Marietta Sangai Sirleaf[1] (born April 12, 1970), better known as Retta, is an American stand-up comedian and actress. She is best known for her role as Donna Meagle on NBC's Parks and Recreation. She has appeared in several films and television shows, and has performed stand-up on Comedy Central's Premium Blend. She stars as Ruby Hill in NBC's Good Girls.[2]

Retta in May 2012
Marietta Sangai Sirleaf

(1970-04-12) April 12, 1970
Alma materDuke University
OccupationActress, comedian, chemist (past)
Years active1998–present
RelativesEllen Johnson Sirleaf (aunt)

Early life and education

Retta was born in Newark, New Jersey. She is of Liberian descent.[3] She grew up around New Jersey, specifically in Edison and Cliffwood Beach.[4]

In 1988, Retta graduated from Matawan Regional High School in Aberdeen Township, New Jersey.[4][5] In 1992, Retta graduated from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where she was pre-med and graduated with a degree in sociology.[4][6][7]


After graduating from Duke, Retta worked as a chemist. In her spare time, she did stand-up at Charlie Goodnights Comedy Club in Raleigh, North Carolina.[8] Eventually she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in comedy.[9] Retta said on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! that when she started performing stand-up comedy, she decided to call herself Retta rather than explain her name.[10] She started doing standup in 1996, although she said she did not start "earning money" until 1998, when she began touring on the college circuit. Retta said she used to get "really nauseated" before a performance, but that the feeling passed with experience.[11] Retta has said her stand-up material tends to be slightly embellished stories from her regular everyday life, family, and friends.[9][12] Retta has stated she would give up stand-up comedy for a full-time acting career if possible: "I'm not married to stand-up, just because it's a road thing. It's very lonely with all the traveling."[13]

Retta has served as the opening act for such comedians as Shirley Hemphill and Bobby Collins.[11] She has made television appearances on Bravo's Welcome to the Parker, E! Entertainment Television's The Soup,[12] Freddie, Moesha, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia,[13] the "Comedy Divas Showcase" segment of The Jenny Jones Show,[14] Retta has performed on Premium Blend, a Comedy Central show featuring up-and-coming comedians.[11]

In 2009, Retta started making regular guest appearances on the NBC comedy series Parks and Recreation as Donna Meagle, an employee in the Parks Department of the fictional town, Pawnee, Indiana. During a stand-up performance at the University of Illinois at Springfield, Retta said the acting job on the show was stressful because it was unclear how long the show would stay on the air, due to the poor reviews it received during the first season.[12] Alan Sepinwall, a television columnist with The Star-Ledger, said season 2 episodes of Parks and Recreation afforded more personality and funnier jokes to Donna and other minor characters.[15] She was upgraded to a full-time regular cast member in the third season.[16]

Retta also hosted the 3rd Critics' Choice Television Awards in 2013.[17] In 2014, she appeared on Hollywood Game Night as a contestant along with the other celebrities Paget Brewster, Michael Chiklis, Mario Lopez, Thomas Lennon, and Alyssa Milano.[18]

In 2015, Retta was one of the audiobook narrators for Welcome to Night Vale, a novel tie-in to the eponymous podcast series in which she is the voice of Old Woman Josie.[16] The same year she appeared in season 2 of Bravo's Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce.[16]

In 2018, Retta co-starred in the NBC series, Good Girls, opposite Christina Hendricks and Mae Whitman.[2]

In 2018, Retta published a series of essays in a book called So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y'all Don't Even Know.[19]

Personal life

On Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, she said she dated a man from Georgia who nicknamed her Retta because that was what the name Marietta sounded like where he came from.[10]

Retta is the niece of the former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.[3]

Retta is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, and presented awards at the NHL award ceremonies in Las Vegas, in 2014 and 2015.[20][21][22][23][24]



Year Title Role Notes
1998 Ringmaster Additional voices
2002 Slackers Bruna
2003 Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star Sad Eye Sadie
2007 Fracture Evidence Room Cop
2007 Sex and Death 101 Ethel
2008 First Sunday Roberta
2014 Sex Ed Sydney
2015 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip Party Planner
2016 Other People Nina
Operator Pauline 'Roger' Rogers
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Ida Stricker
2017 To the Bone Lobo
Band Aid Carol
The Lego Ninjago Movie Maggie the Cheerleader (voice)
Where's the Money Roberta
Father Figures Annie
2019 Good Boys Lucas' Mom


