The ‘SNL’ Sketch That Almost Ripped Off Jeff Daniels’ Face
As far as we know, no one has gotten killed on Saturday Night Live yet. Sure, Molly Shannon and Chris Farley bruised up their bodies by throwing themselves all over the stage. Taran Killam ate pavement while filming a cop show parody. And Chris Kattan pretty much broke his neck. But no one suffered more for SNL than guest host Jeff Daniels, who almost lost his face in the service of sketch comedy.
Let’s go back to 1995, the second go-round of hosting for Daniels as he was promoting a live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians. As with many SNL hosts, Daniels was scheduled to wear prosthetic makeup for a sketch. Weirdly, there are different accounts about which sketch exactly it was. When Daniels retold this story to Jimmy Fallon in 2016, he said he needed to wear a fake nose to play Liam Neeson. In another version, Kevin Nealon told Tom Segura that Daniels was getting fitted for a fake chin to play Jay Leno. But the character doesn’t really affect what comes next.
Nealon described the process of getting a fake nose (or chin) like this: “They put plaster all over your face. They call it, I think, a death mask. And they cover everything except for your nostrils so you can’t hear and you can’t see.”
In Daniels’ version, he adds a key detail — prior to getting his face mold on a Friday night, he’d just finished some jambalaya from the pre-show dinner. Or as he’s put it: “They put the mask on. So, it’s like a quarter inch of this white stuff and they had two straws in my nose.”
When the molding process works correctly, it takes about 15 minutes. But as you might have guessed from this story’s title, the process was not working correctly. In fact, whoever made the mold used the wrong material entirely. “They used plaster like you would put — oh, I don’t know — on your wall,” lamented Daniels.
In Nealon’s version, it’s even more sinister. The show’s head writer allegedly told Nealon that someone had sabotaged the face mixture. “They can't get it off his face,” Nealon told Segura. “And he had a five o’clock growth of beard. They couldn’t pull it away from his eyebrows because (the mask) grabbed onto everything.”
Daniels still sounded angry at the “makeup genius” who eventually tried to remove the hardened mask with a hammer. Now add in the jambalaya factor — with only two straws to breathe through and panic setting in, Daniels was overcome with nausea as well. Throwing up wasn’t an option because, as Nealon said, “if he threw up, he would have drowned in his own vomit.”
Nealon says producer Lorne Michaels brought in plastic surgeon friends to use Exacto knives to carefully remove the plaster from Daniels’ face, including his eyelashes. Poor Daniels took more than a dozen shots of novocaine to deal with the pain. “This took six hours,” Daniels has said. “By one in the morning, I was ready to go and do SNL.”