Ellie Kemper

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Ellie Kemper
Ellie Kemper photo by Josephine Sittenfeld.jpg
Born Elizabeth Claire Kemper
(1980-05-02) May 2, 1980 (age 34)
Kansas City, Missouri, US
Occupation Actress, comedienne, writer
Years active 2003–present
Religion Roman Catholicism
Spouse(s) Michael Koman (m. 2012)

Elizabeth Claire "Ellie" Kemper (born May 2, 1980)[1] is an American actress, comedian, and writer.

She is best known for her role as Erin Hannon in the NBC series The Office, as well as her supporting roles in the films Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street. She currently plays the title role in the Netflix comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.

Early years[edit]

Kemper was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the second of four children born to Dorothy Ann (Jannarone) and David Woods Kemper.[2][3] She is the granddaughter of Mildred Lane Kemper, the namesake of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis, for which the family donated $5 million. Kemper's father was the chairman and chief executive officer of Commerce Bancshares, a bank holding company founded by the Kemper family (her paternal great-great-grandfather was banker William Thornton Kemper, Sr.). She is also the older sister of television writer Carrie Kemper. Kemper has Italian (from her maternal grandfather), English, and German ancestry.[4][5] The family moved to St. Louis when Ellie was five years old. She attended the Conway School in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue and then high school at John Burroughs School, where she developed an interest in theater and improvisational comedy. One of her teachers was actor Jon Hamm, with whom she appeared in a school play.[2] In 1999, she was named the Queen of St. Louis's annual Veiled Prophet Ball.


I'm the most comfortable when I'm playing a naturalistic character. I auditioned for Saturday Night Live, and when I was doing the biggest characters, I felt the least comfortable. I'm just more comfortable when it's some version of myself.

Ellie Kemper[6]

Kemper attended Princeton University,[2] where she continued her interest in improvisational comedy. Kemper participated in Quipfire!, an improv comedy group, and the Princeton Triangle Club, a touring musical comedy theater troupe. She also played field hockey at Princeton in the 1999 season,[7] and claimed she sat on the bench "roughly 97 percent" of the time.[8] Her field hockey team went to the national championship in her first year, but she quit the team in later years to focus on theater.[2] Kemper graduated from Princeton in 2002 with a degree in English, then studied English for a year at the University of Oxford.[8] She regularly appeared in comedy sketches on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in the late 2000s, and has made guest appearances on Important Things with Demetri Martin,[2] and E! Television's The Gastineau Girls,[9][10] which has been described as her "breakout role". She has appeared on Fuse TV's The P.A. In October 2008, Kemper appeared on The Colbert Report in a PSA for Teen Voter Abstinence.[11] Kemper has written several sketch comedy shows[12] many of them with her comedy partner Scott Eckert,[9] a fellow Princeton grad.[8] Kemper is a contributing writer for the national satirical newspaper The Onion,[13] and for McSweeney's.[9][14][15][16] She is also a contributor to The Huffington Post.[17][18] Kemper has also appeared in several national commercials. One was a radio spot for Dunkin' Donuts.[9] In a commercial for Kmart, Kemper featured as a camper with a live tarantula crawling over her face.[19]

Kemper performing "Feeling Sad/Mad with Ellie Kemper" at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in 2008.

Upon moving to New York City, Kemper participated in the People's Improv Theatre[8] and the city troupe of Upright Citizens Brigade, an improvisational comedy and sketch comedy theater. She has appeared in several shows for the Brigade, including Death and/or Despair, Listen Kid, Gang Bang and The Improvised Mystery.[9] At the UCB, she performed with the house improv teams Mailer Daemon and fwand.[9] At the PIT, she performs with the house improv team Big Black Car.[20] In August 2008, she auditioned for a spot on the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, but was not cast.[6] In July 2009, Kemper was named one of Variety magazine's "10 Comics To Watch".[6] Big Black Car teammate Kristen Schaal was also named.

