'SNL's' Bobby Moynihan Discusses Working with Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, James Franco And More
Bobby joins us for a look back on his first -- and what turned out to be a historic -- year on the show and what it's like to work side-by-side with Beyonce Knowles, Justin Timberlake, Jon Hamm, Anne Hathaway and James Franco; plus, why he's looking so forward to March 14th. Again, it's always great to speak to someone who so obviously loves what they do.
Mike: You worked on Conan O'Brien's show, right?
Bobby: Yeah, yeah. A couple of years.
Mike: How would you describe the difference between doing a sketch on Conan -- the preparation involved -- or Upright Citizens Brigade, as opposed to SNL?
Bobby: I guess it's weirdly similar. [On] Conan, it was like: here's your bit and we're not going to tell you what it is until you get there (laughs). We're going to rehearse it once and then we're going to tape it live. It didn't go out on TV live but you only had one chance to do it so if you screwed up ... that was it. So, it was similar ... I guess it was actually the same exact thing except it's on a much bigger scale at SNL ... where it's in history forever so it's nerve racking (laughs). But, I did a lot weirder stuff on Conan; a lot of fat guy in his underwear stuff.
Mike: What was your first meeting with Lorne [Michaels] like?
Bobby: It was so amazing. I felt so lucky, I left the building that day going: The chances of getting SNL are so minuscule but at least I got to have that experience. At least he thought of me enough to even bring me in. It was the coolest thing in the world.
I felt like I was lied to, a little bit ... I worked with a couple of guys from SNL at Upright Citizens Brigade before I got it and everyone was kind of prompting me like: Don't do bits, don't try to be funny ... it was essentially: be yourself but don't be yourself, because, I'm kind of an idiot (laughs). I went in there and weirdly enough it was like talking to an old friend; I felt like I was on a first date. I was nervous and he was just asking me about my family and he seemed really interested. And he was asking me a lot of old SNL questions -- and I'm a super nerd about it.
He was like, "Do you see anything in my office you like?" Which I thought was funny.
And I was like, "That mug over there is the 'Worlds Best Boss' mug that you used for the Rainn Wilson episode on The Office sketch.
He was like, "Oh that mug next to those Emmys," (laughs) so he's a funny dude.
Mike: I wonder: Is it harder to come on in the middle of the season -- like Casey [Wilson] did or like Michaela [Watkins] and Abby [Elliott] just did -- or start fresh at the beginning of a season.
Bobby: It's weird. I feel so lucky for the timing of everything ... I came in with all of the Sarah Palin stuff right at the beginning of the season. I think I came in at the best time but also the hardest time because we had ten shows in eight weeks.
I know a lot of the other cast-members were like: This is pretty crazy, it's never like this. Now that we are going into two weeks on/two weeks off for the rest of the season it's almost like it's not work. It was every single week ... plus the Thursday shows. You just start and the next thing you know you're in a moose costume with Sarah Palin ... I can't believe there's only six episodes left in this season.
Mike: I've been guilty of this as a viewer: You get comfortable with the cast then, all of a sudden, someone else has been added and as a viewer you are like, "Well now, who is this?" Do you think it's more important, at first, to just get as much screen time as possible or to establish reoccurring characters like Mark Payne?
Bobby: Obviously it's good to get screen time and all that stuff ... The Mark Payne thing, I've been doing that for years and I can't believe that it got on in the first episode and that I've done more since then.
My second episode, one of the writers wrote that "Of Mice and Men" sketch I did with James Franco and I was petrified because it was just me and him. It was one of those sketches where it's not a bunch of fart sounds, it was like you had to think about it a tiny bit ... the last thing I want to do is screw up, at all. Half because I don't want to get fired and half because I respect the show so much.
Mike: You wrote the Beyoncé sketch... That got a lot of attention.
Bobby: The story of that sketch is insane to me because I came in on Monday and went up to one of the writers, John Lutz ... who I think is a genius ... and I was like: Hey man, I've got this dumb idea for Beyoncé where me and Andy [Samberg] are the backup dancers. I just thought it would be funny to get in those outfits and do that. Essentially it was like: That's a great idea but she won't do it. When she's done the show before she likes to really focus on her performances...
But, we wrote it up anyway and handed it in and it didn't get picked and it was just, you know, she's not going to do it. On Thursday me and Andy saw her and went into her dressing room and we were just like, "hey," and she was super nice -- the most angelic creature you've ever seen -- and we told her the idea and she started laughing and she's like, "You're going to get in those outfits?" and we were like, "yeah, that's the plan." She was like, "That's amazing. I'll do it, but I'll do it if it's pre-taped because on the night I want to focus on the performances."
Lorne was like, "We're not going to do it, we don't to pre-tapes." So ,that was it. The next thing you know they're on the phone with Justin Timberlake and he's in town. An hour later he comes over and convinces Beyoncé to do it live ... if you look at the picture it's Paul Rudd, Beyoncé, me, Andy and Justin. I feel like it's one of those things where somebody superimposed me into that picture ... from the time I pitched the idea, exactly a week later, I'm sitting at my house looking at it in Entertainment Weekly and I was just like: What the hell have I done?
Mike: Is there an inspiration for Mark Payne?
Bobby: (Laughs) I was a bartender at a Pizzeria, Uno's, for nine years. The people I worked with were amazing but it was quite possibly the most miserable time of my life (laughs). Just being a bartender at a chain restaurant ... a lot of that stuff is real, people that I came in contact with, bits of information that I kept over the years. The last line of that sketch was, "Oh snap, I left my kid on the bus," and I actually heard somebody say that -- one of my co-workers. You write that down: so that just happened -- I'm going to remember that the rest of my life.
That's the way I wish I had acted towards customers; I wish I had just been a maniac and said whatever I wanted to and not care about the consequences. The Uno's that comes up a the very beginning of the sketch is the Uno's that I worked at; They went and shot the one I actually worked at.
Mike: I do love your impression of Snagglepuss. Where did you come up with the idea that we really needed a parody of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon?
Bobby: The first time I auditioned you had to do some characters and some impressions and impressions terrify me. You look at people like Bill [Hader] and Darrell [Hammond] and Fred [Armisen] who are just mimics. They talk to you for two minutes, they get down to your essence and can do you perfectly. But, I'm not like that.
I did Turtle from Entourage and Hurley from Lost for my first audition. They weren't really impressions as much as they were just chubby dudes with beards that I resembled. For my second audition, when I went back a year later, I think I did Nathan Lane, Jack Black and I had to do something else ... and the only impression I think I do well is Snagglepuss and I've been doing it since I was a kid.
On the subway there to the audition I was like: I've got to throw in another impression. At least it will make them laugh that I did it; that I actually showed up in front of Lorne Michaels and did a Snagglepuss impression. Then it's one of those things where, like, that Prop 8 stuff was going on and I was like: Oh, who would be good to comment on this? Then you get that idea that it might be funny if it's Snagglepuss. Then it's like: This will never get on the air, but, at least it will get a laugh at the table. Then it ended up getting in ... be careful what you wish for.
Mike: You guys are off this week, right?
Mike: Have they announced the next hosts yet?
Bobby: It's The Rock, Dwayne Johnson [March 7] and then Tracy Morgan after that [March 14] which I'm super psyched for ... this is first time coming back since he was a cast member and he's super excited to do it but he's also, you know, I think he's a pretty legendary maniac. I just can't wait to see what's going to happen! And my dream of quite possibly being in an "Astronaut Jones" is ... I think that's one of the funniest sketches in the world. I want Tracy Morgan to be insane.
You can read the entire transcript to this interview here
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at email@example.com
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