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Aubrey Plaza: The Queen of Awkward and Macabre Comedy

Aubrey Plaza’s acting credits show a beautiful paradox, a blend of humor and horror.

Aubrey Plaza on Conan O'Brien's late-night talk show promoting the movies and television shows she is an actress in.

Plaza is known for her dark comedy roles, invoking laughter and fear all at once with her sardonic (and sometimes sadistic) off-kilter characters. She plays awkward weirdos with dark obsessions, unstable psyches, and violent thoughts. It’s hilarious! She is the brilliant, self-proclaimed “evil hag” of our film and TV daydreams and nightmares.

When I heard that Plaza is set to play the Devil’s baby mama in a new animated sitcom called Little Demon, I couldn’t help but reflect on all of her creepy and weird characters I know and love. Here is a look at some of her most memorably hilarious and terrifying characters.

April Ludgate: Parks and Recreation

Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate on NBC's Parks and Recreation TV show.

Most people know Plaza for her role as April Ludgate, an apathetic intern with a sarcastic wit and a fascination for all things dark, depressing, and weird. April is hilariously mean and has a passion for stirring trouble and tormenting anyone she crosses paths with. Her favorite music is 1950’s Halloween sound effects, German Death Reggae, and Bette Midler. She has a lot of fun confusing her Parks Department co-workers, hurting their egos, and creeping them out. April hates people, loves animals, and likes to convince small children that she is a witch. Plaza will probably forever be almost synonymous with this iconic character.

Ingrid Thorburn: Ingrid Goes West

Plaza’s role as Ingrid Thorburn in the film Ingrid Goes West is not so much gothic as she is unhinged. After leaving a mental institution, Ingrid becomes obsessed with a social media influencer who seems to have a perfect life. Ingrid moves to California, changing her lifestyle and her life’s narrative to mimic the social media star. She lies and even goes to the length of stealing the influencer’s dog to sneakily stalk her and become best friends with her. But you can’t help but feel sorry for Ingrid. Her desperation to inhibit the life of someone else, someone who is seemingly perfect on Instagram, is all too familiar to modern audiences. Plaza makes us laugh and cry with this sadly troubled (though somewhat creepy) character.

Beth Slocum: Life After Beth

Aubrey Plaza in Life After Beth film playing the role of a zombie.

In the zombie comedy Life After Beth–directed by Plaza’s husband, Jeff Baena–a young woman named Beth comes back from the dead with super-violent strength and a taste for human flesh. Plaza delightfully plays this zombie/loving girlfriend who gradually transforms into the brain-eating monster. Despite being hit by a car and chained to an oven, Beth makes us laugh out loud as she complicates the already crumbling relationship with her slightly toxic boyfriend. Plaza goes full macabre comedy in this film, becoming a full-fledged, blood-spattered movie monster.

Sister Fernanda: The Little Hours

The Little Hours is another film by Baena where Plaza stars as a creepy and unstable character. Fernanda is a nun who has seemingly gone slightly mad from the sexual repression within her lifestyle. Fernanda is rude, violent, and vulgar. She rebels against the rules of her religious vows, and (most importantly) she is the leader of a secret witch-cult within the covenant. Plaza is the perfect rebel nun in this role. She rolls her eyes at the Bishop when she is supposed to atone for her sins, she holds a knife to the neck of the male lead, and she curses out passersby who dare to look her in the eye.

Lenny Busker: Legion

Aubrey Plaza as Lenny Busker on Marvel and FX's Legion television show.

In the Marvel television show Legion, Plaza plays the demonic, gender-fluid embodiment of the lead character, David Haller’s schizophrenic, mutant subconscious. Both dead and alive, all at once, Lenny is a mysterious and villainous tormentor with a psychotic, mad-hatter edge. Lenny is a part of the “monster” that takes control of David’s consciousness, invoking violence and devilish evil. Lenny seems like Plaza’s most intense role since she has to play many versions of the same psychotic character all at once. She is simultaneously funny and absolutely frightening in this role, which is much darker than the others on this list.

There are many honorable mentions, but these freaky oddball characters listed are the creepiest of Plaza’s film and TV credits. Over the years, she has shown her acting range, playing a mix of drama and comedy roles. She is not one to be pigeon-holed. But these awkward and macabre characters are dear to me. They make me feel less alone when my own personality veers toward the awkward and macabre. So, it is with great excitement that I await her new role as the mother of Satan’s spawn, which Plaza Tweets is “the role [she] was born to play.”


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