skip navigation
Mary Lynn Rajskub

Mary Lynn Rajskub

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Also Known As: Mary-Lynn Rajskub Died:
Born: June 22, 1971 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Michigan, USA Profession: comedian, actor, writer, singer, waitress, usher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

After receiving her start in performing arts and comedy theater, actress Mary Lynn Rajskub made a name for herself as one of the original members of the sketch comedy series, "Mr. Show" (HBO, 1995-99). Rajskub left the show following its debut season in order to replace friend Janeane Garofalo's character on "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98), playing the show-within-a-show's eager-to-please and often inappropriate guest booker. Having proven herself a dynamic comedic player on the small screen, she made the transition to features with small roles in "Road Trip" (2000) and "Storytelling" (2001) before landing a more significant supporting role opposite Adam Sandler and Emma Watson in "Punch-Drunk Love" (2002). Though most of her career to that point had a comedic bent, Rajskub made the surprising jump to drama with a high-profile supporting turn as the unconventional CTU analyst Chl O'Brian - one of the few people trusted by Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) - on the hit action series, "24" (Fox, 2001-2010). Though she spent most of her time behind a computer terminal aiding Bauer in whatever manner she could, Rajskub earned a loyal following, including within the real-life Homeland Security...

After receiving her start in performing arts and comedy theater, actress Mary Lynn Rajskub made a name for herself as one of the original members of the sketch comedy series, "Mr. Show" (HBO, 1995-99). Rajskub left the show following its debut season in order to replace friend Janeane Garofalo's character on "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98), playing the show-within-a-show's eager-to-please and often inappropriate guest booker. Having proven herself a dynamic comedic player on the small screen, she made the transition to features with small roles in "Road Trip" (2000) and "Storytelling" (2001) before landing a more significant supporting role opposite Adam Sandler and Emma Watson in "Punch-Drunk Love" (2002). Though most of her career to that point had a comedic bent, Rajskub made the surprising jump to drama with a high-profile supporting turn as the unconventional CTU analyst Chl O'Brian - one of the few people trusted by Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) - on the hit action series, "24" (Fox, 2001-2010). Though she spent most of her time behind a computer terminal aiding Bauer in whatever manner she could, Rajskub earned a loyal following, including within the real-life Homeland Security department which named a research and development program, "Project CHL ," in homage to her character. Both during and after the successful run of "24," Rajskub was featured in several films including "Little Miss Sunshine" (2006), "Sunshine Cleaning" (2008) and "Julie & Julia" (2009), all of which demonstrated the range and versatility of the talented young actress.

Born on June 22, 1971 in Trenton, MI, Rajskub was raised by her father, who worked as a pipefitter, and her mother, who was a pharmacist's assistant. An outcast during her childhood, she began acting as a means of masking her feelings, which led to school productions of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory;" playing a street urchin in "A Christmas Carol;" and the lead in "Raggedy Ann" at a local community theater. But when it came time for her to advance her education, Rajskub chose art school instead. She first attended the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit before moving to the Bay Area, where Rajskub was admitted to the San Francisco Art Institute. It was there that she began doing performance art in class and eventually in bars around town. Rajskub first gained notice thanks to performing in a towel while reading from a scroll and firing off a prop banana, which attracted the attention of a local reporter. In 1993, she made the move to Los Angeles for reasons that remained unclear to her at the time, and continued to do her performance art in various coffeehouses and laundromats.

Having secured a manager while still in San Francisco, Rajskub was able to attract the attention of comedians Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, who cast her as a featured player for the first two seasons of "Mr. Show" (HBO, 1995-98). Following a small part as the voice of a female caller in "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" (1996), she took over for that movie's star, Janeane Garofolo, on "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98), playing the show's self-conscious booker. Also at this time, Rajskub furthered her reputation as an energetic and versatile actress with stage appearances, including the one-woman show "The Littlest Angel," performed at Santa Monica's Powerhouse Theater in 1996. After "Larry Sanders" was finished in 1998, she had a small role in the Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey) biopic, "Man on the Moon" (1999), and a cameo in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" (1999), before landing a recurring role on the Kirstie Alley sitcom, "Veronica's Closet" (NBC, 1997-2000). All throughout, she continued performing in clubs, forming the Girls Guitar Club - a spoof on sensitive female singer-songwriters - with "Mr. Show" actress, Karen Kilgariff.

