Ellie Kemper

Ellie Kemper
Born Elizabeth Claire Kemper
(1980-05-02) May 2, 1980
Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Alma mater Princeton University
University of Oxford
Occupation Actress, comedian, writer
Years active 2003–present
Spouse(s) Michael Koman (m. 2012)
Children 1 (James Miller Koman b. 2016)
Relatives Carrie Kemper (sister)
William Thornton Kemper, Sr. (great-great-grandfather)

Elizabeth Claire "Ellie" Kemper (born May 2, 1980)[1] is an American actress, comedian, and writer. She is best known for her role as Kimmy Schmidt in the Netflix comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, for which she has received critical acclaim. Kemper is also known for her role as Erin Hannon in the NBC series The Office, as well as her supporting roles in the films Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street. In summer 2015, she joined NBC News as a temporary co-host on NBC's morning news program, The Today Show.[2]

Early life

Kemper was born in Kansas City, Missouri,[1] the second of four children of Dorothy "Dotty" Ann (Jannarone) and David Woods Kemper, one of the wealthiest families in the State of Missouri.[3][4] She is the granddaughter of Mildred Lane Kemper, the namesake of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis, for which the family donated $5 million. Kemper's father was the chairman and chief executive officer of Commerce Bancshares, a bank holding company founded by the Kemper family (her paternal great-great-grandfather was banker William Thornton Kemper, Sr.). She is also the older sister of television writer Carrie Kemper. Kemper has Italian (from her maternal grandfather), English, and German ancestry.[5]

The family moved to St. Louis when Kemper was five years old. She attended Conway Elementary School in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue and then high school at John Burroughs School, where she developed an interest in theater and improvisational comedy. One of her teachers was actor Jon Hamm, with whom she appeared in a school play.[3] In 1999, Kemper made her debut at the Veiled Prophet Ball, where she was named the Veiled Prophet Queen of Love and Beauty.[6]

Kemper graduated from Princeton University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.[3] At Princeton, she played field hockey in the 1999 season,[7] and said she sat on the bench "roughly 97 percent" of the time.[8] Her field hockey team went to the national championship in her first year, but she quit the team in later years to focus on theater.[3] She then attended the University of Oxford, where she studied towards a graduate degree in English.


I'm the most comfortable when I'm playing a naturalistic character. I auditioned for Saturday Night Live, and when I was doing the biggest characters, I felt the least comfortable. I'm just more comfortable when it's some version of myself.

Ellie Kemper[9]

Kemper continued her interest in improvisational comedy while in Princeton. She participated in Quipfire!, Princeton's oldest improv comedy group,[10] and the Princeton Triangle Club, a touring musical comedy theater troupe.[3] She also appeared in a radio spot for Dunkin' Donuts.[11]

Kemper earned her Screen Actors Guild card doing commercial advertising of a one-week sale of tents at Kmart. The commercial featured her camping with an onscreen husband, and a shot in which a tarantula crawls across her face.[12] She regularly appeared in comedy sketches on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in the late 2000s, and has made guest appearances on Important Things with Demetri Martin,[3] and E! Television's The Gastineau Girls,[11][13] which has been described as her "breakout role". She has appeared on Fuse TV's The P.A. In October 2008, Kemper appeared on The Colbert Report in a PSA for Teen Voter Abstinence.[14] Kemper has written several sketch comedy shows[15] many of them with her comedy partner Scott Eckert,[11] a fellow Princeton grad.[8] Kemper is a contributing writer for the national satirical newspaper The Onion,[16] and for McSweeney's.[11][17][18][19] She is also a contributor to The Huffington Post.[20][21]

Kemper performing "Feeling Sad/Mad with Ellie Kemper" at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in 2008.

Upon moving to New York City, Kemper participated in the People's Improv Theatre[8] and the city troupe of Upright Citizens Brigade, an improvisational comedy and sketch comedy theater. She has appeared in several shows for the Brigade, including Death and/or Despair, Listen Kid, Gang Bang and The Improvised Mystery.[11] At the UCB, she performed with the house improv teams Mailer Daemon and fwand.[11] At the People's Improv Theatre she performs with the house improv team Big Black Car.[22] In August 2008, she auditioned for a spot on the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, but was not cast.[9] In July 2009, Kemper was named one of Variety magazine's "10 Comics To Watch".[9]

Being on set with them is like being in a dream, except the dream is real and I can reach out and touch them. Except I am trying not to touch them too much, because I was raised right.

