Young Jason Sudeikis Thought ‘Saturday Night Live’ Was the Comedy McDonalds
For many young comedians -- sketch, stand-up, improv, or otherwise -- a spot on Saturday Night Live is the holy grail. But for young Jason Sudeikis, then working at the new Vegas location of Second City? When Jeff Richmond, who worked as an SNL musical director in addition to being married to Tina Fey, asked him if he wanted to audition, Sudeikis responded with an adamant “no.” What was his problem exactly?
"When you come from the Chicago experience, it's about the process,” Sudeikis says on the Off Camera with Sam Jones podcast. “SNL is a product based in show business and Hollywood. That's nothing that we work toward within the Chicago improv community. You don't do impressions. There's no impression class. Like you're trying to make impressions but you're not trying to do impressions, right?"
It’s here where Sudeikis takes off the gloves and tells us how he really felt. “I fucking hated SNL. You have to hate SNL at some point during your comedy journey because it's McDonald's,” he says. “I was adamant about it. I had my strong philosophies about it, that were fueled by 23-year-old, self-righteous arrogance."
Part of his problem was a belief that Saturday Night Live actually made funny people unfunny. He asked a talent scout if her SNL discoveries made her laugh as much on the show as they did the night she discovered them. When the agent said “no,” that just made his case that SNL wasn’t for him.
In hindsight, Sudeikis believes he was turning down SNL before the show even had a chance to audition him, in the same way an adolescent might refuse to ask someone to the prom for fear of rejection. “Ultimately, it was ‘they wouldn’t want someone who looks like me,’” he says. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t good enough.”
Here, Sudeikis takes a pause. “No, it's that I wasn't good enough.”
Ironically, it was actual rejection that pushed Sudeikis back into the arms of Saturday Night Live. After his Vegas Second City run, Sudeikis dreamed of taking the stage with Blue Man Group. He grabbed his percussion mallets and auditioned three times, but those accented triplets are harder to pull off than they look. And then there was the matter of his face. “Those guys look like superheroes, and when I put on the blue makeup, and I saw myself in the mirror, I look like a fucking peanut M&M, like a big blue peanut M&M,” he says. “Just like, 'Oh no, I shouldn't do this.'"
Fate took over, and SNL asked him again to send in an audition tape. This time, he took the leap and landed a writing gig on the show before joining the cast in 2005. Turns out that working for the comedy McDonalds wasn’t such a bad job after all.