Being on set with them is like being in a dream, except the dream is real and I can reach out and touch them. Except I am trying not to touch them too much, because I was raised right.

Ellie Kemper on The Office[8]

In 2007, she appeared in How to Kick People, a performance combining comedy and literary performances. In March 2008, she wrote and performed in the one-woman show "Dumb Girls" through the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.[10] She also performed in the one-woman show "Feeling Sad/Mad with Ellie Kemper"[6] and has appeared in comedy sketches on Funny or Die, the comedy website started by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's production company, Gary Sanchez Productions.[21]

Kemper gained some Internet fame in August 2007 for her part in "Blowjob Girl", a humor video on the sketch comedy site Derrick Comedy. The video, which was circulated on the popular site CollegeHumor, was a two-minute close-up of Kemper offering to perform oral sex on her boyfriend, but startling him by promising to bite and smash his genitals, which she seems to believe is arousing.[22] As of March 2014, the video has been viewed more than 19.81 million times on YouTube.[23] Kemper said of the video in an April 2010 interview with The A.V. Club: "I really don't like that video, and I wish that I hadn't done it, even though I know that it's a joke. I hate that it got sort of big, because I don't think that it's that funny and I don't want that to be the epitome of my work. It's just one video in a sea of many, but it has made me conscious of not wanting to do a video like that again."[24] Kemper has also contributed an article to CollegeHumor entitled "Regarding Our Decision Never to See Me Again."[25] She also had a minor role in the 2009 film Mystery Team. Kemper starred in the fake iPhone commercial on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in January 2007, six months before the first iPhone was released by Apple Inc.[26] Kemper appeared in the Sofia Coppola comedy-drama Somewhere in 2010.[6] She also appeared in Bridesmaids in 2011.[27] On April 3, 2013, it was announced that Kemper would be voicing a character in an episode of the animated sitcom American Dad!.[28]

Ellie Kemper on the red carpet at the 38th People's Choice Awards on January 11, 2012, at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California. (JJ Duncan/ Zimbio.com)

Kemper auditioned for a role in Parks and Recreation, an NBC comedy series started in 2009 by Michael Schur and Greg Daniels, creator of the series The Office. She was not cast in the role, but received a call back to audition for a supporting role in The Office as Erin Hannon, a secretary filling in for the regular secretary Pam Beesly when she briefly left the job at the end of the fifth season. Kemper was cast in the role, and started appearing in the show in April 2009. The character was originally written to be more sarcastic and dry, but the writers changed her to be more perky and optimistic to more closely resemble Kemper herself. Kemper described the character as "an exaggerated version of myself".[2] Kemper described herself as a "huge fan" of the show and was thrilled to be on the show.[8] Although the character was originally intended for 4 episodes, the producers were impressed with Kemper and signed her as a regular in the sixth season.[2] Jennifer Celotta, a screenwriter with the series, described Kemper as a "fun addition" to the show.[29]

Kemper received positive reviews for her role in The Office. Alan Sepinwall, television columnist with The Star-Ledger, praised the "infectious joy and sweetness" she brought to the show.[2] Joshua Ostroff of Eye Weekly described Erin as one of the best new television characters of the 2008–2009 season and said, "Erin's high-grade adorability, up-for-anything attitude and sheer niceness is unlike anyone else in the office, adding a welcome new wrinkle for next season."[30] Andy Shaw of TV Fodder said she "adds some freshness to the cast"[31] and Josh McAuliffe of The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pennsylvania, said he liked Erin's "cheerful, appealingly goofy personality".[32] Many critics have singled her out as a highlight of the show's eighth season following Steve Carell's departure.[33][34][35][36][37][38] In October 2009, Kemper appeared in Subtle Sexuality, a set of three Office webisodes about efforts by Erin and Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling) to start a girl group.[2]

