Jason Sudeikis: Things you might not know (but should!) about the 'Ted Lasso' star

Jason Sudeikis has gone from “Saturday Night Live” funnyman to Golden Globe-winning leading man and has enjoyed consistent successes since his decade-long run on the beloved sketch comedy series from 2003-2013. His latest project, the Apple TV+ comedy series “Ted Lasso,” became one of the coronavirus pandemic’s breakout hits and won the actor rave reviews as well as a 2021 Screen Actors Guild Award and a best actor in a comedy Emmy nod ahead of the September 2021 telecast (the show, which Jason also developed, scored a history-making 20 nominations). With season 2 of “Ted Lasso” premiering on July 23, it seems like 2021 might be his best year yet. Join Wonderwall.com as we run through a list of things you might not know (but should!) about the star…

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1. He got his professional start in Kansas City

Daniel Jason Sudeikis was born in Fairfax, Virginia, on Sept. 18, 1975, but his family moved to Overland Park, Kansas — a suburb of Kansas City — when he was a child. After ending his academic career in the 1990s, he began doing improv comedy. Jason got his start performing at Kansas City comedy club ComedySportz, which has since been renamed Comedy City. It was there that he gained the experience and confidence to eventually head to Chicago and study at renowned comedian breeding grounds the Annoyance Theatre and IO Theater. As he’s raised his profile, Jason has never turned his back on his hometown, mentioning it in several “Saturday Night Live” sketches, attending numerous Jayhawks games and participating in many local charity events with fellow citizens of the “Paris of the Plains” including fellow actor-comedians Rob Riggle and Paul Rudd. 

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2. He was born with anosmia

Something even Jason Sudeikis’s biggest fans might not know is that he wasn’t given the gift of smell. Unfortunately for the star, he was born with a rare condition called anosmia, which is defined as “the loss of the sense of smell, either total or partial. It may be caused by head injury, infection or blockage of the nose.” During a 2013 interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” he discussed how he eventually figured out that he wasn’t picking up on the same things as everyone else. “You never notice it as a kid, because smell is only pizza and farts. And then at some point you get older, and after puberty people start complaining about the smell of your feet and you’re like… ‘I can’t smell it.'” He also admitted his lack of smell has dulled the way he tastes food and possibly his ability to remember things.

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4. He created the character of Ted Lasso back in 2013

Shortly after Jason Sudeikis left “Saturday Night Live” in 2013, he was chosen to star in a series of NBC Sports promotional videos as Ted Lasso, an American football coach put in charge of an English Premier League soccer team. The actor developed such an immense fondness for the character that he went on to develop a full television series about him for Apple TV+ alongside “Scrubs” and “Cougar Town” creator Bill Lawrence. Jason once told Yahoo! News that the constantly optimistic Ted was created to be “the best version of himself,” and it seems just about everyone agrees. When the first season was released in 2020, it amassed critical raves and great word of mouth, becoming the streaming platform’s most acclaimed program to date. After one season, he’s already nabbed a Golden Globe, a Peabody, a Screen Actors Guild Award and multiple Writers Guild and Critics Choice Awards. It also marks Jason’s most successful project to date: It’s already been renewed for a third season that will air in 2022.

4. He was previously married

When it comes to Jason Sudeikis’s personal life, most people think about his lengthy relationship with actress Olivia Wilde, which ended in 2020 after a lengthy engagement. What some fans might not know is that he’s actually divorced: Jason married writer-director Kay Cannon in 2004 after dating her for five years. They separated in 2008 and divorced in 2010. Their six-year marriage came to an end without any public explanation and lacked any typical Hollywood drama. “Jason and I were married when he was a writer on [“Saturday Night Live”]. And then he was a cast member. And then we got divorced,” the “Pitch Perfect” screenwriter, who’s also written for “30 Rock,” “New Girl” and other shows, once explained to The Hollywood Reporter about their time together. The two met while performing comedy in the same venues in Chicago and eventually both became founding members of The Second City improv troupe in Las Vegas.

5. He was originally hired as a writer on “Saturday Night Live”

While Jason Sudeikis is best known as a “Saturday Night Live” performer, he actually got his start as a sketch writer on the long-running series. He joined the writing staff in 2003 while performing at The Second City in Las Vegas and slowly began making appearances in sketches after moving to New York City for the new gig. He was best known for frequently showing up on screen as an audience member during that week’s host’s monologue. As his face became more well-known to viewers and producers became increasingly impressed with his output, he was promoted to a featured performer in 2005 and retained his tenure as a full-time cast member for the remainder of his 10-year run. For Jason, getting to take part in “SNL” was a dream come true. “It was like that pretty girl who would never go out with you,” he said as the 2013 SPEC Connaissance speaker, but “when there’s something I like or love, I just go after it.”

