The Stunning Transformation Of Vanessa Bayer

Those who hear the name Vanessa Bayer have one thought in their minds: the first person to do a Rachel Green impression on TV. That would be correct! With said impersonation, she stunned not only Jennifer Aniston (more on that later) but the millions of "Saturday Night Live" fans who tuned in every week and never got tired of Bayer's work. Although she joined SNL during its 36th season, Bayer became one of the most memorable cast members.

However, SNL isn't the only highlight of her career. She was part of the TV series "I Love That For You" and guest starred in "Barry" for one episode. Bayer also appeared in the reboot of "Will & Grace" and has given her voice to several animated characters for different TV series such as "Alice's Wonderland Bakery" and "Helpsters."

Throughout her career, she has used her personal experience to help grow her professional life. That is how she turned an illness from her teenage years into a book, "How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear?" turning something sad into something beautiful.

She was born into a Reform Jewish family

Many comedians attribute their sense of humor and the kind of jokes they make to their upbringing, experiences from their childhood, and even, at times, to their religion. In Bayer's repertoire, you can find a little bit of everything.

She was born in Cleveland to a Reform Jewish family, and that is something that has impacted her life in several ways. In January 2020, Bayer met with Dr. Samantha Sheppard at Bailey Hall for a night in conversation sponsored by the Cornell Hillel Major Speaker Series and Cornell University Program Board. During said conversation, she discussed her work, her comedy, her career, and her upbringing.

One of the things that she mentioned was that growing up Jewish and attending Hebrew school had an effect on her. "The cultural part of it has really influenced my life and my comedy so much. I'm very grateful for that" (via Slope Media).

She was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 15

When "I Love That For You" premiered in 2022, it immediately met the audience with a young Joanna sick in a hospital. That is a sad reality for many children, and that was Bayer's reality when she was 15. At that age, the comedian was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. According to Slope Media's recollection of a night in conversation with Bayer, it was then that she began to use humor to deal with her situation and discuss what was happening with her friends and family.

Years later, she used the same humor to put a spin on her illness and create a TV show. She told Vanity Fair, "I always wanted to write something about my experience as a sick teenager, because I do think I had a unique perspective on it. I really was able to find the ways that it could benefit me." That's what happened as she began to tell Joanna's story on the show, even though she does confirm a lot of it has been exaggerated to add to the humor of the show.

Bayer made it very clear that the main goal of the show was to tell the story from the perspective of someone who survived childhood leukemia. "But I also happened to be someone who always loved attention and would use my illness to get perks and stuff, which was funny to me even while I was doing it," she told TIME.

She attended the University of Pennsylvania

If growing up in a Reform Jewish family and dealing with an illness during her teenage years gave Bayer material for her comedy and impacted the way she handles her career, attending the University of Pennsylvania put those skills and humor to the test. During an interview with The New York Times, it was mentioned that while she was in college, Bayer was part of the Bloomers, an all-female comedy troupe. It was then that she began performing as a comedian.

Bayer has never shied away from her past and has always made it very clear she is thankful for her roots and for the place that first gave her the opportunity to do comedy. In 2017, Bloomers head writer Gena Basha spoke to The Daily Pennsylvanian about how much Bayer is still involved with the group. "Vanessa has been pretty active. She appears on some of the alumni correspondence ... from her end she makes it clear that Bloomers was super important to her," Basha explained. "Even though she is very busy and she can't be as available because she's doing so much, she makes it so evidently clear that Bloomers got her into comedy."

She interned at Late Night with Conan O'Brien

Bloomers may have been where she first did comedy, but Bayer had another step to take before she made it to where most comedians want to end up — "Saturday Night Live." Even though she eventually got her spot in the cast, Bayer was first an intern for "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." This gave her the experience she needed on television to move toward the next goal in her career. Bayer told CNBC, "I definitely think surviving something like leukemia, I really felt like I wanted to do something great with my life because I was lucky enough to survive it. That motivated me in a lot of ways."

In 2014, Bayer was a guest on O'Brien's show, and they discussed her internship, which she said she had the best time. Eight years later, in 2022, she told Team Coco, "The thing that I remembered from Conan, and this is funny because then it sort of changed for me, but what I used to say to the interns was ... the thing that used to stress me out when I was an intern, was that when people would ask for coffee with milk ... I would get so stressed about how much milk to add."

She performed at The Second City

The Second City is a popular theater in Chicago that holds comedy shows and improv classes. Many members of the SNL cast have performed there before or after their time at the show. The list includes names such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Nancy Carell, Rachel Dratch, and Tina Fey. Vanessa Bayer joined that list of comedians and, according to The Second City's website, she graduated from The Second City Training Center Conservatory Program and was part of The Second City Touring Company and Second City Theatricals.

