Today’s challenge: you’re a successful comic actress in your mid-30s. Your show, which was the highest-rated new sitcom last fall, disappeared like many series under the weight of the writers’ strike, and is about to return. So what do you do? If you’re Christina Applegate star of Samantha Who?, you pop up on Late Night to remind viewers that you’re still here. But what does a guest do when the host is having an off night, with a weak monologue and a luke warm comedy sketch that are your unavoidable lead in? Take a page from the Applegate Almanac.
First, you adapt to the low-key, if deflated, atmosphere. Then you affirm your status as a Conan fan by asking him why he doesn’t do his “string dance” during the monologue anymore? Following through by engaging your host in a dance duet. Then you have some fun by getting in a crotch joke as you take a shot at your recent Self Magazine cover.
While Applegate has mastered the knack of being sexy and funny, what really serves her well as a guest is her ability to react. She fine tunes her expressions and responses so that they fit the less than perfect mood of the night, while still getting in her own gags and, most importantly, feeding her host with solid set-up lines.
Not every show permits the guest to hit the ball out of the park, but Applegate played to her natural charm, making the audience feel comfortable in what could have been an awkward interview. Typically we’d saddle Applegate with a less than perfect score, but for her careful read of the situation and adaptability to the tone of the show, we give her the maximum grade.