horrible the first time, but it’s so fun and you feel so alive.

Sennott admits that she hadn’t heard or experienced much stand-up prior to her first stint in college, but nonetheless, she was instantly hooked. “Probably looking back, I’m sure it was horrible the first time, but it’s so fun and you feel so alive,” she reflects. “I was like, ‘I have to keep doing this.’”

On personally relating to her character, Danielle …

Sennott acknowledges multiple parallels between herself and Danielle, particularly with regard to shared relationship dynamics. She says that a past part of her identifies with Danielle’s experiences asserting herself with significant others. “I felt like I was going through a lot of relationships where it was all about, like, power—who cared less,” she shares.

“I also really related to the journey of your family loving you but kind of being, ‘What is going on?’” she adds. Sennott’s own family endured an adjustment period before getting fully on board with her independent decision to pursue comedy. “I think they had a little bit of trouble when I first started doing comedy, because in their heads, they were like, ‘You want to do Broadway.’”

Sennott additionally notes relating to Danielle’s patterns of disordered eating. “During that time in my life when I felt really out of control, food was just an issue for me, where it was either like I was trying to control myself by not eating,” Sennott reflects. “I went on all these, like, weird diets and I feel like Danielle in the film, she’s not eating, and then, like, she’s stressed, it’s such another issue.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/CNEKc3fgJKJ/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading

A post shared by Rachel Anne Sennott (@treaclychild)

On her dream collaborator …

“The best dream collaborator I’ve already met is Emma,” Sennott gushes. “But honestly, I think it would be so insane to work with Lady Gaga. Like, she just seems like such an essence.”

On where she imagines herself five years from now …

“I’m 10 inches taller,” Sennott jokes. “No. Number one, I would like to have a place that I’m living.” She adds, “I’ve been moving from Airbnb to Airbnb for, like, half a year, and I’m like, ‘I need to put my, like, feet down somewhere, because it makes me feel crazy.’”

Sennott also hopes to support more women in the industry, whether via mentorships or investing in their films. “I would like to help young women writing comedy, acting, anything like that.”

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