She appears in Netflix-Tina Fey/Robert Carlock comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as the fish-out-of-water lead. She plays a former cult-member/abductee who wants to shed the victim pity of her small hometown and moves to New York. She gets an apartment (landlorded by Carol Kane), with a black, gay, bald wanna-be singer played by Tituss Burgess, and lands a job as a nanny for a disconnected and oblivious Upper East sider mother played by Jane Krakowski.[39]

Personal life[edit]

Kemper is a Roman Catholic.[40] In 2011, she became engaged to her boyfriend Michael Koman, a former writer on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and the co-creator of the Adult Swim series Eagleheart and Comedy Central series Nathan for You.[41][42] The couple married on July 7, 2012.[43]


Year Title Role Notes
2006 Sexual Intercourse: American Style Cindy TV series (2 episodes)
2007 Redeeming Rainbow Shelly TV film
2007–2008 Mister Glasses Kitty TV series (5 episodes)
2009 Mystery Team Jamie
2009 Cayman Went Girl in Bar
2009–2010 Important Things with Demetri Martin Allison / Felicia TV series (2 episodes)
2009–2013 The Office Erin Hannon TV series (107 episodes)
Golden Nymph Award for Outstanding Actress – Comedy Series
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (2010–13)
2010 Get Him to the Greek Pinnacle Executives
2010 Somewhere Claire
2010 The Office: The 3rd Floor Kelly Erin Hannon TV series (3 episodes)
2011 Bridesmaids Becca EDA Award for Best Ensemble Cast
MTV Movie Award for Best Gut-Wrenching Performance
New York Film Critics Online Award for Best Ensemble
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated—Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated—Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Acting Ensemble
Nominated—MTV Movie Award for Best Cast
Nominated—People's Choice Award for Favorite Ensemble Movie Cast
Nominated—Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Ensemble Acting
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominated—Women Film Critics Circle Award for Best Ensemble
2012 21 Jump Street Ms. Griggs
2012 NTSF:SD:SUV:: Fitzpatrick TV series (1 episode: "Whack-a-Mole")
2012 Robot Chicken Kendra / Female Passenger (voice) TV series (1 episode: "Crushed by a Steamroller on My 53rd Birthday")
2012 Rich Girl Problems Lucretia Short
2012–2013 The Mindy Project Heather TV series (3 episodes)
2013 Identity Thief Truck-Stop Server Uncredited
2013 Sofia the First Crackle TV series (3 episodes)
2013 Brenda Forever Brenda Miller TV film
2014 The Ellen DeGeneres Show Fill-In Host TV series (1 episode: "11.96")
2014 Laggies Allison
2014 Sex Tape Tess
2014 They Came Together Karen
2014 The Nobodies Julie Short Film
2014 American Dad! Jenna (voice) TV series (1 episode: "Introducing The Naughty Stewardesses")
2015– Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Kimmy Schmidt TV series, lead
2016 The Secret Life of Pets


