Aubrey Plaza is a comedic genius – and these 7 hilarious performances prove it

Three images of Aubrey Plaza making funny faces on a pink background.

As Aubrey Plaza gets ready to host Saturday Night Live (SNL) this weekend (21 January), we’ve rounded up the actor’s seven best comedic roles to date, from hidden gems to characters that cemented her icon status.

Plaza’s SNL hosting gig comes years after she unsuccessfully auditioned for the long-running sketch series, and the actor recently reflected on her failed audition.

The White Lotus star told Jimmy Fallon she created characters including a Puerto Rican reporter who made “the news sexy” and a “pill-popping housewife” who hosted a talk show about what animal tails celebrities would have. 

Yes, it was called Celebri-tails.  Needless to say, we have been robbed of seeing them come to life on screen.

Luckily the rejection didn’t get Plaza down and since then she has graced our screens with legendary roles that prove she is an absolute master of comedy.

And if her hilarious SNL promotional teaser – which ended in her snogging Chloe Fineman – is anything to go by, we’re in for some seriously excellent Saturday night entertainment.

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If you want to hype yourself up further ahead of the actor’s appearance on SNL then look no further.

April Ludgate (Parks and Recreation

Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate in Parks and Rec. (NBC)
Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate in Parks and Rec. (NBC)

Let’s get stuck straight in with Plaza’s most infamous role to date: Her performance as Parks and Recreation’s April Ludgate – a disillusioned intern turned Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman)’s assistant – is the perfect place to look back on Plaza’s raw talent. 

If you haven’t already seen the series, where have you been? Plaza channels April’s dry, withering energy so immaculately the two almost merge into one on the screen. She played the role for six years from 2009-15 and has been immortalised in meme history because of it. 

Kat (Spin Me Round)

Although Plaza is best known for a TV series, she also has a winning streak when it comes to film as well. And if there is one thing Plaza loves, it is a dark comedy, as you’ll come to see. 

In 2022’s dark comedy Spin Me Round she plays Kat, the enigmatic assistant of Nick (Alessandro Nivoola), an extremely shity guy who whisks chef Amber (Alison Brie) off to Tuscany. Plaza’s comedic performance in the film was singled out by critics who said she lifted the film to a whole new level.

Lucy Stanbridge (Best Sellers)

Aubrey Plaza in Best Sellers. (Robot Entertainment)

If you are looking for an uplifting comedic drama then look no further. 2021 comedy-drama Best Sellers tells the endearingly delightful story of a grumpy retired author Harris Shaw (Michael Caine) and perky young publisher Lucy Stanbridge (Aubrey Plaza).

When Lucy forces Harris back into the limelight with a new book, Plaza shines in her role as friend and guiding light to an old man reliving his heyday. The perfect watch for some good old heartwarming and comically astute acting. 

Harper Spiller (The White Lotus)

Of course no list is complete without Plaza’s Golden Globe-nominated performance in The White Lotus season two. 

The second season of Mike White’s acclaimed black comedy drama sees Plaza plays Harper, an uptight lawyer reluctantly on a couples’ holiday with husband’s former college roommate. Harper’s perfectly-drawn mix of cynicism and insecurity make for an immaculately executed character. Although the role allows Plaza’ to demonstrate some serious acting chops, it’s not without some beautifully interlaced humour. 

Aubrey Plaza in The White Lotus. (HBO)
Aubrey Plaza in The White Lotus. (HBO)

Riley Johnson (Happiest Season)

Plaza ingratiated herself to gay people once again in 2020 when she starred in one of the first major LGBTQ+ Christmas films, playing Riley, an ex-girlfriend of Mackenzie Davis’ Harper. Another chance chance to see the more light-hearted side to Plaza’s acting, she has some exquisite scenes with Harper’s current girlfriend Abby (Kirsten Stewart) and perfect chemistry with the whole cast.

Lenny Busker (Legion

As established, Plaza does not shy away from complicated and messy characters. And none exemplify that more than Lenny Busker in FX superhero series Legion.

For two seasons from 2017-19, the actor played Lenny Busker, a patient at Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital and friend to series protagonist David Haller (Dan Stevens), who is diagnosed with schizophrenia but who discovers new powers. 

This dark comedy was designed to confuse and Plaza showed her range as she assumed several different personas.

Ingrid Thorburn (Ingrid Goes West)

This social media satire is yet another card in Plaza’s deck of comedic talent. In 2017’s Ingrid Goes West she plays a recently bereaved social media stalker who moves to LA to befriend the latest object of her obsession, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen).

As well as the perfect comic chemistry with WandaVision star Olsen, Plaza she also injects a warm humour and humanity into the character to elevate her performance. A timely and biting watch.

Aubrey Plaza will host Saturday Night Live with Sam Smith on 21 January at 11:30pm (ET) on NBC in the US