Year Title Role Notes
2004 $5.15/Hr Joy HBO
2005 Freddie Joan Episode: "Rich Man, Poor Girl"
2006 Rodney Tanya Evans Episode: "When Rodney Comes Marching Home"
2008 It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Hardware Store Clerk Episode: "The Gang Gets Extreme: Home Makeover Edition"
2009–15 Parks and Recreation Donna Meagle 120 episodes
2009 Jimmy Kimmel Live! Heckler Episode: "#7.46"
2014 Kroll Show TSA #1 Episode: "Krolling Around with Nick Klown"
2014 Drunk History Sylvia Robinson Episode: "American Music"
2014 Key & Peele The Woman Episode: "Sex Addict Wendell"
2015–18 Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce Barbara 25 episodes
2015 Kroll Show Lara Episode: "Body Bouncers"
2018-present Good Girls Ruby Hill Main Cast
2019 Pinky Malinky Mrs. Malinky Episode: "Snack"
Where's Waldo? Wizard Nightingale Episode: "Vienna Voice-Versa"
Big Mouth Duke's mother Episode: "Duke"

Works and publications

  • Retta (2018). So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y'all Don't Even Know. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-250-10934-7. OCLC 1001333805.


  1. "Cast: Donna Meagle, Played by Retta". Parks and Recreation. NBC.
  2. Read, Bridget (26 February 2018). "Retta Moves on From Parks and Recreation in Good Girls, But Never Say Never". Vogue.
  3. Chaney, Jen (8 October 2011). "What's the connection between a Nobel Prize winner and 'Parks and Recreation'?". The Washington Post.
  4. Feuer, Ryan (16 July 2015). "Comedian Retta talks Jersey roots, 'Parks and Rec' and 'Geeks Who Drink'".
  5. Pillar 1998 (PDF). Matawan Regional High School. 1988. pp. 99, 125, 144, 208, 224.
  6. Fishbein, Anne (25 September 2014). "Chatting With "Parks and Recreation's" Retta Sirleaf '92". Duke Magazine. Duke University.
  7. Sangweni, Yolanda (20 September 2012). "7 Reasons You Should Know Parks and Recreation Star, Retta". Essence.
  8. Holder, Christina (25 February 2015). "Retta Sirleaf Returns to Duke" (includes video). Duke Today. Duke University.
  9. Azzi, Amy (January 28, 2009). "Comedian took long route to comedy". Royal Purple News. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Retrieved November 17, 2009.
  10. "Best of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me" (Audio podcast). NPR. 24 August 2019.
  11. Eells, Kelly Feser (June 6, 2003). "T-150 seats down for stand-up guys". Ojai Valley News. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved November 17, 2009.
  12. Dunn, Valeree (October 14, 2009). "Performer Spotlight on... Retta". UIS Journal. Archived from the original on April 24, 2011. Retrieved November 17, 2009.
  13. Haynes, Robert (November 17, 2009). "Comedian Retta brings glee to bear country". The Echo. University of Central Arkansas.
  14. Ory, Marie (March 15, 2001). "Laughter -- the medicine of life". The Nicholls Worth. Retrieved November 17, 2009.
  15. Sepinwall, Alan (November 5, 2009). "Parks and Recreation, "Ron and Tammy": Megan Mullally guests". The Star-Ledger. New Jersey On-Line. Retrieved November 6, 2009.
  16. Feuer, Ryan (16 July 2015). "Comedian Retta talks Jersey roots, 'Parks and Rec' and 'Geeks Who Drink'". Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  17. "Awards News: Critics' Choice Nominations". CBS. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  18. Snetiker, Marc (15 January 2014). "Retta takes on Mario Lopez in the Olympics on 'Hollywood Game Night' -- EXCLUSIVE". Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  19. Retta (2018). So Close to Being the Sh*T, Y'all Don't Even Know. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-250-10934-7. OCLC 1001333805.
  20. "Retta: How I Became a Hockey Fan". Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  21. "Hey, Retta, this Tumblr is teaching you all about hockey". 15 April 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  22. "How I Became a Hockey Fan". 11 May 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  23. "NHL Awards 2015". Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  24. "NHL releases lineup of presenters and performers for awards show". Retrieved 9 December 2016.
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