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Alumna Alex Borstein purr-forms on the big screen

July 22, 2004

Photo of Alex BorsteinAlex Borstein once performed for dormitory students in Mary Ward Hall. This Friday, the SFSU alumna hits the big screen in "Catwoman" as a supporting actress to the movie's feline superhero, Halle Berry.

Borstein plays Sally Meyers, the best friend of Catwoman's alter ego, Patience Philips. "I'm the Jimmie Olsen to her Superman -- I don't know she's Catwoman," Borstein said from Los Angeles during a phone interview, just a few days before the premiere. "Although if we're best friends, you'd think that's something I would know."

A former cast member on the sketch comedy show "MADtv," Borstein is famous for her oddball characters, especially the unintelligible, yet endearing Ms. Swan, a woman from a fictional land near the North Pole ("He look like-a-man."), and The Gap troll, a creature who demanded shoppers solve riddles before entering the store.

Her work on "Catwoman" was a welcomed change, she said. "This is the first time I'm playing a normal, sexual, curvy woman in cute outfits--not some weird creature or an alien."

The normal, sexual, curvy woman role is one she'd like to see more of in Hollywood. "I'm five feet tall and about five feet wide," she joked. "I think I can be a role model to young females by just staying in the [entertainment] business. … It's okay to be different, and you can't be as different as me and Halle Berry."

This summer Borstein is hammering that message home in her one-woman comedy show, "Alex Borstein: Drop Dead Gorgeous in a Down-To-Earth Bombshell Sort of Way." In the act, which combines stand-up, storytelling and singing, she explores her search for more realistic, female role models in movies and TV.

After taking the show to several venues last year, Borstein will re-open it on August 14 in Los Angeles, appropriately enough at The Alex Theatre. Fans will be happy to learn that Ms. Swan, a character based on Borstein's grandmother, is also scheduled to make an appearance. The performance will be filmed for a possible release in movie theaters this fall.

Bornstein graduated from SFSU in 1992 with a degree in speech and communications and originally planned on a career in law or politics. A knock on her door in Mary Ward Hall led her to sketch comedy.

Recruited into a student comedy troupe first called "The Virus" and later, "25% Off," Borstein and her fellow actors put on free shows at the dorms where they packed in the crowds.

The young comedienne was also packing quite a few classes into her schedule. Borstein graduated in a little more than three years and headed to Los Angeles where she joined the Acme Comedy Theatre. After a performance at a comedy festival in Texas, an agent for MADtv invited her to audition for the show.

She joined the cast and stayed on for five seasons, leaving in 1997 to work on the off-beat animated television series, "Family Guy." When SF State News caught up with Borstein, she had just finished a recording session for the show's new season on FOX next spring. Although it's been more than two years since the last original episode aired, DVD sales and strong ratings for "Family Guy" reruns have brought the show back into production. Borstein is once again co-producer and the voice of Lois Griffin, mother to Stewie, the baby intent on world domination.

Fans of the WB's "Gilmore Girls" will also recognize the alumna for her recurring role as Drella, the bitter harpist.

As for "Catwoman," Borstein is looking forward to the premiere, but not the movie's trading cards. "My picture is scary," she says. "I look like a drunk Joyce Dewitt from ‘Three's Company.'"

For more, see Alex Borstein's Web site.

-- Adrianne Bee


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Last modified July 27, 2004 by University Communications