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Comedy Stray Notes October 1, 2022
A list of my favorite moments from every episode of David Spade and Dana Carvey's "Fly On The Wall" podcast
• Every May, the SNL season ends and a group chat of mine dies for a few months.
Sure, we’ll get tidbits and morsels of news like “such and such cast member is leaving the show” or “such and such cast member is breaking up with such and such Kardashian” or “omg Lorne was interviewed by the New York Times” but it’s not the same.
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Thankfully, Dana Carvey and David Spade’s frequently laugh out loud funny, SNL-centric “Fly On The Wall” has filled the variety show-sized hole in my heart all summer long (really all year long) and became my favorite podcast in the process.
Each week, the two former Not Ready For Prime Time Players bring in a guest to talk about the best show that starts at 11:30 p.m. on Saturdays that isn’t the local news, “Fridays” or “Mad TV.”
It doesn’t hurt that they also drop bombshell backstage revelations that don’t make it into oral histories and juicy details about projects that never made it off the ground.
Now, that the show is coming back tonight Saturday, Oct. 1 with host Miles Teller (guessing they couldn’t get Tom Cruise, Beyonce, Quinta Brunson or anyone from “Don’t Worry Darling”), I wanted to share the best moment from each episode of the show (yeah, I nerd out hard) to tide you over until the Season 48 premiere in just a few hours.
Chris Rock (Jan. 12): Rock auditioned with Dana Gould (stand up and “Simpsons” writer). Apparently, Gould blew the roof off his audition but somehow didn’t get cast. Ships in the night.
*This Gould audition is the stuff of legend. Any comedy nerd worth their salt has heard mention of this story countless times.
Rob Lowe (Jan. 12): Lorne Michaels once told Rob Lowe that there are “only 900 funny people on the planet.”
Tina Fey (Jan. 19): Fey joined Lin Manuel Miranda’s improvised hip-hop show “Freestyle Love Supreme” as a guest monologist one night. She was freaking out that she “might have to rap.”
Spoiler alert: she ended up just telling a story.
Conan O’Brien (Jan. 26): Conan sagely shared, “Everything from the past seems inevitable. Like of course, Franklin Roosevelt was President four times. But at the time, that wasn’t so certain. Nor were Sandler, Farley or Norm who had bumpy starts (on the show). (Audiences) hated Norm and Sandler for a while.”
Tom Hanks (Feb. 2): Hanks told a fun anecdote about how Robert Smigel wrote a sketch in the mid-’80s making fun of Jerry Seinfeld that included the line, “What’s the deal with socks?” Dennis Miller overheard the pitch and said, “You can’t do that! That’s Seinfeld’s act.” They ended up calling Jerry— he was cool with it. “I’ve retired that joke” was his response.
Darrell Hammond (Feb. 9): In this episode, Hammond and Carvey do dueling Regis Philbins AND Bill Clintons. However, the funniest moment (and maybe best moment in this young podcast’s history) comes from Spade when he gets bored during one of Darrell’s stories. The ribbing that follows is priceless.
Laraine Newman (Feb. 16): This is ultra-nerdy but superfans will love to hear that Newman aligned herself with writers Michael O’Donoghue, Rosie Shuster and Tom Schiller when she performed on the show- a truly legendary trio of scribes.
Johnny Knoxville (Feb. 23): The whole episode revolves around just how close Knoxville and his stunts were to becoming a fixture on SNL in the late ‘90s before he decided to go with MTV instead.
Jon Lovitz (March 2): There’s nothing more fun than when Spade and Carvey reveal projects they ALMOST worked on. In this episode, Spade lets out that he was very close to being cast in “Home Alone” and Carvey chimes in that he and Lovitz were originally supposed to be the “Bad Boys” and the movie was written for the two of them. Yes, the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence “Bad Boys.”
Jon Hamm (March 9): Hamm told a wild tale about how he helped Amy Poehler get through a tough phone call where she found out that her OBGYN died just days before she was going to give birth.
Bonus fact: Spade wrote an intentionally dumb sketch for Farley back in the day called “Goo Goo in the Honeypot.” It was cut for time.
Sarah Silverman (March 16): One of the wildest backstage stories of all time dropped in this one- Silverman accidentally stabbed Al Franken in the writer’s room with a pencil.
