Rob Schneider Told Jay Mohr to Cut Al Franken From His ‘SNL’ Sketches
Like many newcomers at Saturday Night Live, Jay Mohr had trouble getting sketches on the show during his first and only season. (It got so bad that Mohr at one point resorted to swiping another comic’s material, an admission he makes in his book Gasping for Airtime.) On the latest Fly on the Wall podcast, Mohr tells Dana Carvey and David Spade about the long journey to getting one of his sketches selected for the show.
During Mohr’s season, legendary SNL scribe James Downey also served as a gatekeeper who evaluated writers’ sketches. On scripting night, cast members and writers would wait outside Downey’s office for a chance to pitch their ideas and first drafts. “The first sketch I ever handed (Downey) was the Christopher Walken Psychic Friends Network,” says Mohr. “I didn’t see him until like 9 a.m., and I finished it at midnight,” meaning Mohr had spent the intervening hours waiting on the couch outside Downey’s office. When Mohr was finally ushered inside, Downey was “sitting on his fucking little couch brushing his teeth. It’s like a face of foam.”
What did Downey think of Mohr’s sketch? “He goes, ‘Let me see it, and he puts his palm out. I put the sketch in his palm and he goes, ‘Yeah, it feels a little long,’” before handing the script back to Mohr.
“He was right, though,” Mohr admits. “It was a heavy sketch! It was long.” That meant Mohr needed to rewrite the script before it would be considered for air, but tightening it up wasn’t the only change he made.
“The conceit of the sketch is Christopher Walken’s the last guy you want getting inside your head,” says Mohr. The bit included other celebrities who you might not want to consult for psychic advice, including an unnamed character that Mohr wrote for Al Franken. When castmate Rob Schneider heard about those plans, he told Mohr to reconsider his casting choice. “You got to switch out Franken,” Schneider insisted.
“I go, ‘No, this is funny because he’s like the guy!’” Mohr said, although he doesn’t tell Spade and Carvey which creepy celebrity he wanted Franken to play.
Schneider continued to insist that Mohr cut Franken from his sketch. When pushed for an answer why, Schneider simply asked Mohr to follow him. “We walked out of the office, around the corner, down the hallway and there’s the framed photos,” Mohr recalled. The two comics walked by pictures of John Belushi and Bill Murray before coming upon a photo of Al Franken in a sketch posing with a “puffed-up chest.”
“That's why!” blurted Schneider.
Mohr doesn’t make it clear why that puffed-out chest indicated a problem — “Because he’s overacting?” asked Spade — but Schneider’s advice clearly made an impression. “Christopher Walken’s Celebrity Psychic Friends Network” did eventually get selected for SNL, but you’ll notice the sketch features Mohr, Spade and Tim Meadows. There's no Al Franken.
For what it’s worth, there’s no Rob Schneider either.