A Note on Melissa McCarthy

I loved Bridesmaids. I really did. Mike and Molly? Haven’t seen it, but hey, I’ll assume it’s doing something right. The fact that Melissa McCarthy is on her merry way to becoming a full-fledged comedy star makes me seriously happy. She’s hilarious, eccentric, silly, and seems to be quite down-to-earth. Brava, Melissa. Brava.

But (you know this was coming), I have some major beef with the way she’s being portrayed in the media right now. Of all the articles, interviews, sidebars, and radio spots to feature this brilliant comedienne, I’m pretty sure not a single one has adequately acknowledged the fact that, to many of us, she was already a star. A star by the name of Sookie St. James, Head Chef at the Dragonfly Inn, Stars Hollow, Connecticut. Oh, Gilmore Girls, how quickly we have forsaken thee.

What do these journalists and entertainment hosts think this woman has been doing for the past ten years? Can she really be called an “overnight sensation” when she was one of the most important characters on one of the best television shows of all time? For SEVEN YEARS? If anything, I was hoping that all this attention on Ms. McCarthy would lead to some kind of national rediscovery of Gilmore Girls: an uptick in DVD sales or ABC Family syndication ratings, rekindled reunion movie rumors, perhaps a posthumous Emmy Award. But barring that, at the very least I’d like to think these newly ardent Melissa McCarthy fans would at least want to check out the work she cut her comedy teeth on!

In her splashy Entertainment Weekly cover story, Gilmore Girls is paid tribute with a meager one-line mention: “There followed a tremendous decade of steady work, including seven years playing the adorably off-kilter chef Sookie on Gilmore Girls.” And then the writer goes on to unfavorably compare that role with the “fully-realized” character she plays in Bridesmaids. Poor Sookie!

What the world needs to realize is that Melissa McCarthy has always been a comedic gem. I present to you a by-no-means-comprehensive list of some of Sookie’s funniest moments as proof:

“The Deer-Hunters” – Season 1, Episode 4 – Sookie tracks down a restaurant reviewer who gave her magic risotto a good but not great review. She’s hilariously persistent and while she comes off as totally insane, he does reevaluate and deem the risotto delicious.

“Cinnamon’s Wake” – Season 1, Episode 5 – Sookie keeps cracking jokes when Lorelai tries to talk to her about something. Lorelai tells her she’s being philosophical, and Sookie comes back with the perfectly delivered, “Oh, serious face. Jean-Paul Sartre.” Brilliant.

“A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving” – Season 3, Episode 9 – Sookie gets wasted at her Thanksgiving dinner. Her depiction of a drunkenly serene woman watching her husband’s buffoon friends deep-fry everything she owns is a work of subtle genius.

“Keg! Max!” – Season 3, Episode 19 – While Luke is fixing her oven, Sookie realizes she has accidentally been resting her hand on his butt the entire time. She then proceeds to discuss this with Lorelai while Luke is still sitting there.

“Die Jerk!” – Season 4, Episode 8 – Sookie and her choice of midwife, a large woman named Bruce, are the stars of this episode for me. I love how Sookie kowtows under Bruce’s formidable presence, while also completely ignoring how much Lorelai hates the idea of a midwife.

“Norman Mailer, I’m Pregnant!” – Season 5, Episode 6 – Sookie becomes increasingly infuriated at (the real) Norman Mailer, who has taken up residency at her restaurant at the Dragonfly, yet never orders anything. She also delivers one of my favorite angry moments (“Ann hates me!”)  in her reaction to accountant Ann, who tells Lorelai that they need to cut back, possibly by not serving lunch anymore.

“We’ve Got Magic to Do” – Season 6, Episode 5 – Sookie’s horrified reaction to the audience-participation elements of the children’s performance is comedy gold.

“Super Cool Party People” – Season 6, Episode 20 – Sookie’s entire opening monologue describing Lorelai’s drunken behavior at Lane’s wedding should be all anyone is talking about. Ever.

“Driving Miss Gilmore” – Season 6, Episode 21 – Sookie and Jackson discover marijuana in their growing fields. Need I say more?

There are so many other tiny little Sookie moments I could mention (when she holes up in the Dragonfly stealing chocolate and watching reruns, her funny relationship with Emily Gilmore, the fact that she once wanted to make every guest at the Inn a meringue hat, the day that photographers arrive to take pictures of the Inn and she’s put an entire cake on each individual table), but suffice to say she is a multi-dimensional comedic charmer and, ahem, most definitely “fully-realized.”

I don’t want to detract from the immeasurable success Melissa McCarthy has had post-Gilmore. As Richard Gilmore would say (albeit of Rory at the time), “What she tackles, she conquers.” But I do want all of us Gilmore Girls fans to get a little recognition for embracing this woman years before the rest of the world caught on. Look for another impassioned rant when Paris Geller gets the lead role in the next Woody Allen movie.

Images via crushable.com