The untold truth of Ellie Kemper

You may feel like you're already BFFs with Ellie Kemper thanks to the fact that she's played adorably likable characters on both The Office and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. While the star can certainly be as perky and as quirky as her characters, there are plenty of key details that set the real-life woman apart from the ladies she plays onscreen.

For instance, while Kemper's underground-bunker-survivor-turned-NYC-resident Kimmy Schmidt was seemingly perpetually happy — and Kemper's character from The Office, Dunder Mifflin receptionist Erin Hannon, was just as chipper — the actress confessed to GQ in 2010, "I like to be in bad moods sometimes." And that wasn't the only time Kemper opened up about a tiny tidbit of personal trivia that you might not expect from her. Five years later, while chatting with Collider, she admitted, "When I laugh hard, sometimes I wet my pants, but I'm always relieved because that means I'm having a good time." Betcha didn't know that!

There are plenty of other intriguing and unexpected pieces of info that you likely don't know about the popular actress — we're talking about a snazzy upbringing, an early encounter with one of TV's hunkiest stars, and a face full of a furry member of the animal kingdom you'd never guess. Let's dig into the untold truth of Ellie Kemper.

Ellie Kemper comes from a 'very privileged' background

Ellie Kemper may seem like the friendly girl next door type, but she actually comes from what she herself describes as a "very privileged" background. The star's father is David Woods Kemper, who comes from a wealthy and influential family in Missouri and is a descendant of banker and railroad magnate William Thornton Kemper Sr. "The Kemper family founded Commerce Bancshares, based in Kansas City," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Her grandmother was Mildred Lane Kemper, whose name is on the art museum opened in 2006 at Washington University; the Kemper family gave $5 million to the project."

While there's no question that Kemper's family has made their mark, it was the star's turn to enter high society back in 1999, when she made her debut at the (controversial) Veiled Prophet Ball as Elizabeth Claire Kemper. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains that the party is a symbol of power and wealth (as well as "allegations of racism") and has been from 1878 on, when "the Veiled Prophet [began] visit[ing] St. Louis, gracing the city's debutantes with a grand ball and parade."

Wearing a white gown and matching full-length gloves when she attended the event as a 19-year-old, Kemper was named the Queen of Love and Beauty, becoming the 105th woman to hold the title. We wonder if she considers that to be as much of an accomplishment as earning two Emmy Award nominations and a Critics Choice Television Awards nom.

Jon Hamm was Ellie Kemper's teacher

Ellie Kemper's privileged upbringing meant that she received the best education St. Louis had to offer. The future actress attended the gold star, blue-ribbon Conway Elementary School, which was "recognized by Apple as a distinguished school for continuous innovation," before moving on to John Burroughs School. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, during Kemper's time at the college-preparatory day school, "She was particularly taken with improvisational comedy, and not just because one of her teachers was Jon Hamm, who was 10 years ahead of her at Burroughs and taught there when she was a freshman." 

In 2015, the Mad Men star talked about his former pupil while on the Today show, saying that she was a "diligent student" and "very, very talented." He added, "The proof is in the pudding. [She's] working in the industry." Kemper's work in the industry is also how they connected years later when she asked him to attend her one-woman show, Feeling Sad/Mad With Ellie Kemper. She later talked about the educational experience with a giggle, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Everyone was all ga-ga over him." That's ... completely understandable. 

Kemper gets it, too, saying to the A.V. Club, "He was definitely just as handsome back then [at Burroughs], and having this grown, tall man teach you theater, it was like having a hunk in the class." It seems like a safe bet to assume that Hamm's students never skipped school.

Ellie Kemper went to an Ivy League school

Ellie Kemper's snazzy education as a child didn't end after she graduated from high school. Far from it! After leaving John Burroughs School, she headed off for an Ivy League education. While that's impressive, it's not really unusual for her family. Kemper's parents set a legacy before her, which saw her father attend Harvard (and later Oxford and Stanford), while her mother headed off to Princeton (after attending Wellesley College). She had plans to go to Stanford at the time of her marriage, before eventually working in Princeton's office of admissions.

Kemper herself first attended the Ivy League school, Princeton University, where she joined both the school's improv group, Quipfire!, and the touring musical-comedy troupe, the Princeton Triangle Club. She graduated in 2002 with an English degree and then stepped away from the Ivy League to attend the equally impressive Oxford University. During Kemper's year at Oxford, she said, "I was in an English Studies program, but I knew that wasn't what I wanted to do." That's when she left school for New York. Thankfully for the star, her parents were willing and able to support her during her first year in the big city as she tried to break into the entertainment business. She later admitted, "I knew it was an uncertain path, but I had to try it for a couple of years and see what happened." 

