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Maya Rudolph on Bringing Back the Variety Show: It's What People Need Right Now

The Maya Rudolph Show NBC

Whether you're ready or not, Maya Rudolph is bringing the variety show back.

With The Maya Rudolph Show, the Saturday Night Live veteran is throwing back to the days of The Muppet Show and The Carol Burnett Show. "I had always wanted to do something like this but wasn't really sure exactly what it was," Rudolph told reporters. "Once I left SNL, I sort of had the bug and couldn't really cure it. It's hard when you perform live on a regular basis and then you stop performing live…it feels like there's a part of you missing."

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The genesis of the variety show began when Rudolph left SNL and was rekindled when she started working with Lorne Michaels regularly on Up All Night. "I mean one of the reasons I wanted to do Up All Night was to continue to be a part of my SNL family and keep that alive," she said.

Still, it's been some time since the variety show was having its heyday, a fact that isn't lost on Rudolph. Is she worried? Not at all.

"I think I'm an analog person by nature. I've always thought it would be a good idea. And I think years ago when I was talking about it with people, you know, people with real business sense would say, 'Well, I think people have tried it and I'm not sure, I don't know if it's the right time,'" Rudolph said. "And I never really think in those terms. I'm more interested in what's going to feel good. And I feel like creatively you're at your best when you're doing something that you love. So I'm just glad that people were actually receptive to it right now."

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The Maya Rudolph Show NBC

Rudolph said it all came down to the timing. "I was going to try to do it no matter what. I mean nine times out 10 some of my ideas tend to be, you know, deep-rooted in the ‘70s or somewhere that has nothing to do with what's going on now," she said. "So I think this was just a lucky timing thing that people really thought, ‘You know what, I really feel like this is what people want right now.' I think people want to watch TV and feel good and laugh. And that they were just simply receptive to me doing the show was a really nice welcome, a nice feeling."

The Maya Rudolph Show will feature Rudolph playing with her pals Kristen Bell, Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, Chris Parnell, Sean Hayes and Craig Robinson. With friends like those…

"Those guys are like my brothers," Rudolph said of her fellow SNL cohorts coming on her show. "I know them so well and they're such wonderful people…Having your friends around when you're doing stuff is one of the major elements of the joy that is possible, that just creates, I think, a better energy and a better comedy. I mean it's just more fun to do."

READ: NBC announces The Maya Rudolph Show

The Maya Rudolph Show NBC

Rudolph cited The Muppet Show and Carol Burnett Show as influences for her variety special, programs she was raised on. "So [variety is] something that's very precious to me…it's a language that I understand very well," she said.

Looking at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Rudolph said there's a market for the variety format and the joy it brings people, including the guests. "I think the reception that Jimmy's had with what he's been doing has really started this sort of awareness of, ‘Hey, this feels good to audiences.' And I think people are starting to pick up on that," she said.

"So you know, it's sort of like the chicken and the egg. I certainly just feel like I got lucky in that I've been wanting to do this for so long that it's just good timing," Rudolph continued. "But I do feel like people want this and need this. And I wouldn't say that they're lacking it, but in the sense that there's a whole generation that doesn't even really know TV in this way."

The Maya Rudolph Show airs Monday, May 19 at 10 p.m. on NBC

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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