Back in the feature world, Rajskub played a blind girl in "Road Trip" (2000), a cult member in "Dude, Where's My Car?" (2000) and was a guest of "The Anniversary Party" (2001). She returned to the small screen as a performer and writer on the short-lived variety show produced by Steve Martin, "The Downer Channel" (NBC, 2001), before heading back to film for a small part in the "Fiction" portion of Todd Solondz's "Storytelling" (2002). She had her most prominent film role up to this point in Paul Thomas Anderson's dark romantic comedy, "Punch Drunk Love" (2002), playing the overbearing sister - one of seven - of a lonely smalltime businessman (Adam Sandler). Also that year, Rajskub had a small part opposite Reece Witherspoon in "Sweet Home Alabama" (2002). She made her way back into television with an appearances on "Gilmore Girls" (The WB, 2000-07) and "Good Morning Miami" (NBC, 2002-04), before returning to features, playing a congressional aide brought out of her shell when the effervescent Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) heads to Washington, D.C. in "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde" (2003).

In 2003, Rajskub joined "24" (Fox, 2001-2010) in a recurring role that, over the course of the show's run, earned the actress a strong fan base and rising celebrity. As Chl O'Brien, a senior analyst at the Counter Terrorism Unit who serves as a lifeline for agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), Rajskub exuded a competent, albeit dour persona, despite her off screen charm and quirky exuberance. At first her character had little more to do that spew techno-jargon to Bauer over the phone. But as she gained more of a fan club - thanks to her tense delivery of crucial information - the writers further developed her character, even giving her an office romance.

During "24," Rajskub co-starred in "Mysterious Skin" (2005), a low budget coming-of-age drama in which she played a Kansas woman whose belief in her alien abduction lends a helping hand to unraveling the mystery surrounding a troubled 18-year-old (Brady Corbet). Rajskub then had a supporting role in the heist thriller, "Firewall" (2006), playing a hipster secretary opposite Harrison Ford, a computer security specialist forced to embezzle $100 million from a bank after a crew of mercenaries takes his family hostage. She next co-starred in the indie dramedy "Sunshine Cleaning" (2009) and played the best friend of the titular Julie (Amy Adams) in "Julie & Julia" (2009), while maintaining a small screen presence in episodes of "Flight of the Concords" (HBO, 2007-09), "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (FX, 2005- ) and "Royal Pains" (USA, 2009- ). Meanwhile, her time on "24" came to an end in 2010, when the show finally wrapped up after eight seasons, but she went out with a bang by receiving a Teen Choice Award nod for Choice TV Actress: Action Adventure.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
 Julie & Julia (2009)
3.
4.
 Humble Pie (2007)
5.
 Firewall (2006)
6.
 Grilled (2006)
7.
 Mysterious Skin (2004) Avalyn Friesen
8.
 Helter Skelter (2004) Squeaky Fromme
9.
 Punch-Drunk Love (2002) Elizabeth
10.
 Sweet Home Alabama (2002) Dorothea
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in suburban Michigan
:
Worked extensively in performance art and comedic theater
1995:
Became an original cast member of HBO's "Mr. Show"
1996:
First feature, voicing a female caller in "The Truth About Cats and Dogs"
1996:
Played a scattered talent booker on HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show"
1996:
Performed in the one-woman show "The Littlest Angel"
1999:
Appeared in the Andy Kaufman biopic "Man on the Moon" directed by Milos Foreman
:
Formed (with Karen Kilgariff) the Girls Guitar Club, a spoof on the sensitive female singer-songwriter
1999:
Had a recurring role on NBC's "Veronica's Closet"
1999:
Featured in a cameo role in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia"
2000:
Appeared as a blind girl in the film "Road Trip"
2001:
Featured in the ensemble "The Anniversary Party" directed by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming
2001:
Cast as a regular on NBC's "The Downer Channel"; also wrote sketches
2002:
Featured alongside Reeese Witherspoon in the comedy "Sweet Home Alabama"
2002:
Re-teamed with director, Paul Thomas Anderson for "Punch-Drunk Love"
2003:
Re-teamed with Witherspoon for "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde"
2003:
Joined the thrid season of FOX's "24" as CTU tech analyst Chloe O'Brian
2006:
Featured in a supporting role alongside Harrison Ford in feature film "Firewall"
2009:
Co-starred with Amy Adams in Nora Ephron's "Julie & Julia"
:
Nominated for the 2010 Teen Choice Award for Choice TV Actress: Action Adventure
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

San Francisco Art Institute: San Francisco , California -

Notes

Her surname, which is of Czech origin, is pronounced "rice-kub".

"I like the feeling that what happens on stage should be unpredictable. There's nothing better than having people totally relaxed and enjoying what's going on and then sort of gently guiding them into some weird area. But it's not fair just to be weird and obscure. You've got to get the audience involved first. Then get weird on them." --Rajskub to Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1996.

"To me Mary Lynn is today's Lucille Ball because of her incredible range. She is completely elastic and present, both emotionally and physically." --"The Downer Channel" creator Michael Halpern quoted on thedownerchannel.com

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
David Cross. Actor, comedian. No longer together.
companion:
Jon Brion. Musician, record producer. Together from c. 1997; wrote score for 1999's "Magnolia".

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute