Lorne Michaels Cast Mike Myers on 'Saturday Night Live' Sight Unseen

Myers' performance as Wayne Campbell in a Second City sketch was so good that Michaels didn't even need to see it to cast him
Lorne Michaels Cast Mike Myers on 'Saturday Night Live' Sight Unseen

Mike Myers landed Saturday Night Live in the exact same way that Wayne Campbell turned “Wayne’s World” into a real TV show – simply by being Wayne.

It’s impossible to tell the story of SNL’s early-’90s era without a lengthy description of Myers’ contribution to the show’s canon, but the Toronto-born comic’s origin story on the show is surprisingly brief – he played his most iconic character Wayne Campbell in a sketch at The Second City in Chicago, a SNL producer saw it, and Lorne Michaels hired him days later without ever having witnessed Wayne in the flesh.

Myers landed the most sought-after job in comedy with no fanfare, no vetting, and no grueling audition process – all of which was crucial to his success. Myers told Metrograph on Friday, “If I had auditioned, I don’t think I would have gotten in.”

Like many young Torontonians in the 1980s, Myers’ dream as a teenager wasn’t to get into 30 Rockefeller Plaza – it was to be on whichever stage was hosting “The Kids in the Hall” that night. “I was watching my friends in The Kids In the Hall, especially Dave Foley, who were working in the ensemble,” Myers explained. “I thought what they were doing was brilliant, and I wanted to be in that troupe.”

At the time, Myers was a member of the infamously taxing Second City Touring Company, the traveling team for Toronto’s branch of the legendary institution. Myers worked his way up through the ranks, eventually landing on the theater’s mainstage after a brief pitstop in England before transferring south of the border to perform on the Chicago stage, where, after only a year at the original “Temple of Satire,” destiny called on him in the form of Foley and Martin Short bringing a SNL scout to his show. 

Myers described his call-up to the comedy major leagues as “crazy and out of the blue,” explaining that, after that night’s show, “Martin Short, the (SNL) producer Pam Thomas, and Dave Foley all said to Lorne, ‘You should probably hire this guy.’” Michaels trusted the word of his producer and half of Canada’s comedy Mount Rushmore, which set into motion the chain of events that led to Myers earning his place among Canuck comedy greats.

Myers would continue to evolve the character who unintentionally landed him a spot on SNL into his most iconic recurring sketch of the series as well as a film franchise that is just one credit in a legendary filmography that couldn’t have been possible without an uncharacteristic leap of faith from the don of 30 Rock. From a Butterfly Effect perspective, there’s a good chance that Shrek would fail to become a sprawling mega-franchise and Dreamworks would die in the womb unless Michaels trusts Foley and Short enough not to ask some kid from Toronto to fly to New York for a high-pressure, in-person audition – but maybe I’m ogre-thinking it.

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