5 reasons to revisit Abby Elliott’s “The Assistant”

On YouTube—not Saturday Night Live—Abby Elliot developed an original and entertaining character that's worth tuning in to. 


Jordan Valinsky


Published Sep 14, 2012   Updated Jun 2, 2021, 11:07 am CDT

When you tune in to this weekend’s premiere of Saturday Night Live, you will notice a few key players missing: Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, and Abby Elliott.

It’s the departure of relative newcomer Elliott that disappoints the most. She might have not created a largesse of breakout characters like Wiig or produced viral sensations like Samberg, but she did construct a steady stable of fantastic celebrity impressions.

Elliott’s quirky impersonation of Zooey Deschanel was spot-on. She masterfully mocked the Meryl Streep’s humble persona, and her Rachel Maddow imitation was always a treat.

Her stint only lasted four seasons, and speculation is rampant about what led to her exit. An article in Variety suggested the show did more harm than good by pigeonholing her as an impression expert and not letting her exercise her other talents.

“It’s hard to recall an example of an ‘SNL’ cast member who displayed as much talent as she did on the show yet remained woefully underused,” wrote Variety reporter Andrew Wallenstein, in an captivating dissection of Elliott’s decampment. (Of note, she did last three more years than her father, Chris, as his run on the NBC show lasted for a mere single season in the mid-1990s.)

There was one place where Elliot truly shined recently—YouTube.

In The Assistant, a six-episode Web series on the Above Average YouTube channel, is about a dumb executive looking for, well, an assistant. She finds the perfect companion in herself. (Elliott plays both rules in the show).

The show, which she co-wrote and starred in, felt like a natural extension for Elliott. Aside from having total creative control, she didn’t have to compete for facetime, and the series benefits from an edited, slick format versus the live nature of an SNL skit.

Without Elliott gracing our televisions on Saturdays anymore, here are five reasons why you should revisit The Assistant.

1) There’s a breakout character!

Although Wallenstein said that Elliot didn’t earn a lengthy run on SNL because she failed to create a notable character, she has one in The Assistant. Elliott excels in the role of a woefully oblivious, bitchy, and wine-craving executive.

The character would have been a perfect addition to SNL‘s now-depleted cabinet of original characters or an entertaining guest on the “Weekend Update.”

2) She’s a solid comedic actress.

It’s a tricky feat to act with yourself, but Elliot manages to pull it off flawlessly. Her even-headed, constantly annoyed assistant role balances her other, over-the-top character.

3) It’s weird while not being obnoxiously weird.

The three-to-five-minute shows are just enough to satisfy someone looking for a quick comedy fix. The YouTube-based replacement is perfect for someone who A) doesn’t want to load up Hulu and watch incessant ads or B) rewatch an SNL sketch for the millionth time. It’s not all great. Episode four is actually terrible, but the show rebounds with the wonderful, “The Birthday Party.” Also, SNL newbie Kate McKinnon’s nutty psychic impression is delightful.

4) Her sister is funny, too!

In the third episode, “Girls Night,” Elliott’s sister Bridey deftly plays an emo, vindictive waitress that is my new spirit animal. Bridey’s character is a weird one: She sneaks up on people, insults the customers, and slaps unruly eaters with menus. (I can’t stop watching the slappage at the :50 second mark.)

“She reminds me of younger, completely different me,” says Elliott, in a sly nod to the audience.

Of course, just like Bridey’s older sister and father, she’s no novice to the comedy circuit. The 22-year-old comedian has starred in Funny or Die sketches, done stand-up comedy, and has a loyal following on Tumblr.

5) It’s your last chance to see Elliott in the spotlight.

Her first post-SNL gig is a guest stint on past it’s prime comedy, How I Met Your Mother. She’s slated to play, sigh, a “crazy girlfriend,” because that’s a breakthrough character that prime time comedies have never seen before. Elliott is far too young and too talented to become a victim to the CBS factory of generic comedy production, but maybe this is what’s best for her.

Photo via Above Average/YouTube

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*First Published: Sep 14, 2012, 9:00 am CDT