Heidi Gardner

by Brianne wills

Team Credits



Samantha Sutton

makeup artist

Tracy Alfajora @ The Wall Group


Heidi Gardner


Clara Leonard @ The Wall Group


Calvy Click @ Art Department


Madeline Manning


Katy Andrascik


Heidi Gardner Has Perfect Timing

After unexpectedly finding her way into comedy, the Saturday Night Live star continues to make all the right moves as she climbs toward the top.

By Samantha Sutton

Earrings & Bracelet: ROUSSEY
Briefs: SKIMS



            ood things take time,” Heidi Gardner declares over Zoom. 

We’re around 20 minutes into our conversation, and while I’m trying hard to focus on the Saturday Night Live star’s words of wisdom, I can’t. Instead, I’m distracted by the fluffy brown cat crawling on her head. As Gardner’s pet loops around her neck, hops onto her lap, and climbs their way back up to her shoulder, the comedian continues to talk, barely missing a beat. There’s a joke in here somewhere, I think to myself. But Gardner’s the pro; if there’s a punchline, she’ll be able to craft the perfect one.

It makes sense that Gardner would find herself in such an unintentionally funny situation. Much like this call, her journey into comedy didn’t go as planned. In fact, it was never really part of the plan to begin with.

“My family was always renting movies from Blockbuster and I was staying up late to watch SNL, but I was in Missouri,” Gardner tells me when talking about her childhood. “In my brain, all that stuff happened in Hollywood and there just wasn’t a path [there], especially because I wasn't a kid actor. It was just like, ‘This is something I'm always going to be obsessed with. I'm always going to cut out pictures from Entertainment Weekly and put them on my wall. Movie posters are going to be everywhere and I'm going to quote things all the time. But that's the extent of it.’”

Gardner even had a whole other career lined up. After graduating college, she moved out to Los Angeles and began working in hair and makeup.

“I was working in a salon and made friends with someone who was in The Groundlings [improvisation and sketch comedy] theater. I went and saw her in a show and thought, ‘Oh, this is so funny. I want to bring my family when they're in town.’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, but you should also take a class here because you're funny.’”

It took some convincing but Gardner decided to do it. It was more about the way performing and being silly made her feel, she says. She never had the goal of pursuing comedy professionally.

“I wasn't thinking SNL. I wasn't thinking anything other than ‘I'm a hairstylist who has the hobby of improv and sketch, and I think it makes me less shy,’” she says. 

Once she made her way through multiple levels of classes, however, she was hooked.




Briefs: SKIMS

“I wasn't thinking SNL. I wasn't thinking anything other than ‘I'm a hairstylist who has the hobby of improv and sketch, and I think it makes me less shy’”

“I ended up getting into The Groundlings’ main company and began performing all the time. I stopped doing hair. But I still didn’t have a plan. I was just kind of like, ‘I think I do comedy now? But I think I do comedy for free," she says. "I'm just lucky SNL came and saw me in the summer of 2017 and had me audition in New York.”

The rest was history. Gardner joined the cast later that year, and these days, it’s hard to remember a time before she graced our TV screens every weekend (or even compute that it’s only been six years since she first appeared on the legendary NBC show). She’s become known for iconic characters, like teen movie critic Bailey Gismert and Your Coworker Who’s Extremely Busy Doing Seemingly Nothing (her own personal favorite). But, despite having such a fascinating, almost-overnight success story, Gardner’s ride to the top hasn’t always been smooth sailing. 

“The first couple of years, you just feel new and that’s exciting. And then, I felt like the middle child for a long time,” she says, explaining that, at the time, the SNL cast had remained pretty consistent for years. “And I get it. With the way the show works, the people that have been there for a long time are the seniors, and you want to take care of the seniors. They've earned their space there, they've earned their screentime. But when you’re the middle, and you're not the shiny new thing and you're not a senior, you're just kind of…You're on the bench a lot being like, ‘I want to shoot the ball! I want to go! I want to shoot the ball!’”

