When "Saturday Night Live" vet Ana Gasteyer took her current role as fierce suburbanite Sheila Shay on the ABC sitcom "Suburgatory," she knew she faced a challenge. The comedic actress would have to balance her new job in Los Angeles with her family back in New York City.

Jetting back and forth between two coasts took its toll, and Gasteyer found herself with less time to concentrate on eating well or physical fitness. The actress gained 22 pounds from the show's first season to its second. "I definitely did not take care of my body, or my nutrition," she said, adding that her husband gained weight as well. "We sort of let all the stress accumulate."

Eventually, she and her husband decided to take control of their own health. They joined Weight Watchers together and lost much of their excess weight. Now, Gasteyer said, she feels better than ever and is committed to spreading the word about good health and nutrition. That's a big part of the reason Gasteyer agreed to headline the upcoming Griffin Gala to support Griffin Hospital in Derby.

The gala will take place Friday, Sept. 20 at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, and Gasteyer said her performance will be a cabaret-style mix of music and comedy. "It's based around the idea of a late 50s, early 60s nightclub act," said Gasteyer, 46. "It's evolved from years of working in comedy, but also in the theater."

Gasteyer's diverse background is the reason she was picked to headline the event, said Katherine Bequary, event organizer for Griffin Hospital. "She's a perfect combination of showmanship, celebrity and musical skill," Bequary said.

It helps that Gasteyer has a personal interest in nutrition, fitness and other health issues, she said. "That really speaks to Griffin's interest in preventive care and keeping people healthy," Bequary said.

Though known primarily for her work on "SNL," Gasteyer has worked steadily since leaving the show, in TV, film and theater. On stage, she's performed as Elphaba in "Wicked" on Broadway, as well as in Broadway productions of "The Royal Family" and "The Threepenney Opera." Though she loves every medium she's ever worked in, Gasteyer said there's a certain thrill to live performance you don't get anywhere else. "I think it you're drawn to performing at all, live performance is going to be your first love," she said.

However, she's equally enthusiastic about her film and TV work, particularly her role on "Suburgatory," which was renewed for a third season in May. Gasteyer's Sheila is the tightly-wound neighbor to the show's main characters, George and Tessa Altman. The show, and the role, seemed tailored to Gasteyer's talents and, last season, she even got a chance to sing.

Gasteyer said she has high hopes for the Griffin show and how it will be received. She's particularly excited to do the fundraiser, given her own struggle with staying healthy. The 22 pounds she gained in her early "Suburgatory" days were "the same 22 pounds I've been battling for years."

When she first suggested to her husband that they join Weight Watchers, Gasteyer said, it seemed like such a silly "married people" thing to do. But it worked well enough for them that Gasteyer is now a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers Online. A big part of her lifestyle change, she said, is just making time for good habits. "My health and wellness really matter to me," she said.

The Griffin Gala takes place Friday, Sept. 20 at the Shubert Theater, 247 College St., New Haven. Dinner ticket holders and sponsors should arrive at 5 p.m. The performance starts at 7 p.m. Performance tickets are $85 and dinner tickets are $175. Sponsorships are available. Call 203-732-7504 or visit www.griffinhealth.org/gala.

acuda@ctpost.com; 203-330-6290; twitter.com/AmandaCuda; http://blog.ctnews.com/whatthehealth/