Ellie Kemper on The Office[8]

In 2007, she appeared in How to Kick People, a performance combining comedy and literary performances. In March 2008, she wrote and performed in the one-woman show "Dumb Girls" through the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.[13] She also performed in the one-woman show "Feeling Sad/Mad with Ellie Kemper"[9] and has appeared in comedy sketches on Funny or Die, the comedy website started by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's production company, Gary Sanchez Productions.[23]

Kemper gained some Internet fame in August 2007 for her part in "Blowjob Girl", a humor video on the sketch comedy site Derrick Comedy. The video, which was circulated on the popular site CollegeHumor, was a two-minute close-up of Kemper offering to perform oral sex on her boyfriend, but startling him by promising to bite and smash his genitals, which she seems to believe is arousing.[24] Kemper said of the video in an April 2010 interview with The A.V. Club: "I really don't like that video, and I wish that I hadn't done it, even though I know that it's a joke. I hate that it got sort of big, because I don't think that it's that funny and I don't want that to be the epitome of my work. It's just one video in a sea of many, but it has made me conscious of not wanting to do a video like that again."[25] Kemper has also contributed an article to CollegeHumor entitled "Regarding Our Decision Never to See Me Again."[26] She also had a minor role in the 2009 film Mystery Team. Kemper starred in the fake iPhone commercial on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in January 2007, six months before the first iPhone was released.[27] Kemper appeared in the Sofia Coppola comedy-drama Somewhere in 2010.[9] She appeared in Bridesmaids in 2011.[28] On April 3, 2013, it was announced that Kemper would be voicing a character in an episode of the animated sitcom American Dad!.[29]

Ellie Kemper on the red carpet at the 38th People's Choice Awards on January 11, 2012, at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California.

Kemper auditioned for a role in Parks and Recreation, an NBC comedy series started in 2009 by Michael Schur and Greg Daniels, creator of the series The Office. She was not cast in the role, but received a call back to audition for a supporting role in The Office as Erin Hannon, a secretary filling in for the regular secretary Pam Beesly when she briefly left the job at the end of the fifth season. Kemper was cast in the role, and started appearing in the show in April 2009. The character was originally written to be more sarcastic and dry, but the writers changed her to be more perky and optimistic to more closely resemble Kemper herself. Kemper described the character as "an exaggerated version of myself".[3] Kemper described herself as a "huge fan" of the show and was thrilled to be on the show.[8] Although the character was originally intended for four episodes, the producers were impressed with Kemper and signed her as a regular in the sixth season.[3] Jennifer Celotta, a screenwriter with the series, described Kemper as a "fun addition" to the show.[30]

Kemper received positive reviews for her role in The Office. Alan Sepinwall, television columnist with The Star-Ledger, praised the "infectious joy and sweetness" she brought to the show.[3] Joshua Ostroff of Eye Weekly described Erin as one of the best new television characters of the 2008–2009 season and said, "Erin's high-grade adorability, up-for-anything attitude and sheer niceness is unlike anyone else in the office, adding a welcome new wrinkle for next season."[31] Andy Shaw of TV Fodder said she "adds some freshness to the cast"[32] and Josh McAuliffe of The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pennsylvania, said he liked Erin's "cheerful, appealingly goofy personality".[33] Many critics have singled her out as a highlight of the show's eighth season following Steve Carell's departure.[34][35][36][37][38][39] In October 2009, Kemper appeared in Subtle Sexuality, a set of three The Office webisodes about efforts by Erin and Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling) to start a girl group.[3]

She appears in the Netflix original comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as the fish-out-of-water lead. She plays a former cult-member/abductee who wants to shed the victim pity of her small hometown and moves to New York.[40] Her performance on this show has been widely acclaimed, and she was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series in 2015 and an Emmy in 2016 for her performance.