It's safe to say the pandemic didn’t help the situation, either. For one reason or another, Gardner has lost out on a total of 10 shows since her debut, which, according to her, has felt like a lot of “start, stop, start, stop.” But this past season, she says, things began to shift.

“I just felt like the season had a great momentum to it. I felt useful and creatively fulfilled. And that feels really good. I also felt that way for everyone around me — the cast," she says. "Since we had so many people leave last year, I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be called the rebuilding year. Who knows what people will say about us?’ But for me, it just felt like a really fresh year. And I kept getting feedback that it just feels really fresh and cool and exciting.”


Tails & Earrings: VINTAGE
Shoes: YSL




Gardner didn’t grow up with aspirations of becoming an actress, so she’s admittedly still getting used to being part of such a competitive industry — something she never had to deal with when working in beauty.

“I wasn't necessarily questioning my self-worth or dealing with instant rejection,” she tells me, joking that her biggest worry back then was having a client leave her for another hairstylist. “Sometimes, I compare [being on SNL] to being back in high school. You're just around a lot of people and it can feel competitive at times. I have to remind myself that I didn't have to think about those things before. It’s not even in my nature to be like, ‘Well, if they get this, what do I get?’”

Gardner says she recently made the conscious decision to “choose connection” with people over ego, just like she would have before she made comedy her full-time job.

“Of course, you want to be on the show and do your thing. But I'm also part of a team. I love sports and I think teamwork makes the dream work. Reminding myself of who I was before this really helps. Because I wasn't really built for this or equipped for a lot of the things that come along with this stuff, and that’s OK," she says. "I can give myself grace and be nice to myself, and not have the same expectation of ‘I've been doing this since I was eight years old, so a rejection or something should just brush off my shoulder easily.’ No. I have feelings and this is kind of still new to me.”

If it sounds like Gardner is undergoing a bit of a transition, she is. Her sense of style is shifting (“At the beginning of this year, I wanted to be chicer, or more powerful, or simpler because I was just overwhelmed. But I get bored with that, too…”). She’s branching out beyond SNL (you probably spotted her on Apple TV+’s Shrinking) and is working on writing a TV show with a friend (“You want to wait for the most perfect role in the world to come to you, but there are things that I'm responsible for creating for myself, especially with how specific I am and what I want to do.”). Gardner is also turning 40 this year, but when discussing this major milestone, she tells me her main concern is planning “a fun birthday party.”

“I'm always better when I'm planning something,” she says, describing an old-school sleepover she threw with girlfriends a few summers ago, where she bought everyone Caboodles and filled them with things they’d need for the weekend. “Just creating a theme or a world and having something to look forward to is my thing. I always want to have that going. It makes me so much more creative.”

Yet, despite being such a planner, Gardner swears she’s making more of an effort to be in the moment.

“With the job and everything, I've been moving on such adrenaline. I would just rather be open and be present,” she says. “Sometimes, that means I'll be out with someone and suddenly I'm like, ‘Wait a second — actually ground yourself and be like, this is where I am right now. Plant your feet on the ground and just be more aware of each moment and its significance, and the person in front of you and the connection you could be making.’ And not connection in an industry way — in a spiritual, friendship way.”

But Gardner has goals, too. Aside from hoping the TV show she’s working on moves forward, what she wants to do is simple: continue playing fun characters and being in as many sketches as possible. The good news is, by her own definition, she’s already had plenty of “I made it” moments. The Kansas City, Missouri native says her version of success is getting to do cool stuff back in her hometown, like lighting holiday lights at an outdoor mall called The Plaza or hosting The Big Slick charity event, which raises money for Children's Mercy Hospital (she’s done both). In 2023, she even participated in the NFL Draft, which she says was like “checking a box for 10-year-old Heidi, who was a massive Chiefs fan and still is.”

Gardner says she’s open to all possibilities and opportunities, including the ones she hasn’t even dreamed of yet. She’s trying to trust that the universe will bring them to her, just like it did in the past.

“I just always try to remind myself, ‘Patience. You’re right where you need to be.’”





in this issue