That was definitely a good decision considering Kemper ended up a successful Hollywood star.

Ellie Kemper was a field hockey star

Ellie Kemper may be known for her acting skills these days, but back when she was a student, she was apparently quite an athlete. Her sport of choice? Not baseball or basketball. Not soccer or volleyball. Not even tennis or swimming or golf. She was a field hockey star.

Kemper "led an undefeated field hockey team as a member of John Burroughs' class of 1998" during high school, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And while at Princeton University, her field hockey team was successful enough to go to the national championship during her freshman year. However, she admitted, "[I spent] most of my time on the bench, which turned out to be a lucky break, because I quit and got into performing."

In November 2019, Kemper took to Instagram to share an old picture of herself in action when she was younger and gave her followers "a gentle reminder" that she was "CO-CAPTAIN of [her] high school field hockey team (not a big deal!!)." It kind of sounds like a big deal, to be honest. Or at least it sounds like a fact that some fans might have missed out on and would surely love to know. Just look at her go with that fierce field hockey stick, shin guard-filled high socks, kilt-like skirt, and beet-red face!

Ellie Kemper started in commercials (and regrets the video that made her famous)

These days, Ellie Kemper may score roles on popular shows, but her early days in the business involved ads and simple (though sometimes regrettable) sketches. 

"I got my SAG card for a K-Mart commercial," Kemper told Elle magazine. While that sounds like a simple gig, she explained that the job involved having "a tarantula crawling all over [her] face." Granted, that would be enough to make most people quit (and run off screaming!), but the actress admitted, "It was so furry and large and it felt closer to a kitten than an insect and it was actually kind of nice." We'll take her word on that.

From there, Kemper appeared in sketches for Late Night with Conan O'Brien while also doing web videos for comedy groups. That's what led to a project that brought her the kind of notoriety that she'd rather leave behind. Specifically, she regrets making "Blowjob Girl," which features the star offering to perform the act in the title. Kemper told 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." Thankfully for the star, her work on The Office and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has almost fully eclipsed the earlier video.

Ellie Kemper auditioned for Saturday Night Live but didn't make the cut

Ellie Kemper appeared on one of the most beloved shows ever created thanks to The Office and got the opportunity to lead her own hit series when she starred on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. But it turns out that not everything she's done in Hollywood has been successful: She once auditioned for Saturday Night Live, and while it seems like she has the kind of quirky comedic chops that would have made her a valuable addition to the legendary sketch team that keeps the longtime show running, she wasn't hired.

However, while chatting on Watch What Happens Live in 2018, Kemper explained to host Andy Cohen that she agrees with the choice made by SNL's creator, producer, and ultimate decision-maker, Lorne Michaels, to not bring her on board. "I don't think I would have thrived (throve?) on that show, because I don't do celebrity impressions very well," she explained.

However, Kemper did add that her husband, Michael Koman, writes for SNL nowadays, which may have calmed her nerves somewhat when she appeared on the show along with her former castmates from The Office. However, she did call the experience "totally terrifying" and confessed that she was sick for days over the thought of performing on the show, which might suggest that she's not quite cut out for the live format ... so it's probably a good thing that she didn't get the gig all those years ago.

Ellie Kemper's failed audition for Parks and Recreation led to The Office

Ellie Kemper may have found lasting fame due to her role as Erin Hannon on The Office, but it turns out that she only got that gig after she tried (and failed) to get a part on another popular series. "[Kemper] first auditioned when executive producer Greg Daniels was casting a new, then untitled comedy that turned out to be Parks and Recreation," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. While the opportunity on the Amy Poehler-led series didn't work out, Daniels was apparently still impressed enough with Kemper's skills that those responsible for Steve Carell's hit show contacted her for a different job. Kemper explained, "I felt more comfortable going in because I'd met them before."

From there, Kemper turned what was meant to be a temporary role into something much more. Initially hired "to fill in for a few episodes as the receptionist on The Office," the media outlet reports, the show's "producers were charmed and ... asked Kemper to become a regular on the NBC comedy."

Sticking with The Office from 2009 until its end in 2013, it's hard to imagine the show without Kemper's character, which means that it's probably a good thing that she failed her Parks and Rec audition. Although, she would have made a great resident of Pawnee, Ind. Or, now that we think of it, her character likely would have been from Eagleton.

Ellie Kemper's not the only Kemper in the entertainment industry

Ellie Kemper may be the famous face in her family, but she's not the only one who's established a successful career in Hollywood. The actress has a younger sister, Carrie Kemper, who's also in show business. However, while Ellie works in front of the cameras, Carrie works behind the scenes as a writer and producer, whose credits include Nathan for You, Baskets, and Silicon Valley. She's also earned multiple nominations and won some of the industry's top accolades. 

