Growing up, Melissa Villaseñor was, in her words, “the shy kid.” Finding her own voice at an all-girls Catholic high school in Southern California proved tricky, so she tried borrowing some others.
“All of the girls just found me so funny,” Villaseñor says with a touch of faux bravado. “It felt very exciting to find something that made me feel powerful and unique.”
After working the L.A. open-mic circuit in her early 20s, Villaseñor broke through with a deep run on “America’s Got Talent” in 2011. Five years later, she landed a job on “Saturday Night Live” – becoming the first Latina cast member in the show’s four-decade history.
Q. What appeals to you about stand-up in contrast to sketch comedy?
A. I can open up my heart and connect with people in the crowd. It’s that connection, the human connection – that’s the best.
Q. How would you describe your style onstage?
A. Dorky comedy, clean comedy, family-oriented, nerdy, a lot of references to celebrities and music. I’d say it’s a colorful set because I talk about my life. Some of my bits are dark, but they’re all silly.
Q. How much did becoming “SNL’s” first Latina cast member resonate with you?
A. It never crossed my mind. Once everyone was saying, “Oh, the first Latina,” I thought, “That’s really awesome.” I felt very proud, but I don’t pressure myself.
Q. Do you address the political climate in your set?
A. Never. It’s not funny to me, and it doesn’t make me laugh. It makes me confused and it gives me headaches.