Judd Apatow (March 23): Apatow is an anecdote machine but my favorite bit here was his re-telling of a joke he wrote for Dennis Miller years ago about Paul Simon. It went, “Paul Simon will be coming out with 27 musicians to replace Art.”
Bonus wisdom from Carvey: “At a certain point in every person in showbiz’s life, they become a caricature of themselves.”
Ben Stiller (March 30): Stiller got on SNL (albeit for a very brief period of time) by handing a VHS of his “Color of Money” parody to Jon Lovitz who passed it along to Lorne.
Tim Meadows (April 6): In Meadows’ early seasons on the show, Lorne would repeatedly ask him, “Who helped you write that?” rather than give him due credit.
Bill Hader (April 13): Turns out both Hader and Spade attended Scottsdale Community College. For those who don’t know, their mascot is an Artichoke.
Bonus fact(s): There was almost a Stefon movie but it never worked as a sketch so they nixed it. Spade said he’d wanted to do a Gap Girls movie but it just never happened. Carvey then brought up the infamous “Hans and Franz” script that floated around in the early ‘90s. That movie was never made because “audiences couldn’t accept the characters outside the gym.”
Drew Barrymore (April 20): Barrymore still holds the record for youngest host ever when she gamely led the show at seven-years-old in 1982. To get her through the monologue, Tim Kazurinsky (one of the show’s most underrated cast members), brought out a monkey.
Side note: Kazurinsky is known for his intentionally melodramatic, formally daring “So I Married A Monkey” sketches.
Mike Myers (April 27): Myers (like myself and almost everyone) is a huge Beatles nut. However, what separates him is he’s had quite a bit of contact with the Fab Four. Case in point, he was the recipient of George Harrison’s last letter before he died in 2001. The note was all about how much he liked Mini Me.
Also, Paul McCartney allegedly talked all throughout a Wayne’s World screening.
James Austin Johnson (May 4): Johnson, a Nashville native, got his start in comedy memorizing a guy named Brian Stein’s stand-up.
Jim Downey (May 11): Downey, one of the show’s most famous writers, explained that SNL uses the static cold open “sit at a desk” format because it’s so much easier to write things last-minute that don’t include moving pieces.
Bonus fact: You may know Downey from his “We are now all dumber for having heard that” speech he delivers at the end of “Billy Madison.” That speech’s origin comes from read-throughs at SNL where he would say that to Farley.
Dennis Miller (May 18): Truly loved the way Dennis Miller paid tribute to Norm saying he was “like Andy Kaufman if he could write jokes.”
Jeff Goldblum (May 25): Nearly three decades ago, Goldblum and Spade starred in a sketch called “Karl’s Video” together. Spade’s character, an irritating clerk who would innocuously name drop customers with lines like “I have Whoopi Goldberg’s number and card information, I’m not going to do anything with it” never recurred. It’s a shame because it’s laugh out loud funny.
Adam Sandler (June 1): The "bad guy" role in "Billy Madison" was originally written for Bob Odenkirk. The studio turned him down. Sandler’s next option, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, auditioned. Sandler loved his performance. He called him and PSH said, "I don't want to do it. I just don't want to." Bradley Whitford got the part.
Molly Shannon (June 8): When a sketch would bomb, Shannon said that she and Ferrell embraced the quiet awkwardness and would commit even harder.
Bob Odenkirk (June 15): Even after having been on “Better Call Saul” and “Breaking Bad,” Odenkirk still regularly gets recognized for his stint on “How I Met Your Mother.”
Bonus fact: On Sunday nights while writing at SNL, Odenkirk would often do stand up around the city to remember how “it felt to get laughs.”
Bonus bonus fact: Odenkirk helped shape Spade’s recurring “Hollywood Minute” segment on “Weekend Update.”
Martin Short (June 22): Short shared his brilliant technique for learning how to impersonate someone (that he used to get Gore Vidal’s mannerisms down). He said, “All you have to do is type up a speech of theirs, learn their vocabulary and let the voice come from there.”
Heidi Gardner (June 29): Gardner started comedy late in life and joined the Groundlings on a whim. Not only did she never think she’d get SNL, she never expected to move up at the Groundlings’ improv and sketch company.
Robert Smigel (July 6): Easily my favorite episode of the series. The stretch where Smigel roasts Carvey and Spade is by far the funniest “Fly On The Wall” has ever been.