  1. ^ "IGN: Ellie Kemper Biography". IGN. Retrieved November 18, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pennington, Gail (December 13, 2009). "From VP queen ...to 'The Office'". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved December 16, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Bridal for Dorothy A. Jannarone". The New York Times. September 7, 1975. 
  4. ^ "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson". YouTube. January 26, 2011. Retrieved April 5, 2011. 
  5. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2608689/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
  6. ^ a b c d e Hensley, Dennis (July 17, 2009). "10 Comics to Watch: Ellie Kemper". Variety. Retrieved September 6, 2009. 
  7. ^ "1999 Preseason Women's Field Hockey Roster". FansOnly.com. Archived from the original on March 10, 2000. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Tomlinson, Brett (April 15, 2009). "Office Addition". Princeton Alumni Weekly. Retrieved May 23, 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Ellie Kemper". Upright Citizens Brigade. Retrieved March 14, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b "Biographies". How to Kick People: About this Show. Retrieved March 22, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Colbert Report". Colbert Teen Talk. Retrieved September 9, 2009. 
  12. ^ "Ellie Kemper". The PIT. Retrieved April 15, 2006. 
  13. ^ "Contact The Onion". The Onion. 
  14. ^ Kemper, Ellie (December 14, 2005). "Listen, Kid, The Biggest Thing You've Got Going For You Is Your Rack". McSweeney's. Retrieved May 30, 2011. 
  15. ^ Kemper, Ellie (October 23, 2006). "Following My Creative Writing Teacher's Advice To Write 'Like My Parents Are Dead'". McSweeney's. Retrieved November 17, 2009. 
  16. ^ Kemper, Ellie (December 13, 2007). "Some Relatively Recent College Grads Discuss Their Maids". McSweeney's. Retrieved November 17, 2009. 
  17. ^ Kemper, Ellie. "Huffington Post Bloggers". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  18. ^ Kemper, Ellie (December 2, 2009). "I'm Not Exactly Afraid of Really Intense Fashion". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Kmart Tent". YouTube. Retrieved September 9, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Ellie Kemper". The PIT. Retrieved September 9, 2009. 
  21. ^ Cain, Brooke (March 21, 2009). "New receptionist on 'The Office'". The News & Observer. Retrieved March 22, 2009. 
  22. ^ "I'm Gonna Make it Sooo Dry For You...". AmFmPm. May 7, 2007. Retrieved June 1, 2009. 
  23. ^ "Blowjob Girl". YouTube. August 3, 2007. Retrieved May 1, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Ellie Kemper Interview". The A.V. Club. April 20, 2010. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Regarding Our Decision Never to See Me Again". CollegeHumor. February 1, 2007. Retrieved May 10, 2010. 
  26. ^ "Last Night's Episode". NBC Message Boards. Retrieved September 9, 2009. 
  27. ^ "Ellie Kemper". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  28. ^ Masters, Megan (March 29, 2013). "American Dad Cast – Ellie Kemper to Voice Popular Girl". TVLine. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  29. ^ ""Company Picnic" Q&A with Jen Celotta". OfficeTally. May 22, 2009. Retrieved May 23, 2009. 
  30. ^ Ostroff, Joshua (May 20, 2009). "Leaders of the New School: Great performances in the margins brought a so-so season to life". Eye Weekly. Retrieved May 23, 2009. 
  31. ^ Shaw, Andy (May 7, 2009). "The Office: "Cafe Disco"". TV Fodder. Retrieved May 8, 2009. 
  32. ^ McAuliffe, Josh (May 8, 2009). ""Cafe Disco" Recap". The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania). Retrieved May 8, 2009. 
  33. ^ Myles, McNutt (February 16, 2012). "Tallahassee". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  34. ^ Hertz, Barry (October 28, 2011). "The Office, Season 8, Episode 5: Recap". National Post. Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  35. ^ McNutt, Myles (October 27, 2011). "Spooked". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  36. ^ McNutt, Myles (December 8, 2011). "Christmas Wishes". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 8, 2011. 
  37. ^ Mader, Jill. "The Office – Episode 8–12 Review – "A Party to Remember"". InsidePulse. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  38. ^ Tedder, Michael (February 10, 2012). "The Office Recap: Florida Facts". New York. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  39. ^ http://www.out.com/television/2015/3/03/tituss-burgess
  40. ^ Cutler, Jacqueline (May 5, 2010). "Celebrity Scoop: Ellie Kemper". Zap2it. Retrieved May 31, 2013. 
  41. ^ Zach Johnson (December 8, 2011). "The Office Star Ellie Kemper Is Engaged!". Us Weekly. Retrieved May 22, 2012. 
  42. ^ Lauren Schutte (December 9, 2011). "The actress' fiance, Michael Koman, is a former "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" and "The Colbert Report" writer.". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 22, 2012. 
  43. ^ Alison Schwartz (July 7, 2012). "Ellie Kemper Is Married!". Retrieved July 8, 2012. 

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