"Life is busy and hard, so if you can fold in work time with really good friends then it’s all the more efficient!”

Ana Gasteyer Christmas Album
Credit: Courtesy

Ana Gasteyer is no stranger to bringing an audience holiday cheer. She did it for years on Saturday Night Live, starring in now-iconic skits like “Schweddy Balls” and “Martha Stewart’s Topless Christmas” throughout her tenure on the show from 1996 to 2002. But this winter, Gasteyer is kicking the season’s greetings into high gear with the release of her second album, Sugar & Booze. The 15-track compilation features a fresh take on classics including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Let it Snow,” as well as original songs written by Gasteyer herself like “Secret Santa,” an amusing (not to mention, incredibly catchy) retro-Cuban duet with her longtime friend and former SNL co-star, Maya Rudolph.

“I wanted to create a record that felt buoyant and fun and festive and ridiculous, like a holiday office party in a 12-inch vinyl package,” Gasteyer tells InStyle. “Life is stressful these days for a million reasons, but the holidays represent tradition and connection and joy. I’m not a religious person, I just really love Christmas and the idea of generosity behind it. So the songs I wrote and wanted to cover for the album are just seasonal favorites, not religious favorites. Most of the Christmas music I listen to is from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and those songbook favorites like ‘White Christmas’ were actually written by Jews like Irving Berlin.”

For Gasteyer, the holidays are simply about time well spent. “You’re hanging with people you love, eating great food, and drinking, and I don’t know how much better life can get than that,” she says. “I wanted this album to just be about blowing off some steam and allowing yourself. I used to be afraid of the holidays — I did Weight Watchers for years — but finally I realized that if I know what I’m really psyched about is the 95 chutneys and the ham or the peppermint bark, then I’m going to let myself have it. And this is the time of year to do it.”

Once Gasteyer gets in the spirit of things, there’s no stopping her. “I lean in hard,” she says. “I start the Friday after Thanksgiving and just let it rip. I love parties. I love shopping. I love window displays. I love all the Christmas movies — every Rankin/Bass is out. I love a Messiah sing along. I love it all.” And she’s happy to indulge her sweet tooth. “I can withhold on Halloween and definitely on Easter and Valentine’s Day, but when the holidays come around, the culinary form that it takes is so awesome,” she says. “There’s booze and sugar. And of course there’s ham, too. It just didn’t make as good a lyric.”

There are also plenty of friends around, and in Gasteyer’s case, they just so happen to be incredibly talented ones. So when she was working on Sugar & Booze, she knew that she had to recruit her pal Maya Rudolph to sing on one of the songs. “Maya is a great friend, and she’s also an amazing harmonizer,” says Gasteyer. No surprise there, as Rudolph is the daughter of singer Minnie Riperton. “We sang together all the time on SNL — honestly all of the SNL girls are great singers — but Maya is always game. In the back of my head, I always thought we’d do a little Andrews Sisters-type harmony. Then I wrote ‘Secret Santa,’ and it was just ridiculous and really made me laugh. I thought she’d like it because it has this Cuban flair. And she did!”

Ana Gasteyer Christmas Album
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After recording the track, the duo took things one step further. They star together in Gasteyer’s new Audible Original series, Holiday Greetings from Sugar and Booze, which follows the lives of two BFFs (appropriately named Sugar and Booze, of course) who, after college, find themselves staying in touch mostly through yearly holiday letters. “It’s about a friendship between these college girls who grow older and have different kinds of families,” says Gasteyer. “And I wanted to tell it through holiday letters, which have always just been hilarious to me.”

Rudolph isn’t Gasteyer’s only former cast-mate to make an appearance on the eight-episode series, which drops on Dec. 6. Rachel Dratch also plays a part in the heartwarming tale. “She is fantastic, and so hilarious,” says Gasteyer. “There’s this theatrical element to the whole thing, so it was important to have people who were great at comedy and just good improvisers. Rachel and Maya are phenomenal friends and phenomenal comedians. I am very lucky to have both things in both of them. Plus, life is busy and hard, so if you can fold in work time with really good friends then it’s all the more efficient!”

At this time of year, Gasteyer is especially reminded of her work on Saturday Night Live. “A lot of my really great successes at SNL were anchored in the holidays,” she says. “We had ‘Martha Stewart’s Topless Christmas’ and then we had ‘Schweddy Balls NPR,’ so I had lots and lots of fond memories of those Christmas shows. There was always an incredible energy around them and being able to crank out things that had endurance was great. I’m grateful for that. I had already done other sketches on the show by the time that Martha Stewart’s Topless Christmas aired, but that was the moment when I knew, ‘Oh I’m going to be here for a little while.’ I could feel the enthusiasm for the sketch.”

Ana Gasteyer Christmas Album
Credit: Mary Ellen Matthews/Getty Images

But it’s “Schweddy Balls” that fans still approach her about most often. “It comes up all the time,” says Gasteyer, laughing. "Tragically, it's going to be on my tombstone. But it’s hilarious and I love that they still air it and that it’s so popular. It was an absolute joy at the time, and it continues to be an absolute joy. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”