Carrie, who also worked as a staff writer on The Office and sometimes got to write lines for Ellie, talked about her famous sister to The New York Times, jokingly saying, "It's a great sense of power over her. If she makes one false move, she's off the show."

Despite the fact that both sisters now work in the TV scene, Ellie admitted that the siblings weren't really into what others were watching when they were young. "The pop culture from that time did not seep into my veins," she told the Los Angeles Times. "I always tell my husband it's because I had friends. I wasn't holed up in my room watching TV. I don't know where my sister and I were while things were happening. Maybe it's because we were putting on plays. I hope I'm not blocking anything." If she were to block out something, it would probably be her nickname, which you can read about next.

Ellie Kemper has an unfortunate nickname

Ellie Kemper is known to her fans as an adored actress, a skilled comedic star, and a red-headed stunner with one of the brightest smiles in the business. But like many other famous celebrities, she has a private nickname that you might not know about. The star revealed while speaking with Us Weekly in 2019 that to her family, she's known as "Smelly Ellie."

While that sounds that a blatant indication of Kemper's embarrassingly stinky state, she was sure to clarify that the name is misleading. "I want to be very clear: I don't actually smell," she explained (or claimed). "'Smelly' just happens to rhyme with 'Ellie.'" Kemper added, "My family's sense of humor is very sophisticated and evolved." 

Wayne Salomon, head of the theater department at John Burroughs School, backed that up, saying, "Ellie has this amazing natural sense of humor. Actually, the whole family does. Her mother, Dotty, is hilarious." We wonder if it was Dotty who first came up with "Smelly Ellie."

Ellie Kemper's a (sometimes uncontrollable) fan of other celebs

Even celebrities get starstruck by other famous folks — and that's just what's happened to Ellie Kemper, who happens to be a big fans of certain notable names. "I fanned out meeting Laurie Metcalf at the Emmys," she admitted to Us Weekly. "I started waving wildly and mouthing 'I love you.' I mean, I totally lost control. I really hope she's nearsighted and missed the whole thing."

Kemper is also an unabashed fan of other performers in her industry, which she made clear to the magazine when she explained, "I'd love to cast Judy Greer in a movie about my life. I love her work." If Greer's name doesn't ring a bell, you'd definitely recognize her from her supporting roles in 13 Going on 30, Jurassic World, Ant-Man, and many more. Kemper is also a music fan and fawns over stars on that side of the entertainment industry, as well. The actress noted that the first concert she ever went to was U2, saying, "I was convinced Bono was looking right at me." She also shared her love for Mother Monster, adding, "I like to relax on my day off by going for a long run while listening to Lady Gaga."

Perhaps Kemper can team up with Metcalf and Greer for a project which will feature a soundtrack that includes tunes from U2 and Lady Gaga. ...It could happen!

Ellie Kemper has a giant collection of 'squirrel paraphernalia'

Ellie Kemper happens to have a rather strange collection thanks to one of her professional projects. "I recently wrote a book called My Squirrel Days," she told Us Weekly in August 2019. According to Variety, the book isn't actually about a small animal, but instead "tracks the Missouri native's journey from awkward adolescence to Emmy-nominated star" in a "series of personal anecdotes and essays."

As the book rose in popularity, something else quite unexpected apparently came about and keeps growing. Kemper told Us Weekly, "Thanks to gifts from supportive readers, I think I've amassed the largest assortment of squirrel paraphernalia in the country!" It looks like she even got a sweet squirrel puppet during an interview on Good Morning America

Kemper may or may not be able to back up her claim regarding the size of her faux rodent collection when it comes to comparable collections in the U.S. But in order to beat the current international benchmark, she would have to have more than 1,103 items, which how many squirrely thingies are owned by Pavel Gerasimov of Russia, who currently holds the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of squirrel-related items. Yes, there's really an official record for that.

Ellie Kemper has a 'secret obsession,' a 'biggest pet peeve,' and a 'biggest fear'

Ellie Kemper opened up to Us Weekly in 2019 about a few of her personality quirks that fans probably don't know about, which range from something she often indulges in to something she hopes never happens. And while they may seem random, they're also totally relatable.

"My secret obsession is paying a premium for next-day shipping on Amazon," Kemper told the magazine, confessing a shopping habit of which many others are also probably guilty. The actress also revealed a fact about herself that plenty of people will be sympathetic to, admitting, "My biggest pet peeve is people not obeying the rules of traffic." Honestly, use your turning signal, Karen! And stay in your lane, Bob!

Those tidbits weren't the only facts that Kemper 'fessed up to. When it comes to the thing she dreads the most, she explained, "My biggest fear is dying in an embarrassing way." Again, that's completely understandable and something that we hope never happens to the beloved star.