6. He was paranoid about getting fired from “Saturday Night Live”

Becoming a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” is only half the battle. As many former cast members have attested, it can be even more challenging securing your sport for more than a few seasons. Jason Sudeikis has spoken about his insecurities regarding his position on the show, telling Rolling Stone in 2012 that he didn’t feel like he was talented enough to be such an established player. “I remember calling my manager and being like, ‘I should have stayed in Las Vegas.’ I didn’t think I was helping the show,” he confessed. “There was a little bit of ‘Impostor Syndrome,’ I think it’s called, where you worry, ‘They’re gonna find me out.‘” Clearly his concerns were nothing more than paranoia as he was able to exit on his own terms after a decade, a feat only seen by a select few “SNL” legends.

7. His uncle is “Cheers” star George Wendt

Jason Sudeikis did not come from a Hollywood family (he was raised by travel agents). However, he does have one relative who is also an entertainer: His uncle is the talent responsible for one of the classic characters on the long-running sitcom “Cheers.” That’s right, his mother, Kathryn, is actor George Wendt’s sister. George is best known to audiences as Norm Peterson on all 11 seasons of the acclaimed series, which ran from 1982 to 1993. It was his actress wife who first introduced Jason to The Second City in Chicago, and he likely never would have made it to “SNL” if not for that experience. “He’s always been very encouraging, but there was no ‘Tuesdays With Morrie’ kind of relationship between him and I,” Jason told Playboy magazine about his well-known uncle in 2011. “He was just a good example that being an actor was a viable option. Here’s a guy from the Midwest, in my family, who took the road less traveled and it worked out for him. The advice he gave me, and I say this jokingly, is ‘Get on one of the best sitcoms of all time and then ride it out.'”

8. He ghosted former fiancé Olivia Wilde before they started dating

Jason Sudeikis and actress-director Olivia Wilde, with whom he shares two children, were engaged for seven years before breaking things off in November 2020. However, they nearly didn’t even go on a first date. In 2016, she told radio host Howard Stern that Jason ghosted her early in their romance. They met when Olivia attended a “Saturday Night Live” afterparty and he made a cryptic remark before walking away, though he later got her digits. However, “When he got my number, he didn’t text me for a month,” she explained. Once he did, the relationship blossomed — slowly. Olivia said Jason waited until date No. 4 to kiss her!

9. His latest love is also an actress on his hit television show

After his split from Olivia Wilde, Jason Sudeikis began dating British model-turned-actress Keeley Hazell. The pair met on the set of “Horrible Bosses 2” back in 2014. They reconnected when Jason began working on “Ted Lasso” — Keeley was cast as Bex, the much younger girlfriend of the former owner of Ted’s English Premier League soccer team. “Keeley” is also the name of one of the show’s lead female characters, played by Juno Temple — a model who’s dated multiple players on the team. While Jason has never confirmed it, fans have speculated that the character could be based on, or at least named after, his new girlfriend, with whom he went public in June 2021.

10. He’s received an absurd number of speeding tickets

Jason Sudeikis has always had a need for speed, sometimes to his own detriment. He discussed his racing ambitions during an interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in 2018, telling the talk show host, “Speeding was my thing. I’m not going 120 in a school zone; I was always going 30 miles over, 85 instead of 55.” When Jimmy asked how many tickets he’s received, Jason admitted it was “maybe in the double digits.” Jason added: “I got a lot and I would never pay them. Which is so dumb. So dumb.” He actually got arrested one Fourth of July for his unpaid tickets, but his ever-helpful dad followed in the car behind, ready to pay the ticket and get his son home. Jason and the arresting officer buried the hatchet when they reunited at a 2019 event to raise money for the Cancer Center at Children’s Mercy Hospital in his hometown of Overland Park.

11. He once auditioned for the Blue Man Group

When Jason Sudeikis lived in Las Vegas as part of the founding Second City team, he developed a fascination with the Blue Man Group. In fact, he told Vanity Fair in 2010 that he was “absolutely obsessed” with joining the group. “This was almost 10 years ago, when I was living in Las Vegas and doing shows at The Second City,” he explained. “We became pals with the guys who did Blue Man at the Luxor, and a lot of them took classes with us at Second City. I just loved their show and thought it was so funny.” He became so enamored with the blue-painted performers that he actually auditioned to be part of the troupe. “I auditioned once in Las Vegas and I wasn’t good enough at the drumming part,” he added. “You have to know the single stroke rudiments, and I just wasn’t fast enough.” Who knows what direction his career would have taken if he had scored that part.

