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An Interview With SNL's Bobby Moynihan

Feb 25, 2015

Live From New York, It's Saturday Night!

Bobby Moynihan Q&A

Okay, so I just want to extend my enormous thanks to Bobby for agreeing to answer these questions and for putting so much time, care and effort into answering these questions. He went far and beyond what I could have ever expected - the answers are so insightful and for all us SNL nerds, it's a real treat to read!

Without further ado, I give you the Bobby Moynihan Q&A! I hope you all enjoy it! (Most of it is after the jump, so click read more!)

1. Could you talk about how you originally got into comedy? (What led you into it? Was it what you were always interested in pursuing?)

When I was a kid I wanted to be a cartoonist. Or at least draw comic books or make action figures. Then I started doing the youth summer theatre in my town. Mostly just to hang out with my friends at the diner after rehearsals. When college time came around I got into UCONN for Acting. So I went. I did mostly plays and musical theatre while I was there but we had to a final presentation for our senior year and we kind of did sketch's and then a roast. I think that was my first real jump into sketch comedy. Then when I came back to New York I saw an improv show at UCB. I loved it so much and I knew instantly that that was what I wanted to do. I signed up for classes the next day and I have been doing it ever since.

2. What was your audition like for
Saturday Night Live? Did it feature any characters/impressions that have since been featured on the show?

My audition process was torture. It was 14 months in between the first time I auditioned and the second time because of the writers strike. The first time I auditioned I believe I did Hurley from Lost trying to open a jar of Dharma Initiative Chili, Turtle from Entourage. I did Mark Payne, and I did another character called Simply Victor that will never be on the show and a bit where I tap danced. The second time I auditioned I think I had a better handle on what they wanted from me. I did like 13 short bits. I believe I did a character called 'The Biggest Douche on the Subway', I did Nathan Lane for the National Hamburger Society, I did Snagglepuss at a swingers club, I did Jack Black at a funeral, I did a character called Mark Dark Narcoleptic Narc, I did Simply Victor again and Mark Payne. I also did other stuff that I am forgetting and when I write it out like that I don't know how I got on the show.

3. In your first show at SNL, you got your character Mark Payne on the air. How did you succeed in getting a character on the air in your first week and what was it like to feature so prominently in a sketch that early on?

Honestly, I have no idea. I think it was all a matter of timing and stupidity. I pitched my only good character right out of the gate. Not the smartest thing I have ever done. But it was the only thing I had that I knew really really well. I had been doing that character in a show with my sketch group Buffoons (with Charlie Sanders and Eugene Cordero) for three years so I felt comfortable with it. Everyone was very nice at my first read through and I was terrified. But it went well and it got picked. Still can't believe it. I also think it had a lot to do with the fact that Michael Phelps was hosting and he had just won like a million medals and he was exhausted. All he had to do in the scene was sit and not swim. If an actual actor hosted I don't think it would have seen the light of day. To this day I still cannot understand the chain of events that led to getting that on the air in my first show. We did another one a few episodes later with Tim McGraw that I loved and another two, one with Rosario Dawson and one with Tracy Morgan, that got cut for time. The Tracy Morgan one was the Mark Payne origin story. A flashback to Tracy training Mark at Uno's. I love it more than anything. But it will never see the light of day. The Mark Payne saga is complete in my mind. I love that character and believe it is a big part of what got me on the show. The biggest thrill of all was seeing Mark Payne in the opening credits sequence of the SNL in the 2000's documentary. I can remember the moment I saw it. I will never forget how thankful I was that I worked in Pizzeria Uno for 9 years too long.

4. One of my favorite things that Saturday Night Live has done in recent years was the now infamous Single Ladies sketch, the writing of which was attributed you. Could you talk about the conception of that sketch, what it was like to work with Rudd, Timberlake & Beyonce and how it felt to see it turn into a pop culture phenomenon?

