The Time Chevy Chase, Will Ferrell and Dana Carvey Teamed for an ‘SNL’ Presidential Reunion
For a comedy nerd like Jury Duty director Jake Szymanski, a Funny or Die short he co-directed in 2010 was a dream come true. The occasion? A reunion of most of the Saturday Night Live cast members who have ever played a United States president. Szymanski’s co-director? Oscar winner Ron Howard. Pretty heady stuff for a young guy who was just honing his comedy chops, still years away from directing SNL digital shorts himself. He reminisced about the filming day with Dana (the elder President Bush) Carvey and David Spade on this week’s episode of the Fly on the Wall podcast.
“That was cool, just as a comedy fan,” said Szymanski, who had never met any of the comics before that day. Jim Carrey was there, filling in for the late Phil Hartman as Ronald Reagan. “Chevy Chase was there, Dan Aykroyd was there, you (Carvey) were there, Will Ferrell was there.” Younger cast members like Darrell Hammond and Fred Armisen were on hand as well, with the Presidents of the past advising Barack Obama on the best way to deal with high credit card interest rates. (Yep, that’s the plot.)
Carvey’s memories of the filming day were a little fuzzy. “I looked at it last night and I walked in with Will Ferrell — were we completely improvising that thing or was it somewhat scripted?”
Szymanski assured Carvey that there were actual words on a page. “I know (Adam) McKay did a couple passes and wrote that,” he says, “but we played around for sure.” For the record, there was indeed a script written by McKay, Al (The Simpsons) Jean, and the team of Tom Gammill and Max Pross (Seinfeld, The Wonder Years, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show). So nice try, Carvey, but you didn’t make up those jokes all by yourself.
The young director’s plan that day was to be as quiet as he could , a fly on the wall if you will. “That was amazing to see Chevy and Dan Aykroyd catch up. They hadn't seen each other in a couple of years.” Szymanski remembers listening to his heroes make plans to spend Thanksgiving together. “I was like, ‘Man, this is cool.”
Szymanski marvels at his good fortune in landing a job at Funny or Die when the site was at its height. “That was my break. I got access to so many people — Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, Chris Henchy who started that website.” As for learning under a director like Ron Howard? Szymanski says it was a good reminder that it’s possible to both be on top and be a nice person as well.
When it comes to the actual video, reviews weren’t great despite all the star power. PopEater said Presidential Reunion “aims for funny but fails.” Cinematical complained that the short film “missed the mark,” a seemingly sure-fire concept that “lacks a whole lotta funny.”
If you’re Szymanski, however, who cares about the reviews? Sharing a set with SNL legends must have been the experience of a comedy nerd’s lifetime. And if you find out what Chevy Chase is serving Dan Aykroyd for Thanksgiving dinner, all the better.