The Best Movies from Ex-‘SNL’ Writers

Can late-night sketch comedy translate to the big screen?
The Best Movies from Ex-‘SNL’ Writers

There’s a long list of Saturday Night Live writers who went on to write other amazing television comedies, including Alan Zweibel (It’s Garry Shandling’s Show), Robert Smigel (TV Funhouse), Paula Pell (30 Rock) and Andy Breckman (Monk). For the most part, television writers do just that — write television. The list of SNL writers who wrote fantastic movie comedies is shorter, but impressive none the less. Here are four of the best movies written by alumni of Saturday Night Live

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‘Scrooged,’ Michael O’Donoghue

Everyone on set was miserable making this Bill Murray holiday classic, which is sort of the point when you’re working with O’Donoghue, the original head writer on SNL. While O’Donoghue and Murray fought over the screenplay, most thought it made the movie. “I worshipped the film’s writing,” Carol Kane told Vulture. Co-star Karen Allen agreed: “I think the script was wonderful.” Scrooged and O'Donoghue had us hooked from the get-go with this promo for The Night the Reindeer Died.

‘Mean Girls,’ Tina Fey (Based on Rosalind Wiseman’s book ‘Queen Bees and Wannabes’)

“Some of the material in Mean Girls was about this period in my life when I felt like I was an outsider,” former SNL head writer Fey told fans in Philadelphia. “The stuff that was pent up in me as a teenage girl is all in the show.”

But being an outsider wasn’t the only thing Fey understood. "I was the mean girl," she says. “I admit it openly. That was a disease that had to be conquered. Its another coping mechanism — its a bad coping mechanism — but when you feel less than, in your mind its a way of leveling the playing field. Though of course its not.”

‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,’ Adam McKay and Will Ferrell

McKay, who wrote for several seasons on SNL, followed up Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy with another iconic comedy. But Talladega Nights is definitely more grounded in reality. “We purposely with this one tried to give it more of a spine and trusted that if we did what we thought was funny there would be some moments like that, but there’s no way this movie is like Anchorman in that every line is crazy,” McKay told “I think if you look at Anchorman literally every line they say is crazy or a joke. This movie isn’t like that, this has more actual moments that are story beats. Like when he shows up at his mom’s door and says, ‘Mom, we have nowhere to go,’ there are no crazy lines there.” 

‘Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping,’ Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer and Andy Samberg

SNL alum Schaffer met with Judd Apatow about the possibility of doing some kind of Lonely Island movie project. “He was just basically like, ‘You three, music mockumentary, go,’” Schaffer told Collider

The three SNL alums wrote a ton of hilarious material for the movie, which made the final story decisions that much more difficult. “It was definitely a harder movie in the edit because it was just more malleable than other movies,” Taccone has explained. “There was a lot of us playing around in the edit of continuing to kind of write the story. It’s like 400 plus hours of just stuff.”

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