Monday: Kenan showed me the Beyonce video in his dressing room. I wrote down on a piece of paper (That I still have) 'Backup dancers for Beyonce'. All I was thinking was that it would be funny to see a chubby guy in a leotard.

Tuesday: I asked John Lutz if he wanted to write with me. He said yes. I pitched the idea to him and we started writing it with just me and Andy as the backup dancers. Lutz came up with the structure and made it into a real sketch instead of just a sight gag. People kept telling me that Beyonce had done the show before and that she didn't do any sketch's. We stopped writing it. Half way through the night we got the news that Abby and Michaela were joining the show. We went back to writing and we immediately put them in the sketch, just in case. At this point I did not think we were even going to hand it in.

Wednesday: It went to the table read with Kristen playing Beyonce. She sold it and it did better than I expected. I figured that it would not make it in and it didn't. I was not surprised.

Thursday-Saturday: I kind of have no idea what happened. We weren't doing it and then Andy asked me to come and ask Beyonce if she would do it. I was really scared to go in her dressing room and ask which was ridculous. She was a complete doll. She was so nice and she told me to sit next to her on the couch. I just kept saying, 'Thank you, Beyonce' over and over. (A sidenote... I remember one of the woman in Beyonce's entourage just kept saying, 'Wouldn't it be funny if I was in the background eating a bagel!' It did not make it into the sketch. Weird.) We asked and Beyonce said she would do it if we could pre-tape it because she wanted to concentrate on her musical performances. We said thanks but we would need to do it live. The next thing I know, I don't know what happened. Someone called Justin Timberlake and what seemed like moments later he was at the studio, he bum rushed her and Beyonce said yes. The rehearsal process was nuts because we only did it twice before the show. The choreography wasn't that bad, I just couldn't understand what was happening. I just kept thinking, 'What is happening and what have I done'. I also remember Lorne coming to the studio half way through the rehearsal and saying that he watched the video and that there were only two back up dancers. I said, correct, but now we have Justin. Then there was talk that I would be cut from it and that it would just be Andy and Justin. I said I completely understood and tried not cry. Andy and Lutz stood up for me reminding Lorne that it was kinda my idea. I will never forget that. I think that the whole thing was a test because that was the last I heard of it. I remember Lutz saying that it was one of the most bizarre experiences he had working the show. Lutz played Justin for one of the rehearsals and he was great. Lutz is one of the best comedians in the world. The next thing you know we did it at dress and people went nuts. One of the crew guys came up to me and said 'Congrats on making history.' All I could think was that my Dad was going to see me in a leotard on TV. We did it on air and I remember every second. Darrell had the first line, it was Abby and Michaela's very first appearance on the show. And I was on SNL. That sketch, for some reason, I was completely aware of my surroundings. I enjoyed it more than I can explain.

The Next Monday: I woke up and it was in Entertainment Weekly. That is when I realized how strange and amazing working for this show was going to be.

Every time I see a picture of it in the hallway at SNL or hear that song coming from a car, I get chills and just shake my head and laugh.

5. One of my favourite recurring characters/impressions from season 35 was Snookie, who of course you played. I think what's great about it is that you're not just doing a dead-on impression of her, but you've turned her into a character. So, could you talk about the genesis of that impression? (How it was decided you would play her, the writing for her etc.) Also, one reader was curious as to how long it takes to remove the orange make-up?!

