Maya Rudolph denies famous parents helped her comedy career: ‘There was no direct line’

Maya Rudolph has rejected the idea that her success as a comedian benefited from her parents’ fame.

The 51-year-old Saturday Night Live alum is the daughter of the late singer Minnie Riperton and musician Richard Rudolph. Her mother died from breast cancer when Rudolph was six years old.

“They were musicians. They weren’t actors,” Rudolph said on a recent episode of the Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard podcast.

Born in Florida, Rudolph was raised in Los Angeles. “My trajectory was, I wanted to go to New York, and I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live. I understand that drive to be somewhere else – forage in a new city and create my own path,” she said.

“But that’s a huge undertaking. I wasn’t like, ‘Oh my dad writes songs, that’s gonna make me a comedian.’ There was no direct line. I knew I had to get there myself.”

In 2000, aged 27, Rudolph was cast in SNL, NBC’s long-running comedy sketch show, becoming the fourth Black female member in the show’s history. She stayed on as a series regular until 2007.

“It’s interesting because my mom was a singer that not all my friends were that aware of at the time,” the Loot actor admitted. “Everybody that knows who I am now knows that’s my mom, but growing up, I didn’t feel like she was a household name.”

Maya Rudolph attends the Los Angeles photo call for Apple TV+ series “Loot” season 2 (Getty Images)
Maya Rudolph attends the Los Angeles photo call for Apple TV+ series “Loot” season 2 (Getty Images)

Before her early death at 31, Riperton released five albums: 1970’s Come to My Garden record, 1974’s Perfect Angel, 1975’s Adventures in Paradise, 1977’s Stay in Line and 1979’s Minnie. Her sixth and final album, 1980’s Love Lives Forever, was released posthumously.

Riperton was famous for having a five-octave vocal range and is best known for her 1975 single “Lovin’ You” from her second album.

Following her seven-year stint on SNL, Rudolph went on to star in various comedy movies and TV shows, including the 2010’s Grown Ups, 2011’s Bridesmaids and NBC’s award-winning sitcom The Good Place.

Rudolph currently leads Apple TV+’s sitcom Loot, about a recent divorcee who attempts to reengage with her charitable foundation and reconnect with the real world after she’s left with an $87bn divorce settlement.

New episodes of Loot air on Wednesdays on Apple TV+.

In 2022, the term “nepo baby” – which refers to children of celebrities whose parents’ famous names and connections have helped them either become celebrities themselves, or become very successful in a related career – became a hot-button topic after Vulture published an extensive guide to Hollywood’s “nepo-verse”.

Several of the stars on the list, including Zoë Kravitz and Lily-Rose Depp, hit out at the term.

“The internet cares a lot more about who your family is than the people who are casting you in things,” Depp, the daughter of actor Johnny Depp and model Vanessa Paradis, told Elle in 2022.