The Failed 'SNL' Sketch That Steve Martin Can't Let Go

For all his success, this is the sketch Martin keeps talking about.
The Failed 'SNL' Sketch That Steve Martin Can't Let Go

“It’s insane to meet Steve Martin,” says Andy Samberg, an opinion shared by the rest of the Lonely Island and Seth Meyers. “Steve was almost too big to write for,” said Meyers on the latest edition of their shared podcast. “I didn't even know how to approach it.” But as nerve-wracking as it is to try to write comedy for Martin, imagine how it feels when you blow it.

Steve Martin still talks about one such failure, Meyers gleefully disclosed on their previous podcast. “He never hesitates to share his opinion.” 

So what happened? On a Tonight Show appearance last year, Jorma Taccone told Jimmy Fallon about the doomed sketch, one that can no longer be found on YouTube, TikTok or Peacock.  “We wrote this sketch called 'Surf Meeting,'” he said. “It’s a group of surfers. Andy's running the surf meeting, and he's like, 'There's somebody in our crew that just doesn't fit in, you guys. Like, we don't like him.'"  Cut to idiot Steve. "And he's like, 'Who is this un-gnarly dude?'"

Back to this week’s podcast. “‘Surf Meeting’ was a classic format for us, which was one person sucking and not being able to take a hint over and over and over again,” says Samberg. “Like way too many times.” To make matters worse, they dressed Martin “in an old-timey bathing suit looking super dorkish and old.”

“It was making us laugh so hard when we were writing it,” Samberg continues. “We were like, ‘This is the best thing ever! We did it! We cracked a super funny sketch for Steve Martin where he kills and we get to have it be on the show!’ It was like slumber party giggles in the middle of the night. We were doing our dream job and it just felt incredible.”

While the sketch got big laughs at the table read, it worked less and less as the week progressed. Was it the blocking? Would it been better as a radio play? Akiva Schaffer thought it could have killed as an edited short, where the jokes could have come faster. But when it stopped getting laughs in rehearsals, Schaffer said, “I saw Steve Martin correctly going, ‘Oh shit, this one's not going to work.” 

Martin tried to get goofier to save the sketch but to no avail. “Steve fought so fucking hard and I remember in between dress and air going in to give him last notes, very disheartened, and just being like ‘I wish we had more time.’ And he was like ‘I wish we did too. It's so good and it's not gonna be good,’” remembers Taccone. “I do remember him after the show. He was distraught about it.”

Here's the thing, says Meyers. To this day, Martin has a bone to pick with Lorne over allowing ‘Surf Meeting’ to air at all. “In his telling of it, he was fighting for a sketch called ‘Bank Loan’ where he and Amy Poehler were clearly alcoholics who just wanted money to go get more drinks and they were drunkenly trying to get a bank loan from (Chris) Parnell. And Steve had a far better time in his regular clothes sitting next to Amy Poehler than he did standing around in an old-timey bathing suit with a bunch of dudes.”

“100% understandable,” sympathized Samberg. 

“Why ‘Surf Meeting’ endures for me,” says Meyers, “is that for all his successes, it is a failure that still sticks with Steve Martin.” 


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