In the summer of 2015, Kemper served as a temporary co-host of The Today Show alongside Al Roker, Natalie Morales, Tamron Hall, and Willie Geist.[41]

Personal life

Kemper is a Roman Catholic.[42] In 2012, she became engaged to her boyfriend Michael Koman, a former writer on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and the co-creator of the Adult Swim series Eagleheart and Comedy Central series Nathan for You.[43][44] The couple married on July 7, 2012.[45] In April 2016, Kemper revealed that she was pregnant with her first child.[46][47] It was reported on August 2, 2016 that Ellie Kemper had given birth to a boy.[48] Kemper revealed on November 18, 2016 that her son's name is James Miller Koman.[49]


Year Title Role Notes
2006 Sexual Intercourse: American Style Cindy TV series (2 episodes)
2007 Redeeming Rainbow Shelly TV film
2007–2008 Mister Glasses Kitty TV series (5 episodes)
2009 Mystery Team Jamie
2009 Cayman Went Girl in Bar
2009–2010 Important Things with Demetri Martin Allison / Felicia TV series (2 episodes)
2009–2013 The Office Erin Hannon Recurring (season 5)
Starring (season 6–9): 107 episodes
2010 Get Him to the Greek Pinnacle Executives
2010 Somewhere Claire
2010 The Office: The 3rd Floor Kelly Erin Hannon TV series (3 episodes)
2011 Bridesmaids Becca
2012 21 Jump Street Ms. Griggs
2012 NTSF:SD:SUV:: Fitzpatrick TV series (1 episode: "Whack-a-Mole")
2012 Robot Chicken Kendra / Female Passenger (voice) TV series (1 episode: "Crushed by a Steamroller on My 53rd Birthday")
2012 Rich Girl Problems Lucretia Short film
2012–2013 The Mindy Project Heather TV series (3 episodes)
2013 Identity Thief Flo Uncredited
2013–present Sofia the First Crackle TV series (recurring role)
2013–2014 Hollywood Game Night Herself TV series (2 episodes)
2013 Brenda Forever Brenda Miller TV film
2014 The Ellen DeGeneres Show Fill-In Host TV series (1 episode: "11.96")
2014 Laggies Allison
2014 Sex Tape Tess
2014 They Came Together Karen
2014 The Nobodies Julie Short film
2014 American Dad! Jenna (voice) TV series (1 episode: "Introducing the Naughty Stewardesses")
2014 Comedy Bang! Bang! Herself TV series (Episode: "Ellie Kemper Wears a Purple Ruffled Sleeveless Top & Lavender Flats")
2015–present Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Kimmy Schmidt
2015 The Today Show Co-anchor, Today's Take Morning news program (June 29, 2015 – July 17, 2015)
2015 We Bare Bears Lucy TV series
2015 Drunk History Nellie Bly TV series (1 episode: S3.E8 "Journalism")
2016 Animals. Princess (voice) TV series (Episode: "Dogs.")
2016 All Hail King Julien Karen (voice) TV series (Episode: "Revenge of the Prom")
2016 The Secret Life of Pets Katie (voice)
2017 Julie's Greenroom

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
2010 Golden Nymph Award Outstanding Actress – Comedy Series
The Office
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated
2011 Nominated
2012 Nominated
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award Best Ensemble Cast
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award Best Ensemble Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Award Best Acting Ensemble Nominated
MTV Movie Award Best Jaw Dropping Moment Won
Best Cast Nominated
New York Film Critics Online Award Best Ensemble Won
People's Choice Award Favorite Ensemble Movie Cast Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award Best Ensemble Acting Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award Best Ensemble Won
Women Film Critics Circle Award Best Ensemble Nominated
2013 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
The Office
2015 Webby Award Best Actress
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Entertainment Weekly Award Best Actress Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated
2016 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated


  1. 1 2 "Ellie Kemper". TVGuide.com. Archived from the original on March 14, 2016. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  2. Ree Hines, "'Unbreakable' and incredible! Ellie Kemper to join in fun on TODAY's Take", Today, June 25, 2015.
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  19. Kemper, Ellie (December 13, 2007). "Some Relatively Recent College Grads Discuss Their Maids". McSweeney's. Retrieved November 17, 2009.
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  43. Zach Johnson (December 8, 2011). "The Office Star Ellie Kemper Is Engaged!". Us Weekly. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
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  46. Dugan, Christina (April 14, 2016). "Ellie Kemper Expecting First Child". People Magazine. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  47. Houlb, Christian (April 14, 2016). "Ellie Kemper celebrated her pregnancy with ice cream on The Tonight Show". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  48. http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/02/entertainment/ellie-kemper-baby/
  49. http://people.com/babies/ellie-kemper-son-name-james-miller/
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