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Although Essman insists she is not like her character, she did share a first name with her fictional counterpart, like the rest of the cast. The "mockumentary" style of the show also called upon her to largely improvise her part, based on detailed story outlines cooked up by David and his staff. She was able to draw heavily on her extensive background in stand-up comedy. As her notable accent attests, Essman hails from New York City. Her first acting gig was on the 1980s sitcom "Kate & Allie," in a guest spot. She popped up on the big screen in bit parts in "Crocodile Dundee II," and "Punchline" in 1988, as well as "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II" in 1991. Her television appearances were intermittent, with a guest spot on "Ned & Stacy" (Fox) and a small role on "Law & Order" (NBC) in the early 1990s.
Susie Essman's real pursuit was comedy. After years of stand-up, she landed several gigs on Comedy Central, among them, the Friars Club roasts of Jerry Stiller and Chevy Chase, in 1999 and 2002 respectively. She also appeared on "The 15th Annual American Comedy Awards" and the short-lived series, "Comics on Delivery," (1999) an early reality show where comedians are called upon to help people with real problems. Essman continued a version of this concept on the HBO/"Curb Your Enthusiasm" website, with a mock advice column. She also appeared in several specials and documentaries, including "Uncensored Comedy: That's Not Funny!" on the cable network Trio, and the documentary "Funny Already: A History of Jewish Comedy," in 2004. She was among the comedians featured in the independent film, "The Aristocrats," (2005) which traces variations on a single dirty joke.
She also appeared in an off-Broadway production of "The Vagina Monologues," and her distinctive voice was a regular on the Comedy Central show "Crank Yankers," which featured comedian making prank phone calls to real people, with puppets acting out the recordings. Essman continued with the occasional big screen gig, with parts in "Volcano" in 1997 and "The Siege" in 1998, where she played a protest speaker. She also appeared in "The Secret Lives of Dentists" in 2002. As she began her fifth season on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" in 2005, she also played a cop in the comedy "The Man."