Birthdate: August 28, 1961
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Iconic for her role as Jeanine Stifler in the American Pie movies, and most memorable as a member of writer-director Christopher Guest’s mock-docu comedy troupe, Jennifer Coolidge (birthname: Jennifer Audrey Coolidge) uniquely combines a blonde bombshell image and droll, deadpan comedic chops. She has virtually patented the jarring contrast, delivering performances that reliably thwart expectations.
After a TV debut on a Seinfeld episode in 1993, and four years of small roles in mostly minor movies, Coolidge broke out as Mrs. Stifler, a centerpiece in some of American Pie’s (1999) most head-turning scenes with Jason Biggs, as awkward Jim Levenstein. A sleeper hit, the comedy grossed over $109 million, very high for a distinctly American comedy. Coolidge returned in American Pie 2 (2001), albeit in cameo form.
At the same time, Jennifer Coolidge joined Christopher Guest for his hit comedy about competitive dog shows, Best in Show (2000), with Guest, John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, and Fred Willard, launching Guest’s popular and long-running series of pseudo-documentary satires in which the company of actors largely improvise their dialogue.
Coolidge joined Chris Rock for Chris and Paul Weitz’s Down to Earth (2001), followed by the mega-hit comedy, Legally Blonde (2001), starring Reese Witherspoon and Luke Wilson. At this point, Coolidge was part of the company of three-hit comedy franchises but broke out to such standalone satires as Ben Stiller’s Zoolander (2001), Louis C.K.’s Blaxploitation spoof, Pootie Tang (2001), with Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes, and Marleen Gorris’s German comedy, Carolina (2003), with Julia Stiles, Shirley MacLaine, and Mika Boorem.
In 2003, Coolidge jumped between Guest’s comedy about the folk music scene, A Mighty Wind, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, and the third entry in the American Pie saga, American Wedding, again with Jason Biggs. Coolidge reunited with Paul Weitz for his satire, American Dreamz (2006), followed by her third Christopher Guest comedy, For Your Consideration (2006), lampooning the movie business. A different kind of showbiz spoof, Epic Movie (2007), saw Coolidge (as “The White Bitch of Gnarnia”) in an ensemble with Kal Penn, her Guest company member Fred Willard, and Crispin Glover.
After playing opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac in the comedy, Soul Men (2008), Coolidge departed from her brand as the Queen of Satire to work under Werner Herzog’s direction in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009), with Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, and Val Kilmer.
Jennifer Coolidge began collaborating with women filmmakers, starting with Jerusha Hess (with her filmmaking partner Jared) on Gentlemen Broncos (2009), and later, the Jane Austen spoof, Austenland (2013), with Keri Russell. She joined writer-director Emerald Fennell for her Oscar-winning debut, Promising Young Women (2020), with Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, and Laverne Cox.
Coolidge rejoined the American Pie gang for the fourth entry in the series, American Reunion (2012). Writer-director Miguel Arteta recruited Coolidge and her unique gifts for his comedy, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014), with Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner, followed by the comedy, Like a Boss (2020), with Salma Hayek, Tiffany Haddish, and Rose Byrne.
Coolidge joined Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel, Sonia Braga, and Lenny Kravitz for the rom-com, Shotgun Wedding (2022), then the company of writer-director Christopher Landon’s We Have a Ghost (2022), including David Harbour and Anthony Mackie. Coolidge’s major role in 2023 is her revival of Paulette Parcelle in Legally Blonde 3, with Witherspoon and Alanna Ubach.
Boston-born Jennifer Coolidge was raised by her father Paul Coolidge, a manufacturer in the plastics industry, and her mother Gretchen Coolidge in Norwell, Massachusetts. Her siblings are sisters Susannah and Elizabeth, and brother Andrew. Coolidge attended Norwell High School and graduated from the Cambridge School of Weston.
She had her collegiate career at Boston’s Emerson College and studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Coolidge has been in a relationship with comic actor Chris Kattan. As a favorite in the gay community, Coolidge has been an advocate of LGBTQ+ causes, and active in the animal rights movement. Her height is 5’ 10”.
Comedy Origins: Jennifer Coolidge learned her improv chops at the Groundlings comedy troupe.
Allergy: Jennifer Coolidge is allergic to glue.
Dim View: Coolidge has commented that “People have this view, ‘Oh, you’re in movies, your life is so glamourous,’ but it can really suck.”