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The Office’s Ellie Kemper Wows Wash U. Crowd

Kemper spoke Thursday before being the celebrity guest at COCAcabana Friday night.

It's not every day that a rising star claims to have peaked in high school, but The Office star and St. Louis native Ellie Kemper did just that. Kemper told guests at the  Women’s Society Adele Starbird Lecture Thursday that the high point of her career was studying under Mad Man star Jon Hamm.

Hamm taught at his alma mater  before heading for Hollywood. Kemper was one of Hamm's high school drama students.

"The peak for me was in ninth grade performing for Mr. Hamm," Kemper laughingly told the crowd.

She and Hamm were reunited last year as co-stars in the hit movie Bridesmaids. She described a relaxed atmosphere on the set. 

"There were no egos, no vanity — it was just like hanging out with your girlfriends all day long," she said.

Kemper said the cast was not surprised by the success of the film, saying that it resonated with the stars and they felt it would do the same with audiences.

"The thing about Bridesmaids is that it was a comedy that women were in — not a comedy about women," she said.

Kemper shared her path from her childhood in St. Louis to Princeton University and her early days auditioning in New York. She said that her improv work led to her best opportunities.

"I think it is hard to move right to L.A. — everyone there is in the business," she said. "The best thing to do is be out there creating material for yourself. That gives you the most control and it's easier to get noticed when you are writing and performing your own work."

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* Ladue-Frontenac Patch Editor Jim Baer contributed to this report.

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