She got into comedy after her family moved to Houston, where she started showing up at the nationally-renowned Comedy Workshop. She finally braved the stage as a senior at Providence College in Rhode Island. Upon graduation, she relocated to Boston and took any opportunity to appear at the mike. Later, at the advice of Dennis Miller’s brother, she moved out to LA to pursue comedy more seriously. She first met Ben Stiller in 1990 in a Hollywood deli, over a bagel. Following multiple appearances on Miller’s short-lived talk show, Stiller brought her in as a featured player on The Ben Stiller Show.
A guest appearance by Gary Shandling led to a recurring role on The Larry Sanders Show as Paula, the show talent-booker. Following the Stiller Show’s cancellation in 1993, she was tapped to bring some fresh, female talent to the comedically ailing Saturday Night Live. SNL failed to showcase her abilities, and she moved on after one season, having had what may be euphemistically be called an unpleasant time.
She talked about her experiences in 2002’s Live from New York book:
It was a Maalox moment every five minutes. I had irritable bowel syndrome every day. My drinking just got out of hand. I would credit SNL with being very instrumental to some bad habits that certainly increased.
I wanted to quit after the first week. I phoned my agent and said, ‘This is not a good fit. There’s something wrong here.’ There is a tangible, almost palpable– perhaps the word is ‘visceral’– feeling of bad karma when you walk into the writers room.
SNL’s loss was film’s gain. Starting with the Stiller-directed Reality Bites in 1994, she has been seen in Bye Bye Love (1995), The Truth About Cats and Dogs (1996), The Matchmaker (1997), Cop Land (1997), and in a cameo as a grunged-out wait-wench in Stiller’s second directorial effort, The Cable Guy. In 1998, she appeared in the Ben Stiller-led biopic Permanent Midnight as his character’s agent. The next year, she reteamed with Stiller in Mystery Men, in which she stars as a superhero called “The Bowler.”
Following her increased political and anti-war activism, she was co-host on Air America radio’s talk show “The Majority Report,” from March 2004 to July 2006.
In 2005, she returned to TV in a recurring role during the last season of The West Wing. She will appear during the seventh season of 24 as an FBI Agent.