Few television shows are as well documented as Saturday Night Live, which has inspired no less than two book-length overviews of the sketch-comedy institution and a handful of TV documentaries—one of which is probably playing on VH1 at this very moment. But even a tome as comprehensive as Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller’s Live From New York leaves holes to be filled with regard to auditioning for the show, the dream of countless comedic performers (and the recurring nightmare that always gives Marc Maron something to talk about with SNL-affiliated guests of his podcast). Maron’s ill-fated sitdown with—and with requisite request for closure from—executive producer Lorne Michaels factors into this exhaustive New York Times oral history of SNL auditions, for which the Times’ Dave Itzkoff spoke with the WTF host in addition to 22 comics who managed to earn Michaels’ thumbs up. Full interviews with Chevy Chase, Dana Carvey, Molly Shannon, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell, and Jimmy Fallon are helpfully linked from within the piece, though Itzkoff clearly picked the meatiest anecdotes for the final product. Read on for harrowing tales of vomiting, post-tryout muggings, Chevy Chase just coming right out and dropping the most Chevy Chase quote imaginable (“It was pretty clear that I was a funny guy. I was taller than everybody, and very handsome”), and other stories of a process so nerve-racking, it even made Will Ferrell bail on a bit:
“I [had come] in with a briefcase full of counterfeit money that I’d bought at a toy store. And in the middle of whatever Lorne was going to say, I was going to start stacking the equivalent of $25,000 on his desk. ‘Listen Lorne, you and I can say whatever we want to say. But we really know what talks, and that’s money. I’m going to walk out of this room, and you can either take this money or not. And I can be on the show.’”
We’re no Lorne Michaels, but that’s definitely funny enough to book the gig. Of course, that just proves why we’re not Lorne Michaels. (We probably would’ve let Maron be on the show, too.)
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