SNOOKI! It started when I was I was watching TV and literally as I turned it on I just saw a girl get punched in the face. It was the promo for the show on MTV. It hadn't aired yet. I remember writing down 'Italian Girl gets punched in the face' I thought it might be funny for update. I didn't even know who Snooki was. Then I started watching the show and I fell in love. That girl is a cartoon character. She is just the free-est of spirits. When I finally saw the episode and they cut it I was amazed. They showed it like a thousand times a day for a week and then said that it was inappropriate so they pulled it. Amazing. I think I just thought about it and wrote down the Garfield line about being orange and loving lasanga and that was it. My good friend Christine Nangle had been hired on the show and we wanted to write together. I pitched her the idea of me playing Snooki on Update. Nangle is brilliant and we work great together. I think we wrote the first one in like twenty minutes. It just flowed. We sat on the couch outside the elevator and just hammered it out. I just remember that we kept saying that it shouldn't be mean. It should be what she would really say if she had a chance to be on Update. It was totally different at dress. Much more subdued. And less orange. Then Seth improvised something and I just did that laugh to recover. The laugh got the biggest laugh. That made me feel good and Nangle said 'DO THAT LAUGH AS MUCH AS YOU CAN'. On air, I think I just felt comfortable with Seth and the one was much more joyous and carefree. I think that's why people like her and the bit. Just an idiot having fun being an idiot. And every time we do it she gets more and more orange. Also Nangle is brillaint. She wrote the 'Prison Jumpsuit' line from the Alec Baldwin episode. That line is pure genius and pure Nangle. Another crazy surreal moment was watching the real Snooki watch the clip on an MTV special. She seemed moved and touched. I just wanted to remind her that I was a dude painted orange and that she should not be as flattered.

It takes about twenty minutes to get the orange on. It's all Josh and Louis, the best makeup guys in the business. It's all airbrushed on then I get in the dress, boobs, jewelry, makeup, and finally the wig. I've gotten it off in three minutes for the next sketch but if you look closely my knuckles and neck are still bright orange.

6. There have been a lot of great hosts during your time at SNL. Who were some of your favourites to work with and is there anybody in particular that you would like to see host next season?

I have favorites for different reasons. Megan Fox was so cool. Anne Hathaway sticks out as a favorite just because I was so new and she was so excited to be there like me. Paul Rudd was amazing. I wanna marry Gabby Sidibe. Rogen and Phillipe were awesome. Blake Lively was great and I had my first 'live from New York' on her show so that meant a lot to me. James Franco was a pisser. Sitting on John Malcovich's lap was nuts. Megan Fox... Megan Fox had to see me naked and for that I apologize. But if I had to go top three it would be Sigourney Weaver, Jude Law, and Betty White.... and Megan Fox.

As for hosts I would like next season... THESE ARE DREAM HOSTS... Robert Downey, Jr., Tom Hanks, Michael Emerson, Evangeline Lilly, Bryan Cranston, Sam Rockwell, Ken Jeong, Will Smith, Mickey Rourke, Amy Poehler, Carrie Fisher, Jonathan Winters, Gonzo, Ricky Gervais, Omar from The Wire, Tess from Pretty Wild, Simone from Head of the Class, A Bear, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, My Dad, Bill Clinton, Christina Aguilera, Alyssa Milano, Elisha Cuthbert, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Heather Graham, or the cast of Twin Peaks.

Dream Musical guests... (After Pearl Jam my dream had come true but...) Beastie Boys, Snoop, G-Love and the Special Sauce, Christina Aguilera, Leon Redbone, or Randy Newman. But I would trade them all for Biggie.

7. What were some of your favourite sketches that didn't make it to the air?

Ones that always stand out are anything that Fred or Forte write. Fred did a sketch called 'Bitch on Wheels' at the table read for my first episode. It was the funniest thing in the world. It was all about a woman who hosts a talk show on roller skates but she was a terrible roller skater. It eventually got turned into 'Riley' but I still hold a place for the original in my heart. On the last episode of season 35 Forte wrote a sketch called 'Finders Keepers' it was insane and wonderful. It got cut for time but I have high hopes that it will be seen again. Abby and I always threaten to write something called The Adventures of Danny Devito and Rhea Pearlman where we are super heroes. We have never written it but I am including it in the 'Didn't make it to air' section because if we do it probably wouldn't . Also, Seth wrote a LOST sketch for the finale but it didn't make it. I loved it. I was Hurley, Bill was Sawyer, Kristen was Kate, Jason was Jack. It was just a nerds dream sketch and expertly written. I really wish we had done it. That one will kill me forever.