However, what stuck with me the most was that he and Carvey felt guilty that their Johnny Carson sketch hurt the elder Late Night talk show host so much.
Carson allegedly said, “Once they make fun of you, you got to go.”
Jimmy Fallon (July 13): Have to give credit where it’s due, Fallon does such a spot-on Neil Young impression, I genuinely thought it was the classic rocker himself while listening to this episode.
John Mulaney (July 20): Mulaney gave special credit to Bill Hader who always shouted out the writers he worked with on the show when he would appear on talk shows or in interviews. That’s what put his name on the map.
Credit for giving credit. You love to see it.
Ellen Cleghorne (July 27): Perhaps the saddest episode (although still funny). Cleghorne admitted she never met Lorne and was paid just $245/week on the show. Conversely, Spade started at $900 and Carvey’s first paycheck was for $4500.
Then, Al Franken stopped writing for Cleghorne after she said she couldn’t belch on command. Comedy is weird.
Mike Judge (Aug. 3): Inspiration for Beavis struck Judge at a young age. One of his friends was in a calculus class taught by a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. His pal friend sat in the front and laughed at everything she said. Voila! Character created.
Bonus fact: In the early ‘90s, studios were clamoring for an Office Space movie based on the Milton shorts Judge produced for SNL. He couldn’t quite figure out the movie’s structure since Milton wasn’t really a protagonist. Finally, when they asked for a “‘Car Wash’ style ensemble” it finally clicked for him.
Rob Schneider (two-part episode released Aug. 10 and 12): Schneider came up with Carvey in San Francisco’s stand up scene in the early ‘80s. Schneider recounted that back then “Carvey and Robin Williams were the main attractions” and “people would line up around the block to see Carvey’s shows.”
Bonus fun fact: Fans of the legendary “Il Cantore” sketch (such as myself) can hear every painstaking detail that went into its creation from the giddy late night “does this work?” genesis in the writer’s room to battling with the censors over Schneider’s nudity.
Vanessa Bayer (Aug. 17): Since no one has updated the Wikipedia, the SNL page lists Vanessa Bayer as the “longest-tenured female cast member” (at least at the time of recording; now it has Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong tied for the top spot).
Maya Rudolph (Aug. 24): Rudolph stayed at the show writing every morning until 8 a.m. This was even after she had a kid.
Bonus comedy advice: Rudolph said, “There’s nothing more important than being nice in comedy.” The co-hosts echoed this sentiment. Most would argue that being funny should be the highest priority but they might be onto something here.
Colin Quinn (Aug. 31): Quinn turned down the “Scott” role in “Austin Powers” that later went to Seth Green. Mike Myers offered it to him over the phone based on his performance in “Larry Sanders.” On the call, Quinn said, “Nah, I don’t want to do it. I’m working on my own movie.”
Kevin Nealon (Sept. 7): “When visiting SNL as a former cast member,” Nealon said, “You never feel less needed.”
Bonus fun fact: At the show’s famous after-parties, Nealon would have to cover the tabs of his family and friends he brought along.
Cheri Oteri (Sept 14): Oteri was such a huge Dennis Miller fan that when he called her to congratulate her for dominating on the show, she repeated bits back to him from his “The Off White Album.”
Nick Kroll (Sept. 21): Kroll auditioned for the show in 2008 with Ellie Kemper, Jordan Peele and John Mulaney. The only cast member to actually get the show that year was Bobby Moynihan.
Bonus fun fact: Kroll and Mulaney wrote a movie about a Nigerian prince who’s actually the real deal starring Tracy Morgan back in ‘08. He’s still hoping it gets made someday.
Lorne Michaels (Sept. 28): At the beginning of the episode, it sounds like Spade’s assistant asks if Lorne wants a snack and someone suggests Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
I love the image of Lorne eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
There’s a lot more but if you’ve read this far, you’re a true comedy nerd and I bet you’ll want to listen to the Lorne episode yourself.
• Can’t wait to see what the premiere brings tonight. No matter what, I know Anna Paone and I will be up* watching while trying to shush a crying baby (that baby is our daughter, not a random baby, btw).
*Probably watching Sunday morning because we’re exhausted and go to bed at 9 now.
• Hit me up if you want to join the SNL group chat- the more, the merrier
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