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Ellie Kemper

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Ellie Kemper
Kemper in 2018
Elizabeth Claire Kemper

(1980-05-02) May 2, 1980 (age 44)
EducationPrinceton University (BA)
Worcester College, Oxford
  • Actress
  • writer
Years active1999–present
(m. 2012)

Elizabeth Claire Kemper (born May 2, 1980)[1] is an American actress, best known for her roles of Erin Hannon in the sitcom The Office (2009–2013) and Kimmy Schmidt in the sitcom Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015–2019). She has also appeared in films, notably Bridesmaids (2011), 21 Jump Street (2012), Sex Tape (2014), and Home Sweet Home Alone (2021). In 2018, she released her debut book, My Squirrel Days.

She earned two consecutive nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and has also been nominated for a Critics' Choice Movie Award, two Critics' Choice Television Awards, three Satellite Awards, and seven Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Early life[edit]

Kemper was born in Kansas City, Missouri,[1] the second of four children of Dorothy Ann "Dotty" (née Jannarone) and David Woods Kemper, a son of one of the wealthiest families in Missouri.[2][3] Her father is the executive chairman of Commerce Bancshares, a bank holding company founded by the Kemper family. She is the granddaughter of Mildred Lane Kemper, namesake of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis and the great-great-granddaughter of banker William Thornton Kemper Sr.[citation needed]

She is the elder sister of television writer Carrie Kemper. Kemper is of Italian (from her maternal grandfather), English, French, and German ancestry.[4] She was raised and remains a practicing Roman Catholic.[5][6]

In 1999, at age 19, she was presented as a debutante at the Veiled Prophet Ball,[7] and was named the Veiled Prophet's Queen of Love and Beauty.[8] Her participation sparked controversy in 2021 due to the Ball's background, which was described as "racist and elitist".[9][10] The backlash prompted Kemper to release a statement denouncing white supremacy and apologizing for participating in the event.[11][12][13]


Kemper in 2002

Kemper's family moved to St. Louis when she was five. She attended Conway Elementary School in the affluent suburb of Ladue and 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]

Kemper graduated from Princeton University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.[2] At Princeton, she was a member of the improv comedy troupe Quipfire, which was known for its elaborate pranks. She was also a member of the Ivy Club.[14] As part of her undergraduate degree, she completed an 82-page senior thesis, "Isn't It Ironic?", under the supervision of Susan Wolfson, with contribution from Ulrich C. Knoepflmacher.[15]

As a freshman, she played on Princeton's 1998 national championship field hockey team,[16] maintaining she sat on the bench "roughly 97 percent" of the time,[17] before moving on the following year to focus on theatre.[2] She attended Worcester College, Oxford, for a year,[18][19] where she studied towards a master's degree in English literature.[20]


Early comedic career[edit]

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[21]

Kemper continued her interest in improvisational comedy at Princeton. She participated in Quipfire!, Princeton's oldest improv comedy group,[22] and the Princeton Triangle Club, a touring musical comedy theater troupe.[2] She also appeared in a radio spot for Dunkin' Donuts.[23]

Kemper earned her Screen Actors Guild card doing commercial advertising of a one-week sale of tents at Kmart.[24] It featured her camping with an onscreen husband, and a shot where a tarantula crawled across her face.[25] She regularly appeared in comedy sketches on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in the late 2000s, and made guest appearances on Important Things with Demetri Martin,[2] and E! Television's The Gastineau Girls,[23][26] which has been described as her "breakout role". Though the series was reality TV, her role was scripted. She has appeared on Fuse TV's The P.A. In October 2008, she appeared on The Colbert Report in a PSA for Teen Voter Abstinence.[27] She has written several sketch comedy shows,[28] many with her comedy partner Scott Eckert,[23] a fellow Princeton grad.[17] She is a contributing writer for the national satirical newspaper The Onion,[29] and for McSweeney's.[23][30][31][32] She is also a contributor to HuffPost.[33][34]

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[17] 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.[23] At the UCB, she performed with the house improv teams Mailer Daemon and fwand.[23] At the People's Improv Theatre she performs with the house improv team Big Black Car.[35] In August 2008, she auditioned for a spot on the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, but was not cast.[21] In July 2009, Kemper was named one of Variety magazine's "10 Comics To Watch".[21]

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[17]

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.[26] She also performed in the one-woman show "Feeling Sad/Mad with Ellie Kemper"[21] 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.[36]

Kemper gained Internet interest in August 2007 for her part in "Blowjob Girl", a humor video on the sketch comedy site Derrick Comedy. 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."[37] Kemper has also contributed an article to CollegeHumor entitled "Regarding Our Decision Never to See Me Again".[38] She also had a minor role in the 2009 film Mystery Team. Kemper starred in a fake iPhone commercial on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in January 2007, six months before the first iPhone was released.[39] Kemper appeared in the Sofia Coppola comedy-drama Somewhere in 2010.[21] She appeared in Bridesmaids in 2011.[40] On April 3, 2013, it was announced that Kemper would be voicing a character in an episode of the animated sitcom American Dad![41]

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 it.[17] Although the character was originally intended for four 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.[42]

Television work[edit]

Kemper at the 38th People's Choice Awards in January 2012

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."[43] Andy Shaw of TV Fodder said she "adds some freshness to the cast"[44] and Josh McAuliffe of The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pennsylvania, said he liked Erin's "cheerful, appealingly goofy personality".[45] Many critics have singled her out as a highlight of the show's eighth season following Steve Carell's departure.[46][47][48][49][50][51]

In October 2009, Kemper appeared in Subtle Sexuality, a set of three The Office webisodes about efforts by Erin and Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling) to start a girl group.[2]

