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The Many Faces of Kristen Wiig

With her repertoire of offbeat and wonderfully weird characters, she has carved out a niche within the niche of Saturday Night Live. But what’s most extraordinary about Kristen Wiig’s ultra-specific and perverse humor is that millions of people are laughing along.

Depending on whom you ask, Saturday Night Live is having a moment. New York magazine has called the season “excellent,” while Entertainment Weekly gave it a middling B-, crediting the show’s staying power ti “old habit.” The verdict from the rest o America, from couch critics to the blogosphere, remains similarly divided: some cannot get enough Target Lady, others see no reason to tune in without Tina Fey’s Palin or Amy Poehler’s pluck. Where the debate ends is with Kristen Wiig. With eight films on the horizon, including April’s MacGruber, and a consistency of appearances on SNL that rivals Will Ferrell’s at this peak, Wiig’s situation is hard to describe as anything but momentous. And if SNL is indeed having a moment, it has much to do with Kristen Wiig.

“Kristen has a wonderfully bizarre sense of humor,” says Joma Taccone, a writer for SNL and te director of MacGruber, and absurdist parody of MacGyver that exemplifies the show’s new spirit. “I don’t find it in too many people, and it feels really inspired. It’s the kind of humor we get most excited about, when there’s something going on in a person’s brain that you can almost be jealous of, like, ‘How did you come up with that? I don’t know how you put that together.’ And we strive for that, but she just has it naturally.”

Anyone who can’t immediately recall Wiig should be reminded of the bitchy TV executive from Knocked Up, the one who is in disbelief that the network wants to put Katherine Heigl’s character on camera. ThSNL characters, like the Target Lady, the impish Gilly, and the compulsive one-upper Penelope, as well as impersonations of Nancy Pelosi, Suze Orman, and a sublimely insane Kathie Lee Gifford.

Fittingly, Wiig’s favorite character is possibly her most grotesque, “I love doing Doonese, the girl with the little hands,” she says. A prime example of the specificity of the weirdness that makes Wiig’s characters so transfixing. Doonese is the freakish fourth in an otherwise perfect ensemble called the Meryl sisters, who appears as guests of Lawrence Welk on SNL‘s parody of the bandleader’s “mildly enjoyable” ’50s series. Doonese has remarkably long arms with tiny hands, and a gigantic forehead. She speaks in an eerie soprano that, in contrast to her sisters (“I like rainbows,” for example), offers startling gems, like “I put worms in my bed and slept in my bed, and put a squirrel in my bed and mustard in my bed and ate them all. Is that bad?”