Sometimes, a career arc can form a complete circle. Case in point: comedian Aubrey Plaza, who plays the bored intern April opposite Amy Poehler in NBC’s Parks and Recreation, and who makes her big screen debut this week as Seth Rogen’s diffident standup comic love interest in Judd Apatow’s Funny People.

The 25-year-old’s career at NBC includes stints as one of the fabled blazered network pages and, yes, as an intern at Saturday Night Live. “I was in the design department, which I have no interest in,” she said between gigs on the weekend at this city’s Just For Laughs festival. “But I was kind of like a sponge at SNL. I read every sketch. I would steal them and take them home and read them.”

Still, Plaza was working as a waitress as late as a year ago, before the right people started seeing The Jeannie Tate Show, an online sitcom in which she developed her signature style of “bemused disinterest” (as GQ characterized it) based, she says, on the attitude of her teenaged sister. And, yes, Aubrey Plaza is her real name. “Plaza is Puerto-Rican Spanish,” says the Delaware native. “And Aubrey, I was named after a song called Aubrey by the band Bread in the ’70s.”

Weirdly, going into filming of Funny People, Plaza was one of the few cast members who’d never done standup. “I got thrown into standup with a pretty extreme introduction,” she says. “I was pretty comfortable in the improv world, but I instantly had to do standup with the rest of the cast. My third show ever was at the Comedy and Magic Club at Hermosa Beach, and Judd made me go up right after Adam Sandler. I didn’t bomb.”

Having caught the bug, she continues to play clubs whenever she can, possessed of what she estimates as “a solid 10 minutes” of material. (Variety magazine chose her at this festival as one of “10 Comics to Watch” — a list that in the past has included Zach Galifianakis and Louis CK). Plaza is particularly flattered by comparisons of her to a young Janeane Garofalo. “That’s a really huge compliment for me. She’s definitely one of my role models, and I’ve watched everything she ever did. In fact, she was the first live standup I ever saw.”

And the breaks just keep coming. Plaza just finished a couple of months in Toronto filming the Michael Cera starring vehicle, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (about a guy who sets out to fight all his new girlfriend’s exes), the latest from director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz). “I play a character who’s kind of an antagonist to Scott Pilgrim, like a bitchy record store-slash-barista-slash-party planner. She’s different than anything I’ve ever done because all my other characters tend to be over it and not interested. But she is outraged about everything. I spend most of my time in the movie just screaming at Michael Cera, which was so much fun.”

And this week, she was scheduled to be back at work in L.A. on Parks and Recreation with a 6 a.m. call. “It’s so weird to see all this stuff happening so fast, it’s surreal. I mean, there are all kinds of things I want to do. But I’d be happy if the show were on a long time. It’s a new experience for me. But the feeling of going back there is like going back to camp. Amy is amazing and we all get along so well. So if the show does well it’d be great.”

From the Edmonton Sun