Will Ferrell Went to Wardrobe Extremes on ‘Saturday Night Live’ to Show Off His Patriotism After 9/11
It hadn’t even been one full month after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. How in the world could Saturday Night Live deal with a tragedy of this magnitude?
SNL’s first show of the season was scheduled for September 29th, and staffers like Marci Klein tried to convince Lorne Michaels that they couldn’t do a show. What could be funny at a time like this? SNL did pull off that show on the 29th, but it was the following week, with Seann William Scott as host, that Will Ferrell found a way to reflect the country’s new patriotic fervor.
“Short Shorts for the USA,” about an office policy allowing patriotic clothing gone to ridiculous extremes, has taken its place in the SNL pantheon mainly as a sketch that demonstrates the cast’s inability to keep a straight face. Pretty much no one gets out of the bit unscathed — not Scott, not Seth Meyers, not Rachel Dratch, not newcomer Amy Poehler and certainly not serial breaker Horatio Sanz.
While the sketch was likely going to kill no matter what, Reddit rumors whisper that Ferrell pulled a stunt straight out of “More Cowbell.” That famous sketch had only performed so-so in dress rehearsals, so Ferrell decided to kick it up a notch by downsizing his shirt, exposing an expanse of alabaster belly every time he lifted up his arms to bang the cowbell. The crowd, of course, went nuts. Similarly, Ferrell wore a pair of patriotic Daisy Dukes for the “Short Shorts for the USA” dress rehearsal, but convinced wardrobe to spice it up for the live show.
How drastic was the change? When Meyers talked to Scott about the sketch, he held up a picture that must have been from the dress rehearsal. Revealing? Sure, a red-white-and-blue bathing suit that left little to the imagination.
But by show time? A good 40 percent of the original costume was gone, especially in the back where a thin strip of cloth was all that separated America from Ferrell’s completely exposed posterior. The rump-revealing, star-spangled thong skyrocketed the sketch into the stratosphere.
Scott is adamant that Ferrell’s dimpled behind wasn’t all that was revealed by his last-minute wardrobe change. “I’m just trying to focus on the cue cards,” he told Meyers on Late Show. “But what happened was, I got a little view of Will’s penis and testicles playing peekaboo, how do you do.” Ferrell made sure Scott got that peek, hiking his leg up on the table while sampling the “really good” coffee. “Hello!” says Scott, remembering his reaction to the unexpected spectacle. To this day, he claims to suffer from middle-of-the-night, Will Ferrell nutsack flashbacks.
But as Poehler relates in her book, Yes Please, Ferrell knew exactly what his country needed. “I watched him spread his legs,” she says, “and realized America could and would laugh again.”