12. He’s a supportive brother

Jason Sudeikis has two sisters, Lindsay and Kristin, and the trio have always been close. So much so that he publicly supports his siblings’ business ventures. When he won his Golden Globe Award in 2021, Jason made headlines for sporting a tie-dye hoodie to virtually accept his trophy. What initially appeared like a laissez-faire approach to his awards-show look proved to have much deeper meaning upon closer inspection. The “Listen + Lead” sweatshirt was a shout-out to Forward Space, the New York City dance, fitness and wellness studio founded by sister Kristin, who’s a choreographer and teacher. “It’s family pride,” he said to press backstage after his win. “I believe that when people that you care about do cool, interesting things, that you should support them, so this is no different than that. I have a multitude of hoodies for a multitude of things that I believe in and support, but this one seemed the most appropriate.”

13. He’s karaoke buddies with former “Saturday Night Live” co-star Will Forte

While on “Saturday Night Live,” Jason Sudeikis became best friends with co-star Will Forte. The two have since worked together on Will’s comedy series “The Last Man on Earth” (they played brothers) and have made numerous appearances at events and talk shows to sing together. On a 2016 episode of “Last Man on Earth,” they duetted on “Falling Slowly,” the Oscar-winning ballad from the 2007 film “Once”… multiple times. As Jason explained to Deadline at the time, the track is actually a karaoke staple for the pair. “What people might not know is that we do so much karaoke, we sing that song with each other all the time,” he confessed. “When we lived in the same city we’d go to karaoke, just the two of us, and just sing together. I went to New York a week and a half ago and we went to dinner, and sure enough we ended up at karaoke. We are just karaoke buffoons.” Their other karaoke go-to tracks? REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” and Heatwave’s “Always and Forever.”

14. His celebrity crush is Ellen DeGeneres

Jason Sudeikis’s celebrity crush might be unexpected, but it makes sense considering his great sense of humor: Ellen DeGeneres. He told ELLE magazine in 2013 that his feelings were “100% for real” and explained what it is about the talk show host that grabbed his attention. “It was the gorgeous blue eyes. And she’s hilarious. That’s all it takes for me,” he said.In 1996, he went to see a taping of her sitcom and had her sign a copy of her book that he brought with him. When he had the dream opportunity to fill in as guest host on Ellen’s talk show in 2019, he discussed how her coming out was a heartbreaking moment for him. “I didn’t have any idea that she might not be… interested in me. Or someone like me, with my physical makeup. You know, having some things. Lacking others,” he joked. “So then once I found out Ellen was gay, that wasn’t easy for me. But I moved on. There’s other fish in the sea.”

15. He played basketball in high school and at community college

Long before Jason Sudeikis pursued a career in comedy, he was a bit of a basketball star. The funnyman played junior varsity basketball in high school before going on to also play at community college. One of Jason’s high school teammates told ESPN in 2013 that he was a “really good player” and that he, unsurprisingly, liked to crack jokes. “I started playing organized [basketball] in fourth grade and I was decent,” Jason admitted in the same ESPN piece. “I was being overtly theatrical… I was a gym rat. I wasn’t eight-hours-a-day, dribbling-in-gloves like [former NBA player] Jason Williams. It’s the same thing with acting and improv, I got really blessed with great people and I just gave a damn about it. It was my favorite thing to do. So I would do these drills over and over.” Despite leaving the sport behind, he’s still taken to the court as part of the NBA All-Star Celebrity Basketball team twice in recent years.

16. He dropped out of college to pursue acting

Jason Sudeikis attended Fort Scott Community College in Kansas on a basketball scholarship but did not leave with a degree. During his second semester, the star put sports on the backburner to focus on acting, performing in school productions and letting his grades drop. “Once I stopped playing basketball, I had no need for school, and it had no need for me,” he said as the 2013 SPEC Connaissance speaker, and explained to ESPN that same year that he didn’t pick up enough hours to continue in school. I ended up being ineligible to community college,” he confessed. “I went to get my hours up on a quick little summer thing and it wasn’t enough. I was ineligible the whole second semester. I ended up doing a play. That went well, relatively speaking. So then at this point, I’m a liability. An in-state, smart kid, but a liability.” What seemed like a bad decision at the time may have paid off because who knows if Jason would have become a household name if he hadn’t prioritized his acting.

17. He was once the voice for Applebee’s commercials

While fans are used to seeing Jason Sudeikis on their screens, some might not realize how often they’ve actually heard his voice. He’s built a solid resume of voice work including in films like “Epic,” “Next Gen,” “The Angry Birds Movie” and its sequel as well as TV shows such as “The Cleveland Show,” “Robot Chicken” and “Son of Zorn.” Not only that, but he also used to be the voice of the advertisements for Applebee’s restaurants. In 2012, he took over from previous campaign stars like John Corbett and Wanda Sykes to help sell America’s favorite neighborhood eatery. But proving himself to be more than just your average voiceover artist, Jason’s commercials featured him sarcastically commenting on the on-screen activity rather than just pushing burgers and wings. Even when he’s discussing a national chain, his sense of humor always shines through.

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