Gen-Z comedy is still taking shape, but a few valiant comedians and filmmakers are venturing into that space and making it work marvelously. Rachel Sennott is one of those creatives, making the most of social media and independent productions to spread the gospel of how funny young people are. With her new, uproarious movie Bottoms coming to theaters this week, the actress, writer and comedian is certainly one to watch.
Indie and on the rise
Sennott’s career began while she was a student at NYU, where she was studying acting and getting her feet wet in the local comedy scene. While she found the Manhattan comedy club circuit “gross,” she discovered a better outlet in Brooklyn’s more alternative spaces. Her work there served as a training ground for her comedic talents, which were further fostered by her very popular sardonic social media presence.
Aside from widely circulated tweets and Instagram posts, she also began some key partnerships during and right after college: for one, she started working with filmmaker Emma Seligman on a short film called Shiva Baby, and she and fellow comedian Ayo Edebiri developed a series of shorts for Comedy Central.
Both connections have since proved significant (all three work together on this year’s Bottoms), though her work with Seligman brought about her breakthrough. Shiva Baby premiered at SXSW as a short, and it got the green light as a full-fledged feature. The 78-minute film premiered during the COVID-addled 2020 festival season, getting a theatrical release in 2021 and absolutely exploding onto the independent film scene. The movie went on to win the coveted John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards, and Sennott’s lead performance as a bisexual sugar baby who has an awkward encounter at a shiva was hailed as “exquisitely exasperated” and “a revelation.”
A24’s It Girl
Sennott maximized the potential of her indie cred by working on projects produced by the hottest independent studio in town, A24. First came Bodies Bodies Bodies, a raucous horror-comedy that sees the actress play Alice, a ditzy podcaster. Sennott departs from her usual deadpan style as her character whines about zodiac signs and body dysmorphia, and she’s the source of the movie’s biggest laughs. It’s hard to blend entitled unlikability with comedy, but she nails it throughout.
The actress’ next collaboration with A24 is perhaps an infamous one, though she came out largely unscathed. HBO’s The Idol was touted as this summer’s most shocking drama, but poor reviews (and even poorer responses from those involved) sank that ship before it even set sail. Sennott plays Leia in the show, the best friend-slash-assistant of superstar Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp); a smaller role, but critics were quick to point out that “the best things about the show by far is its stellar supporting cast:” Sennott is “hilarious” and “particularly wonderful” amidst the muck around her. Though it’s still early in her career, she’s already established herself as a uniquely reliable comedic presence.
A bawdy breakthrough
This all leads to one of Sennott’s biggest, best projects yet: the bloody, bonkers and subversive Bottoms. The film encapsulates the actress’ career so far in a fascinating way. Not only does it reunite her with Emma Seligman (Sennott actually co-wrote it with the writer-director), but she stars opposite Ayo Edebiri. The movie’s offbeat, sometimes purposefully off-putting vibe aligns with much of the other work she’s done, and its focus on specific queer experiences follows up on themes explored in both Shiva Baby and Bodies Bodies Bodies. Indie queer comedy may be a small niche, but it’s one that Sennott has been dominating in the past few years. The actress is a creative of many talents, and you can be sure you’ll see plenty more of them in the years to come.