5 SNL Performers Who (Apparently) Were Miserable Coworkers
If you came here looking for ComedyNerd to bash Chevy Chase, you’re going to be severely disappointed. (Besides, we’ve already devoted an entire article to that.) But no worries -- over the course of 47 seasons, plenty of Saturday Night Live comics and writers were workplace nightmares. Here are 5 SNL comics who would have had us running to HR.
Larry DavidCurb Your Enthusiasm star David is beloved these days, even turning up at SNL to play Bernie Sanders now and again.
But would it really surprise you to learn that he was a less-than-cuddly coworker?
Maybe it had something to do with writing offbeat sketches that almost never made air. (Several that failed, like a guy trying to retrieve a tape from a girlfriend’s answering machine, eventually got repurposed into Seinfeld episodes.) He refused to play the usual SNL reindeer games, particularly the one where writers work until the wee hours. One Tuesday, he packed up at a reasonable time after finishing three sketches. Producer Dick Ebersol called him out: “We stay here all night!” David got on the elevator with a wave and a “good luck.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (pretty unhappy herself) remembers that “Larry was just miserable there. And he almost came to blows with Dick Ebersol.”
David saved his best Costanza behavior for the Saturday night when Ebersol cut “probably six or seven” of his sketches. Right before the show went live, David angrily confronted his boss. “That’s it. I’m done. I’ve had it. I quit. It’s over.”
You’ve seen the Seinfeld episode. Realizing he just cost himself 60 grand, David showed up to work on Monday morning as if the whole ugly incident never happened. And he got away with it.
Victoria Jackson”Victoria Jackson?” asks castmate and SNL legend Jan Hooks. “I just have a particular repulsion to grown women who talk like little girls. It’s like, “You’re a grown woman! Use your lower register!”
Jackson wasn’t a fan of Hooks either. At a cast meeting to discuss problems with the show, writer Terry Turner claims that Jackson stood on a chair and called Jan Hooks “the devil.” Oh, and Nora Dunn was “a b!tch.”
“It didn’t surprise me,” said Nora Dunn. “When I met her, I was surprised that there was not much difference between what she did in front of the camera and what happened off camera. For me, it tried my patience.”
When Al Franken told Jackson he wasn’t a fan of her ditzy persona, she replied that she was overcompensating "because everybody here is dying and going to Hell, and I'm supposed to tell them about Jesus." At Christmas, she gave cast members audiocassette versions of the Bible, many of which were returned.
Jackson attended SNL’s 40th-anniversary show but complains her political/religious beliefs (she’s a public critic of homosexuality and Barack Obama, among other things) caused her to be the only former cast member relegated to an overflow room. The Hollywood Reporter refuted the claim, noting she was offered a place in the main room but Jackson wouldn’t confirm if she’d be on time for the show. Her seat was given to someone who could actually attend.
Bob OdenkirkThe future Better Call Saul star is the first one to call himself out for his miserable attitude when writing for Saturday Night Live.
“I just didn’t get on board, man,” he recently told Howard Stern. “And I was a dick to Lorne. He’s trying to get a g**damn show up on Saturday and here’s this a**hole who should be a waiter in Chicago making wisecracks out of the side of his mouth: ‘That scene sucks!’”
Odenkirk’s pal, SNL writing icon Robert Smigel, was convinced that Bob’s comedy genius would be a great fit for the show. “I was wrong,” admits Smigel. “I was very wrong.”
As a young comedy buck, Odenkirk didn’t take kindly to Lorne Michaels’ managerial style. “I basically had a huge chip on my shoulder, and mix that in with Lorne’s traditional intimidation and it’s not good,” he says. “I didn’t respond to the way he likes to approach young performers and set himself up as some kind of very distant, strange Comedy God.”
Conan O’Brien remembers the Michaels/Odenkirk friction exploding at a meeting when the young writer was whispering snark in the back of the room. Lorne, normally reserved and distant, threatened to break Odenkirk’s “f***ing legs.”
“It really made me laugh,” says Conan.
In his Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama autobiography, Odenkirk grades his SNL experience an overall C-. That’s an A for effort (even if it didn’t look like he was trying) and a big fat F for citizenship.
Janeane GarofaloWe’re Team Garofalo here at ComedyNerd but we didn’t have to work with her at SNL, a time she describes as “the most miserable experience of my life.”
“The prevailing comedy tastes were certainly none that I could support,” says Garofalo. “I did not think we were doing a quality show, and if you mentioned that, you found you were an extremely unwelcome guest.”
While Garofalo likely has some solid reasons for detesting her single season (“They love the anal sex here, that’s considered incredibly funny”), coworkers believe she didn’t do much to help her cause.
“Janeane Garofalo was awful on the show,” says writer Fred Wolf, who considered her a friend. “She’s a very insecure person and she’s unwilling to stand on her own body of work and ride on that talent. Instead, what she does is tears everything down around her, (a) to make her feel better about what she’s doing, and (b) so she doesn’t have to really actually attempt anything upon which she could fail.” Ouch.
Garofalo, who wasn’t shy about sharing her unhappiness with the press, decided to leave in mid-season. “Janeane Garofalo has no case. She wanted to be on the show,” says host Paul Simon. “She messed (Lorne Michaels) up. In the middle of his season, he had to go replace her."
“Some people, their whole lives, are just injustice collectors,” lamented Lorne. “They’re going to find new injustices every day. That’s what they do, and that’s what they are.”
Harry ShearerThe man who claims to have replaced Belushi and Aykroyd was miserable to work with -- twice.
“I had sort of recommended Harry, so Lorne held that against me,” concedes Al Franken. “And Harry did too.”
Shearer describes his first go-round at SNL as “pretty f***ing miserable.” Other cast members were giving him a weird vibe--Bill Murray told him it was because new writers shouldn’t insert themselves into sketches. Shearer contends that Lorne Michaels never told everyone that he was also in the cast.
Turns out, he wasn’t for long. Shearer’s prickly attitude (he was pissed that Garrett Morris was chosen to play Anwar Sadat) was a prime reason he wasn’t asked back. But when Dick Ebersol took over in the mid-1980s, Billy Crystal helped recruit Christopher Guest, Martin Short, and once again, Harry.
“Sadly,” says Ebersol, “(Shearer) didn’t work out for me any better for me than he did for Lorne. He’s a gifted performer but he’s a pain in the butt.”
Who had a problem with Shearer? Oh, just a few people, according to Ebersol. The working people. The makeup people. The prop people. The engineering people. “He’s intolerant of other people’s issues. He’s just a nightmare-to-deal-with person.”
So why the heck did Shearer, come back in the first place? “It was my own stupidity,” he says. “Smart people do dumb things.”
“When I left, Dick issued a press release saying ‘creative differences.’ And the first person who called me for a comment on it read that to me and I blurted out, “Yeah, I was creative and they were different.”
Yep, time to move on.
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