All the Cut ‘SNL’ Bits Dusted Off for ‘Late Night with Seth Meyers’
While around eight sketches are performed on Saturday Night Live each week, up to 50 scripts are written and performed at a cast read through every Wednesday. You don’t have to be good at math to understand that means 40-some sketches end up in the 30 Rock recycling bins every week. We think that’s a waste, and apparently, Seth Meyers agrees. That’s why, starting in 2014, he’s featured a sporadic segment called Second Chance Theatre, where former cast members can revisit old comedy ideas and perform them before a live studio audience.
Well, it turns out that nearly all of these sketches were cut for a reason. Second Chance Theatre is almost always more fun than funny, with loosey-goosey SNL alums hamming it up for the cameras with one-joke material that gets more laughs for performer enthusiasm that it does from clever premises or snappy jokes.
Here’s our ranking of the show’s best…
Honorable Mention: Jingle Singers
While not an official Second Chance Theatre production, Meyers did sit down with Maya Rudolph to discuss favorite sketch ideas that never made it to air. In Rudolph’s case, she and Horatio Sanz, along with writer Paula Pell, made multiple attempts to bring the comic concept “Jingle Singers” to life. In addition to their prodigious songwriting abilities, the Jingle Singers were also on the Atkins diet and worked alongside a large container of bacon. In a sketch that made it as far as dress rehearsal, the Jingle Singers pitched song ideas to Justin Timberlake, including a new take on the theme song to Taxi — but this time, with lyrics.
Honestly, if this one would have been full-on performed as Second Chance Theatre, it might have topped the list.
Wanna Come With?
“Wanna Come With?” stars Greta Gerwig (!), Andy Samberg, Kenan Thompson and the Second Chance Theatre players in a sketch about Graham (Samberg), an angsty drunk who wants someone to accompany him to the bathroom. That’s pretty much it, although Samberg’s 2006-era wig generates its own laughs.
In his Masterpiece Theatre-style introduction, Meyers explains a simple truth about axed SNL sketches: “Some were cut unfairly. Some, like tonight’s, were cut for cause.” We couldn’t agree more. While Samberg’s repeated nasal request — “Wanna come with?” — generates laughter out of sheer repetition, there’s just not much going on here.
In an after-sketch Q&A with the cast, co-writer Colin Jost (why it took two writers to assemble this sketch is a mystery) and Lonely Island’s Jorma and Akiva (apparently just along for the ride), we learn that the sketch was based on Samberg’s own habit of asking friends and coworkers to join him at the urinal. Samberg seemed surprised at the laughs the sketch generated on Meyers’ show, a success he attributed to acknowledging that it was “crap” beforehand and setting the bar low.
In the same segment, Jost revealed his own candidate for a future Second Chance Theatre: Animal Parliament. The sketch’s premise was based on the first human being elected to Animal Parliament, a beastly government that would have been made up of actual livestock on the SNL stage wearing barrister wigs.
Meanwhile, Thompson was asked how many SNL sketches he’d done involving white people asking stupid questions. The answer, of course: “I would say all of them.” Thompson’s second-chance sketch would possibly have been Active Jack, a sketch featuring him and Bruno Mars at a 50-year reunion of a TV fitness show. After 50 years, heavy smoker Active Jack is too tired to do jumping jacks.
It’s always fun to see one-season cast member and longer-time writer Mike O’Brien, who wrote this sketch back in 2010 for Betty White. White and her manager refused to do it (somehow believing live animals would be involved), making the sketch about diseased unicorns a perfect candidate for Second Chance Theatre.
The sketch was cleverly filmed during the pandemic, with Jason Sudeikis and O’Brien yukking it up in separate backyard locations. The kids belong to Sudeikis and Meyers, using the magic of editing to actually pull off a piece of sketch comedy during that weird time of quarantine. The sketch has a simple premise: Dad Sudeikis is throwing a birthday party for the kids, and to make it extra special, he’s secured everyone their own unicorn. The problem: The magical creatures all have nasty eye infections and unicorn wrangler O’Brien insists on putting them down.
They tried this one again a few years later with Will Ferrell, but it only went so-so at rehearsal. O’Brien only had one sketch perform worse at dress rehearsal, a little number about Stephen Hawking checking out the ladies at a strip club. The audience was not amused.
You like weird? All you need to know is “Will Forte as a balding female version of Benjamin Franklin on a blind date.”
Sudeikis is Jennjamin’s extremely horny beau-to-be, and the laughs are mostly generated by his electric attraction to Forte’s grotesque abstraction of history. Fred Armisen and Vanessa Bayer are along for the ride as a couple too devoted to parenting to take on any more three-ways. Apparently, Jonah Hill, Ashton Kutcher and Brian Williams were all approached about taking on the Sudeikis role — it’s not hard to see why they passed, even though Forte is reportedly an excellent kisser.
Griff Banks, the Sensitive Bully
Like “Wanna Come With?” Samberg’s “Griff Banks, the Sensitive Bully” is a one-joke premise. The difference is that this is a (slightly) better joke. As Meyers explained, Griff is an obnoxious bully. But he’s also a giant softie.
In addition to the Second Chance players, Griff gets the chance to bully Thompson and John Mulaney, so that’s fun. Attending the post-sketch Q&A were co-writers Rob Klein and Jost, who observed that the notion of a sensitive bully foreshadowed the Trump presidency. Mulaney shared some other Samberg favorites that didn’t make it to the live show, including Weekend Update correspondent “The Guy Who Just Woke Up.” The joke: Samberg was really tired, having just woken up. Samberg and Mulaney agreed it might have been chosen for air if they’d used the alternate title “Bedhead Jones.”
Unexplained: The graphics introducing the Griff Banks sketch featured a clean-shaven Samberg while the sketch has him in a gnarly beard. Were these graphics from the original SNL attempt?
Not only does no one in the coffee shop want to take juggling lessons from Sudeikis, no one will even rip off a phone number from his flyer! Poignant.
Why is Armisen, without a line of dialogue, so funny here? He just types away on his MacBook, a device that Sudeikis notes isn’t even turned on. O’Brien also shows up to refuse Sudeikis’ services, though he might be interested in that flyer about the used futon. High fives to the Second Chance players, especially barista-with-a-heart John Lutz, whose hilarious refusals to acquire juggling skillz are crucial to the sketch’s success. It’s another one-joke premise, but Sudeikis’ commitment to the bit almost has us feeling for the guy.
The sketch’s real MVP, though, is Sudeikis’ “ASK ME ABOUT JUGGLING LESSONS” T-shirt. We don’t want the lessons, but we’d wear the merch.