Meredith from ‘The Office’ Auditioned for ‘SNL’ When It Was ‘Not the Best for Women’
Kate Flannery had a long and winding comedy journey to getting cast as Meredith on the iconic sitcom The Office. “I just took a different path,” she says on the Big Name B*tches podcast this week. And part of that path involved auditioning for Saturday Night Live.
“I was up for SNL back when I was in Chicago,” Flannery says. This was in the early 1990s when she was a performer at Second City. The Chicago improv theater has long been a hunting ground for Saturday Night Live — John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong are just some of the performers who share that connection.
After submitting her audition tape, Flannery got far enough into the process to actually have lunch with producer Lorne Michaels. But a full-time job at Studio 8H wasn’t meant to be. “They decided I was too much like somebody else,” Flannery says, a disappointment because SNL “was the prize that everybody wanted.”
But was it the prize Flannery needed? Not getting the show might have been a blessing in disguise, she says, because “SNL at that time was not the best for women. It was before Tina Fey was there. There were some phases that were like, ‘What is happening?’”
During that time period, women cast members never had careers, she says. “They were barely on the show. They didn’t get movies. At that point, it was like, ‘Don’t even think about it, honey.’”
And when writers did create parts for women? Women didn’t get to play them. “There was even a series of sketches that Chris Farley and David Spade and Chris Rock and Adam Sandler did where they were women,” Flannery says. “I'm like, ‘What about the women on the show?’ It wasn't even a two-layered joke about being in drag.”
For Flannery, who grew up watching classic TV comedies starring Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore, there were other destinations she wanted to reach besides Saturday Night Live. “There were so many great shows that featured women and great sitcoms that had great finales. I always wanted to be on one,” she says, “and I got one.”
“I was 40 years old when I got The Office and I just want to say to anybody that's still out there — just don't give up. You think that ship has sailed — no, just get back on the dock.” After the disappointment of not landing SNL, Flannery realized that she was just on a less traditional path. She laughs as she remembers getting over her failed audition. “It just took 13 short years after that to get The Office.”