Born Aug. 28, 1963 in Boston, MA, Jennifer Coolidge moved to New York City and joined the Gotham City Improv group after graduating college with a degree in theater. Blessed with bombshell beauty and an offbeat sense of humor, she proved a natural at improv and an enormously gifted comedian. Coolidge soon moved to Los Angeles and landed a spot in the famed Groundlings troupe, where she began to make a name for herself. Her TV debut came in 1993 as a masseuse who will not give her boyfriend Jerry Seinfeld a rubdown on a particularly memorable episode of "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998). She landed a featured regular role on the short-lived sketch series "She TV" (ABC, 1994) on ABC and then on the Roseanne-produced "Saturday Night Special" (Fox, 1996) as a writer and performer.
Having appeared in small comedy roles in the Showtime-aired Roger Corman horror presentations "Not of This Earth" and "Bucket of Blood" in 1995, Coolidge made her big-screen debut in the inane courtroom comedy Trial and Error (1997), co-starring the erstwhile Kramer himself, Michael Richards. She continued to book small comedic parts that took advantage of her va-va-voom voluptuousness and inimitable off-kilter line readings, including a turn as a sexy cop in the "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ),A Night At the Roxbury (1998). She recurred on the animated "King of the Hill" (Fox, 1997-2010) as the voice of Miss Kremzer, the frazzled beauty school teacher of Luanne Platter (Brittany Murphy), and had a bit part in the hit sequel "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (1999).
Coolidge broke out as a comedy star, however, for her turn in the blockbuster teen sex comedy American Pie (1999), in which she played Stifler's mom, the alluring and ultimate "MILF." Masterfully turning what could have been an exploitative role into pure charm, Coolidge brilliantly mined its comedy, creating one of the raunchy film's most potent and unexpected set-ups. She next switched gears, radiating empathy as a kind hairdresser in the gay cult hit "The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy" (2000) and then delivered on her "Pie" breakthrough by stealing the Christopher Guest improv-heavy mockumentary Best in Show (2000). As Sherri Ann Cabot, a gloriously trashy trophy wife carrying on a secret lesbian affair with her dog trainer (Jane Lynch), Coolidge proved a hilarious comedic secret weapon and quickly became one of Guest's troupe's MVPs, renowned for her ability to play stupid so smartly.
In 2001, she made a cameo as Stifler's Mom in "American Pie 2" and scored laughs again as the gold-digging wife of an elderly mogul inhabited by the spirit of a dead comedian (Chris Rock) in the feature "Down to Earth." She guested in an episode of "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004) and beautifully mixed the pathos and comedy of the hard-luck manicurist Paulette who benefits from the pretty-in-pink verve of Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde (2001). Consistently surprising critics and audiences with her vanity-free, chameleonic performances and otherworldly gift for improv, Coolidge quickly became the go-to character actress who could add a quirky sparkle to any project, brightening such comedies as the rap-centric Pootie Tang (2001) and the male model send-up "Zoolander" (2001).
In 2003, Coolidge reunited with Witherspoon in the likable but lesser "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde" and with the "Pie" kids in "American Wedding." She guested on "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004) and "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004), and notched another big-screen success with her Guest troupemates in the folk music-themed A Mighty Wind (2003), which found Coolidge in razor-sharp comedic form. The following year, she delighted as the Botoxed wicked stepmother in the Hilary Duff tween smash A Cinderella Story (2004) for which she won a Teen Choice Award, and recurred on "According to Jim" (ABC, 2001-09). Network execs had had an eye on Coolidge, and she was tapped to join the spin-off "Joey" (NBC, 2004-06) as Bobbi Morganstern, the aggressive and oversexed agent of the titular Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc). Unfortunately, this heavily hyped "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004) spin-off did not have its predecessor's success and failed spectacularly.
She voiced Aunt Fanny in the animated hit Robots (2005) and joined with many of her Guest comrades (including Catherine O'Hara and Jane Lynch) for a small role in the film adaptation of the book series Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004). Invited to join the Academy in 2005, Coolidge channeled Barbra Streisand's "Meet the Fockers" (2004) character in the gross-out parody Date Movie (2006) and took a supporting role in the Adam Sandler magic-remote-control comedy Click (2006). Although the subsequent Guest mockumentary For Your Consideration (2006) was not the smash many hoped it would be, Coolidge remained at the top of her game for her small role as a dazzlingly dizzy movie producer. In the parody Epic Movie (2007), she conjured up laughs as the "White Bitch," an echo of Tilda Swinton's "White Witch" in "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (2005).
Coolidge provided voices for the John Cusack animated film "Igor" (2008) and appeared in the acclaimed "Living Proof" (Lifetime, 2008), based on the real-life story of the search for a breast cancer cure. She notched an outrageous arc on the eyebrow-raising plastic surgery drama "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003-2010), recurred on the Molly Shannon/Selma Blair suburbia sitcom "Kath & Kim" (NBC, 2008-09) and proved her improv chops were still among the best in the business with two hilarious guest spots on "Party Down" (Starz, 2009-2010). Coolidge took a more dramatic role as an alcoholic in the polarizing Nicholas Cage vehicle, "The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans" (2009), and helped cut through the quirk in "Gentleman Broncos" (2009). She reunited with Hilary Duff for the lightweight charmer "Beauty & the Briefcase" (ABC Family, 2010) and notched a long-running, recurring role as sweet but spacey former hooker, Betty, on "The Secret Life on the American Teenager" (ABC Family, 2008- ). Many were delighted to hear that Coolidge would return yet again as the agelessly seductive Stifler's mom in American Reunion (2012), which reunited the original cast to much fanfare.
By Jonathan Riggs
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