In 2018, a year after leaving SNL, Bayer returned to The Second City to participate in a charity event. There, she made jokes about her past touring with the company and the M&M's she would take from different venues in order to feel like she got paid more. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, she celebrated what this event was doing for kids. "As someone who really benefited from comedy, and it's been like a very uplifting, kind of inspiring thing in my life, it's very cool to get to watch these kids experience that."

She became an SNL cast member in the show's 36th season

If comedians have one common goal, it probably is to be a part of the "Saturday Night Live" cast at least once in their lives. Many well-known comedians can track their careers back to SNL, with many of them making appearances after their careers take off. Among them, we can include Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. When Bayer joined the cast, she was joining the big leagues.

Bayer joined the show during SNL's 36th season and became a series regular by season 38th. "My first day of work, I remember meeting people and I was so star-struck. But I had to act like it was a normal thing to meet these people. I couldn't ask for autographs of the people I was going to work with," she told The Penn Gazette. Her first appearance took place on September 2010 during Amy Poehler's Anxiety Dream monologue.

During her time at SNL, Bayer had the opportunity to write a sketch for Will Ferrell. However, it didn't make it to the air. The sketch took place "Where there's a big bird display ... We play these guys who go like, 'Hey, you wanna see the boids?' ... I'm trying to will it into being funny ... Obviously it was a great sketch," she recalled (via NBC).

Jennifer Aniston commented on Bayer's Rachel Green

Throughout her time on SNL, Bayer portrayed several characters and impersonated different celebrities. One of her most memorable impersonations was that of Rachel Green. For many, including critics and fans, the impersonation was spot on, and they praised Bayer's work. However, at first, Jennifer Aniston was not too pleased.

During an interview with InStyle in 2021, Aniston said, "My first response was, 'What? No, I'm not impression [-worthy]' ... 'That is so not the way I sound.' ... Everyone said it was a compliment, but I had to really get my brain around that and tuck my little tail between my legs, thinking I'm being made fun of."

In 2016, Aniston appeared alongside Bayer's version of Rachel Green for a Weekend Update. "Is it a great bit, though? I mean, it kind of just sounds like all you're doing is like 'What? Oh. What? Me? Oh wow, no. I. What, what?' ... I don't do that. What? No," she said as the two played along with Bayer's impersonation and Aniston's previous comments about the character. After the bit aired, Bayer told E! News, "She told me she liked it. And then to get to do it with her, alongside her on SNL, it was a thrill. It was one of my favorite thing I've gotten to do there. It was so fun and she's so great."

She left SNL in 2017

Like many other stars who left SNL, Bayer said goodbye to the show in 2017 after seven years. When asked by E! News why she decided to leave SNL, Bayer said in August 2017, "It was such a wonderful place to work. I had such a time there, but it just felt like it was time. Everyone was just so nice about it. I had such a wonderful last season. I just felt like it was time for someone else to ... I guess entertain America."

Bayer's last sketch on the show was the high school graduating seniors dedicated to the class of 2017. For some of the fans, it wasn't a big enough goodbye for the comedian after spending seven years on the show. However, according to Vanity Fair, the big celebration happened behind the scenes when the cameras stopped rolling, and Bayer was carried off the stage by her colleagues.

In Bayer's opinion, the goodbye sketch was beautiful. "Colin [Jost] wrote this goodbye sketch for the people who were leaving. He wrote this song, and all the details he put in it were about me talking about my sketch group from college and how I bring my brother and best friend to every show. I didn't realize he knew me so well. You make such close friends there," she told The Hollywood Reporter.

She wrote How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear?

In the past, Bayer had channeled the illness from her teenage years into her comedy and humor. In more recent years, she used this experience to write a book and connect with people who were either going through an illness or being the support system of someone who was sick. That is exactly why she wrote "How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear?"

When asked by why she decided to write this book, Bayer answered, "What I want to remind people of in this book, having been on both sides of it, is that it really is best to be there for the person. To show up for the person that's sick, to support them. If they are too tired to hang out or play, depending on what age they are, they can tell you that. You don't need to assume that about them." According to what she told Today, one of the most important things during her illness was that her friends rallied around her and gave her all the support they needed. Kids may not always know how to do that, and the book is supposed to help.

She joined SNL alumni as a guest star on Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Many SNL stars, after leaving the show, have moved on to be on other successful TV series. That is what happened with Andy Samberg, who was the lead on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" for eight seasons. During season 7, Bayer joined the SNL alumni in a guest star role that brought such joy to the fans. Samberg first made the announcement through Instagram by simply posting a photo posing next to Bayer in her police uniform.

Bayer played the role of Debbie Fogle and appeared in three episodes of Season 7 (Episodes 1, 4, and 5). At first, she portrayed a new officer of the NYPD, but later turned into an officer who was involved in stealing cocaine from the evidence locker and keeping Samberg and Stephanie Beatriz's characters hostage. By playing this character, she joined the list of other SNL stars who made guest appearances on the show, including Fred Armisen, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, Jenny Slate, and Adam Sandler.