When Ego Nwodim asks me to say a prayer that she will be connected with her soulmate, I tell her I’m almost certain my shitty prayer would not count.
“No prayers are shitty,” she tells me. Full stop. No question mark. The 35-year-old Nigerian-American actress speaks definitively.
Who knows if Ego will ever find true love. I want her to, though. We talk about it throughout our day together, most of which is spent photographing her in a stunning group of Hermès looks and later discussing love, comedy, and mattresses over cocktails.
She shares with me what is part Zillow listing, part vision board—a real estate offering in Los Angeles where she hopes to start a family with her yet to be found husband. She wants two kids, worries if the home is family-friendly enough; a friend suggested she might need baby gates. I tell her I’m sure she’ll figure it out. She remains concerned.
“I am a particular person,” Ego says. She’s in the middle of reading four self-help books, one of which is All About Love by Bell Hooks. “I carry that book with me everywhere I go.” Another is This Here Flesh by Cole Arthur Riley. “I was weeping at the preface. It’s exactly my jam.” Her takeaway? “You can’t lose when you lead with your heart.”
At a blazing pace we chat through Ego’s comedy career, growing up in Baltimore, her time at Upright Citizens Brigade in LA, and starring in Saturday Night Live, but the conversation rarely strays far from love, purpose, and intentional living. Ego comments on one of her self-realization techniques—a Post-It note to ask herself, “How can I be of service today?”
“That’s really important to me. I’m a purpose-driven person.” She speaks with a blend of openness and intimacy served up in all seriousness and confidence, with no hesitation. She responds at lightning speed, her brain processing what’s happening in the room just a touch faster than everyone else, a trait I assume she shares with other successful comedians. She can interpret and redirect a conversation with precision.
I am, on the other hand, someone who is often described as “a guy who pauses a lot” and can’t seem to find a way to comment on what’s now happening in front of me: Ego is hacking away at freshly cooked steak reminiscent of her viral Saturday Night Live skit “Lisa from Temecula,” where she exuberantly saws at an overly cooked steak next to Pablo Pascal, who struggles not to break character to extraordinary comic effect. (I first watched it on a flight and had to hide my tears laughing as I watched it on repeat.)
The skit is so silly, so funny, it’s everything I love about comedy and SNL, and I want to bring it up. But we’re discussing love, and, well, love is love. I trust that it will come up later. Instead Ego fearlessly discloses some personal details of her love life, but then reconsiders the wisdom of doing that on the record. “I want to be more open with my fans. There’s something about secrets that disconnects us from each other.” Connecting with people in real and perhaps unexpected ways is something Ego prizes, and she shares a way she’s done that at SNL.
“It was early season 47. There was a grand exodus of staff, so we had a lot of new people. It was still Covid time; SNL wasn’t throwing after-parties, so a bunch of us went up to the writers’ room on the ninth floor. I said to (Bowen Yang), “Watch this. I’m going to do something chaotic.
It started as a bit, but it turned serious, I asked the room, ‘What’s the thing everyone’s most scared about with working here?’ I had not talked to some of these people beyond a ‘Hi, nice to meet you.’ It was only like week two or three, but we all went around and said our fears about working there. It was beautiful because it’s not a place where that kind of conversation happens, and certainly not in a big group setting like that, and certainly not that early on in your tenure there for some of the people.
“Comedy is so subjective. If you are pleasing everyone you are probably betraying yourself.”
People were worried about their romantic relationships going awry because of the schedule. Somebody else was like, ‘I worry I’m overstaying my welcome here, that I’m a useless old person here in the cast, just taking up space.’ It was really wonderful.” She laughs and adds, “Then we never talked to each other again.”
I wonder if this desire for connection drifts into being a people-pleaser or a need to always make everyone laugh. She explains how her relationship with comedy is based on an understanding that you can only create while in a flow state, when your inner critic is silent. Her creative confidence is profound. “Comedy is so subjective. If you are pleasing everyone you are probably betraying yourself. You shouldn’t seek to please everyone. I’d love to live by that kind of freedom. I want to get a tattoo that says ‘free.’ I want to get in on my hand, but I can’t tell if I would regret it,” she shares.
Her fearlessness is so foreign to me I’m compelled to share what I think is the most terrifying part of performing on SNL—the cast and guest hugging sequence that happens at the end of every show. I always watch it with a sick kind of pleasure, seeking out the most awkward moments.
“I’ve been curved by people on that stage. I go to hug but, oh no, the host went to hug my friend instead, or I just got curved for Matthew McConaughey who got a hug before me. The worst thing about it is that America saw that. It’s like, ‘Damn, she got killed.’ I have been curved by many a pop star on that stage. I remember a couple where I went in hard, and they actively didn’t want to hug me. Respect. I love that you made a choice. Motherfucking respect.”
As an introvert I shudder thinking of being snubbed for a hug on national television. I suggest it’s the extrovert in her that gives her such confidence. “I’m an ambivert. It’s a thing—Google it,” she says. “When I got to SNL I realized some of the cast members were textbook introverts. I think more comedians are introverted than you would assume.” Ego has developed techniques for dealing with her ambivert status, especially when addressing the intersection of her rising fame and dating life, like introducing herself on dates as someone who “does comedy in Midtown” and limiting her time on social media and messaging apps. “The days I’m not on social media I’m always like, ‘I love today.’”
“I don’t strive to be perfect, but I want to perfect my relationship with contentment.”
Ego shares her hopes to start a production company, tentatively called We Gonna See, but realizes the danger of always wanting more. “Perfectionism is the enemy of freedom, the enemy of joy. I don’t strive to be perfect, but I want to perfect my relationship with contentment. I want to get to a place where I enjoy the journey more, to enjoy the present. Life doesn’t start when I get married and have kids or start my production company. Life is happening now. I could die on my way home from this.”
Realizing our conversation has turned rather serious Ego asks me, “Have I said anything funny yet?” I gulp at the question and redirect to something lighter, perhaps a recent favorite outfit. She shares that she’s splurged on a pricey coat from Acne Studios—“It’s served me well. I love it so much”—and her nonstop hunt for the perfect white T-shirt, high-waisted jeans, and a finely designed boot. She loves her sofa from Room & Board, but her absolute favorite purchase is not clothing; it’s a mattress.
“I love being in bed. When I leave you now I’m going to bed. I eat in bed. It’s gross. But I just be eating in my bed. I had my college mattress until 2018. When I was in LA I decided to get a new mattress, so I bought the floor sample on final sale because it’s cheaper. That’s what I can afford. There were no returns or exchanges,” she says. “This motherfucking bed hurt my back so much. When I moved to New York it was time for a new mattress, so I got a Casper. No shade to Casper, but I fucking hate that mattress. I called them and up and was like, “You gotta come get your bed. I hate this bed. What the hell is this thing?” It came rolled up in a box. I ended up going to Macy’s. I think it’s Stearns & Foster. It’s so good. I love my mattress.”
Styling by Shannon Stokes
Styling assist by Jade Mayo
Hair by Elliott Simpson
Shot on location at Equinox Hotels Hudson Yards