Following The Office, she starred in the Netflix original comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as the fish-out-of-water title character. She plays a former abductee and forced cult member who wants to shed the victim pity of her small hometown and moves to New York.[52] Her performance on the show has been widely acclaimed, and she received multiple nominations for the Screen Actors Guild Award[53] and Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

In summer 2015, Kemper served as a temporary co-host of Today alongside Al Roker, Natalie Morales, Tamron Hall, and Willie Geist.[54]

In 2019, Kemper appeared as a guest judge on season 14 of America's Got Talent where she pushed the Golden Buzzer for light-up dance group Light Balance Kids.[55]

Other work[edit]

In 2018, Kemper recorded for the audiobook A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo.[56] She also recorded the audiobook for 2019's The Legends of Greemulax, a novel attributed to her character Kimmy Schmidt.[57]

That same year she published her first book, My Squirrel Days.[58]

In 2023, she joined the cast of the Broadway play Peter Pan Goes Wrong making her Broadway debut as Francis for a limited engagement.[59]

Personal life[edit]

In 2012, Kemper became engaged to comedy writer Michael Koman.[60] They married on July 7, 2012.[61] They have two sons, born in August 2016 and September 2019.[62][63] On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Kemper said that her Jewish husband had agreed to raise their children Roman Catholic.[64]



Year Title Role Notes
2009 Mystery Team Jamie
Cayman Went Girl in Bar
2010 Get Him to the Greek Pinnacle Executive
Somewhere Claire
2011 Bridesmaids Becca
2012 21 Jump Street Ms. Griggs
Rich Girl Problems Lucretia Short film
2013 Identity Thief Flo Uncredited
2014 Laggies Allison
Sex Tape Tess
They Came Together Karen
The Nobodies Julie Short film
2016 The Secret Life of Pets Katie Voice[65]
2017 The Lego Batman Movie Phyllis Voice[65]
Smurfs: The Lost Village Smurf Blossom Voice[65]
2019 The Secret Life of Pets 2 Katie Voice[65]
2020 We Bare Bears: The Movie Produce Lucy Voice[65]
The Stand In Jenna Jones
2021 Home Sweet Home Alone Pam McKenzie
2023 Happiness for Beginners Helen


Year Title Role Notes
2006 Sexual Intercourse: American Style Cindy
2007 Redeeming Rainbow Shelly Television film
2007–2008 Mister Glasses Kitty 5 episodes
2009–2010 Important Things with Demetri Martin Allison / Felicia 2 episodes
2009–2013 The Office Erin Hannon Recurring: Season 5
Main role: Seasons 6–9
(107 episodes)
2010 The Office: The 3rd Floor Erin Hannon 3 episodes
2012 NTSF:SD:SUV:: Fitzpatrick Episode: "Whack-a-Mole"
Robot Chicken Bella Swan / Tracy / Female Passenger Voice, episode: "Crushed by a Steamroller on My 53rd Birthday"
2012–2013 The Mindy Project Heather 3 episodes
2013 Brenda Forever Brenda Miller Unaired TV pilot
2013–2014 Hollywood Game Night Herself 2 episodes
2013–2018 Sofia the First Crackle Voice; 10 episodes[65]
2014 The Ellen DeGeneres Show Herself (fill-in host) Episode: "11.96"
American Dad! Jenna Voice, episode: "Introducing the Naughty Stewardesses"
Comedy Bang! Bang! Herself Episode: "Ellie Kemper Wears a Purple Ruffled Sleeveless Top & Lavender Flats"
TripTank Homeless Lady, Hula Girl Voice, 2 episodes[65]
2015 The Today Show Herself (co-anchor, Today's Take) Morning news program (June 29, 2015 – July 17, 2015)
WordGirl Rose Franklin Voice, episode: "News Girl"
Drunk History Nellie Bly Episode: "Journalism"
2015–2018 We Bare Bears Produce Lucy Voice, 4 episodes
2015–2020 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Kimmy Schmidt Main role (52 episodes)
2016 Animals. Princess Voice, episode: "Dogs."[65]
All Hail King Julien Karen Voice, episode: "Revenge of the Prom"[65]
2017 Julie's Greenroom Herself 2 episodes
2018 The Who Was? Show Herself (narrator for Amelia) Episode: "Isaac Newton & Amelia Earhart"
2019 At Home with Amy Sedaris Herself Episode: "Anniversary"
Live in Front of a Studio Audience Gloria Stivic Episode: "Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons"
America's Got Talent Herself (Guest Judge) Season 14
You're Not a Monster Elsa Brenner Voice, 3 episodes
2020 The Simpsons Mary Voice, episode: "A Springfield Summer Christmas for Christmas"
2022 Central Park Ingrid Witherstrop Voice, episode: "Where There's Smoke"
Inside Amy Schumer Noelle Christensen Episode: "Gratitude"
2022–2023 Eureka Chee Voice, 4 episodes
The Great American Baking Show Herself (host) 7 episodes


  • Kemper, Ellie (2018). My Squirrel Days. Scribner. ISBN 978-1-5011-6334-0.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
2010 Golden Nymph Awards Outstanding Actress – Comedy Series[citation needed] The Office Won
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated
2011 Nominated
2012 Nominated
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Ensemble Cast[66] Bridesmaids Won
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Acting Ensemble Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Jaw Dropping Moment Won
Best Cast Nominated
New York Film Critics Online Best Ensemble[citation needed] Won
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Ensemble Won
2013 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series The Office Nominated
2015 Webby Awards Best Actress Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Won
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated
2016 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated
2017 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated


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External links[edit]