Chris Rock Interrupted Jason Sudeikis’ ‘Saturday Night Live’ Audition
Rich Eisen played a game of ‘True or False’ with Jason Sudeikis this week on The Rich Eisen Show, asking the Ted Lasso star to verify the veracity of the following statement: “Your initial audition at SNL was interrupted by Chris Rock, who barged into the studio, did a 10-minute stand-up set in front of the NBC executives and essentially stole your thunder.”
Sudeikis confirmed the story — or most of it, anyway.
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His audition for Saturday Night Live wasn’t in a studio but at a club called Stand Up New York on the Upper West Side. About half of the audience was made of SNL staffers, mostly behind-the-scenes folks there for a laugh. Of course, the Important People were there as well — Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, and writer/producers Steve Higgins and Mike Shoemaker. The other half of the room was made up of regular paying customers, completely clueless that some of the night’s comics were trying to make their sketch comedy dreams come true.
Sudeikis was one of twelve aspiring cast members auditioning that night. Another was Rob Riggle, a guy Sudeikis learned was practically from the same Kansas City neighborhood. “That's really one of the most important things for me that came out of that opportunity to audition for the show,” Sudeikis told Eisen. “Getting the show is wonderful but getting to meet Rob and what a kind guy he is.”
So it’s Jason, Rob, and ten other funny people. You can imagine the nerves of going on stage for what might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but an SNL legend hit the pause button on Sudeikis’s stab at stardom. “While the person up before me is on stage,” he remembers, “in walks Chris and Jeff Ross. And I just think, ‘Oh, maybe they're coming to see.’ Like they know there's auditions and it’s just like the communal, fraternal family of SNL.”
Nope. Sudeikis spotted Rock talking to the night’s host, who seemed to assure that there was no problem with whatever Rock was requesting. Then “Chris is standing next to me and I slowly sniff out, ‘Oh, he’s about to go up and perform.’” Sudeikis had heard about this phenomenon — Dave Chappelle or Jim Carrey unexpectedly dropping into a club and taking over the stage for two hours at a time.
As the host introduced Rock, the comic turned to Sudeikis and asked “Is this your big shot?”
Yeah, kinda, Sudeikis replied.
“Sorry, man,” said Rock before taking the stage.
Sudeikis claims he wasn’t mad. As a former college point guard, he respected Rock’s “shooting guard’s confidence.” As it turns out, Rock only spent 10 minutes on stage, working out jokes for an upcoming hosting gig on the MTV Movie Awards. And when he came off stage, Rock had some valuable SNL advice for Sudeikis.
“I was joking around, you know, I've never met him,” Sudeikis says, telling Rock, “Thanks for setting me up.”
And Rock goes, “Hey man, they love original thought.”
Because Sudeikis was being called to the stage, there wasn’t much he could do with Rock’s advice as it related to his audition. “But him sharing that notion — ‘they love original thought’ — has been a thing that I encouraged myself and people at SNL to follow,” Sudeikis says. “Because it is true.”