8. Everyone has a bad pitch story. Could you talk about a pitch of yours that wasn't so well-received?

All of them. But the one I remember bombing most? I pitched 'Tall Napolean' to Jon Hamm. All I had was a theme song, 'He's Tall! Tall Napoleon! He's not small! Any-moreleon!' I never pitched it again. I'm sure there are worse ones that I have since blocked out.

9. It's well-documented that the cast members contribute to the writing. How involved are you in the writing process? Do you pair up often with other particular cast members/writers?

All of the cast writes. You kind of just pair up for the week or shoot ideas back and forth. To be honest, that is one thing that I have not cracked yet. It's like asking someone out on a date every Tuesday. I write a lot with Nangle, Bryan Tucker, Colin Jost, Jillian Bell, Rob Klein, Abby Elliot, John Mulaney, Simon Rich, and Ryan Perez. Perez is hilarious. There are so many talented writers, you just want to write with them all. Also they write for you too. Or they cast you in something great. Mike O'Brien is a great writer and he cast me as Ass Dan and the lead singer of Smash Mouth. Something I love him for.

10. Are there any impressions that you wish you could do on the show? Are there any impressions you did not think you could perform well until they were given to you?

I'd like to try Paula Dean, Danny Devito, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Judah Freidlander, Odd Job, Oliver Platt. You know, the usual. As for impressions that I was CAST in... Karl Rove was fun. I still don't know who he is but it was fun. Mulaney cast me as David Crosby. Also fun. Alfred Hitchcock was the worst. I start off okay then I sound like Lorne! I just couldn't get it down.

11. One of my favourite sketches last season was one you did with Sigourney Weaver called Fire and Rice. I thought it was really funny and I was just wondering, were you involved with its writing at all? Also, what was it like to appear in a sketch with just you and Sigourney Weaver?

That is one that is a perfect example of a fake pitch going well. I just wanted to make Sigourney laugh. I pitched a scene where we were a lounge act and she was on top of the piano but she was afraid of heights. She laughed out loud and after the meeting came to my office to talk about it. She had ideas which was awesome because I did not. I teamed up with Nangle and we cranked it out. It was a lot longer and had a lot more back story about her first husband. Nangle was the one who reigned it in and made it really tight. Sigourney had a crazy busy week and we did not get to rehearse it that much.

On Saturday I was pretty sure that it was not gonna make the show but Sigouney and I practiced it in her dressing room whenever she had a free second and she was so awesome about it. She just wanted to nail it because it's almost all her. Dress went okay. The ending got screwed up because after she fell off the piano she got right back up. Then she realized that the whole sketch was about her falling sixty feet and she ducked back down again. The crowd went nuts. It got the wrong kind of laugh. But in between dress and air she fought for it and it stayed in. I was so grateful that I almost forgot that it was my first sketch ever that just had the host and me! I was reeling. It went great and it is one of my top five sketch's that I am most proud of.

My favorite moment from the rehearsal was when the stunt coordinator tried to help Sigourney up onto the piano. She turned to him and said, 'It's okay. I was Ripley.' Most bad ass woman ever.

12. A lot of people who read my blog have comedy aspirations and I was wondering what advice, if any, you have for aspiring comedy performes/writers.

If you want to work in comedy get involved with UCB. Go there, see shows, take classes, make friends, make videos with those friends, put those videos on You Tube. Seriously, just go there. Go there all the time. the more time you spend around the comedy world the more of a chance you will have of understanding it and getting good at it.

13. Finally, this is just a yes/no question - a reader named Nicole was wondering if you do 'the voice of that tastebud on the Dunkin Donuts Dark Roast radio commercial'?

No. But I am in the weird old man in the Colbie Caillat video.
NY General

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