Neil Casey Writer, Actor, Comedian, and Pilot

Interview on the Jason Hennessey Podcast 01-19-2022 - Episode 14
Neil Casey

Writer Neil Casey recounts his UCB, SNL, and personal history

Sketch comedy wiz and improv master, Neil Casey, is a 2-time Primetime Emmy nominated writer, actor, Upright Citizens Brigade veteran, father, and pilot. He’s toured with Amy Schumer, acted on-screen in comedies such as Veep, White House Plumbers, Other Space, and Making History, and he was even a writer for Saturday Night Live in 2012. Those are just a few of the vast amount of productions Neil feels he’s been lucky to be a part of, since starting his professional career in 1998.
He’s also been nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for his work on the 31st Film Independent Awards, in addition to receiving 5 award nominations from the Writers Guild of America.
Neil’s tenacity, dedication, and openness to constructive criticism are just some of the key qualities he possesses that have allowed him to achieve so much in his field and become recognized for his work.
In today’s episode, Neil gives us his theories about what makes a person funny, the methods he uses, his preferred places to fly and to write, and shares who he thinks is the funniest person alive today. We also ask Neil some ‘Connection Questions’ where he plays along and opens up to some quirky topics.
Listen in as Neil spills what really went on behind the revolving door of the SNL writing room, the rules of comedy, what he calls ‘writing into the garbage,’ and why K-sounding words are always funnier.
Thank you for tuning into this week’s captivating episode.

In this Episode

[01:11] Jason and Neil sit down and have an extended chat for the first time. Neil gives us a little more background of growing up in Delaware, and how he got started at UCB- making people laugh for a living.

[04:40] Jason is curious if Neil would crack jokes in class as a kid. Neil also lists his many comedic inspirations, including Monty Python and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

[06:41] Jason is interested to know what a young Neil thought his career path would be, and if he watched SNL during those years.

[07:51] Jason asks Neil to give us the background of how he got started working with SNL. Neil describes the initial screen testing process for a chance to join the famed cast.

[12:26] Neil continues his story, recounting the steps he took to get hired as a writer for SNL, and reflecting on the day that he interviewed with Lorne Michaels.

[16:46] Jason is intrigued by how contracts work with a show of SNL’s magnitude.

[17:26] Jason gets fresh, juicy details about Neil’s experience submitting the writing packet that eventually led to his employment with NBC and Saturday Night Live.

[19:50] Jason asks Neil to describe the writing process for a major league show like SNL. Neil goes into great detail about the stimulating process of getting a sketch from pitch to air, and shares some of his hits and misses.

[24:28] Jason inquires about who exactly writes the introductory monologues for each episode. The host, or the SNL writing team?

[25:50] Jason wonders if any writers at SNL have been for 30 or more years. Neil lists a few people, including Robert Downey Jr.

[26:45] Neil shares a story about why and how SNL is an exciting place to work.

[28:21] Jason would like to know Neil’s favorite sketches that he wrote or was involved with during his stint at SNL. Neil chronicles two that highlighted the magic of producing a high caliber, live show.

[31:37] Jason invites Neil to play a game of “SNL Trivia” to test his knowledge of the iconic show. Questions include who the first duo female anchors were for the “Weekend Update,” and who declared “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” for the first time.

[35:43] Neil shares an anecdote of the benefits of gaining access to famous buildings and their bathrooms by working for a show like SNL.

[36:31] Jason seeks Neil’s perspective on what makes something funny, since someone’s sense of humor can be subjective. Neil gives us a straight-forward answer.

[38:41] Jason is curious if someone like Will Ferrell is born funny, or learned to be funny. Neil gives us his hypothesis about how someone gets started in the art of making people laugh.

[40:42] Jason is interested in how Neil writes his material. Neil tells us the many ways that he gets inspiration, and reveals that he is a flight pilot who works on TV pilots at various locations in the US.

[44:34] Jason asks Neil if he’s still on-camera nowadays. Neil lists projects he’s worked on, the variety of actors he’s had the pleasure of working with, and previews an upcoming mini-series.

[47:44] Jason and Neil share some details about their personal lives, and how Neil’s son is in the Spider-Man era of young life. Jason tells us his son’s unexpected favorite cartoon when he was 5 years old.

[49:52] Jason and Neil enter a “Connection Question” segment of the show to get to know each other’s likes, dislikes, movies that scared them as kids, and who they think are some of the better comedians today, plus some other unconventional questions.

[59:08] Jason and Neil end their on-air conversation, and Neil thanks him for the opportunity to get a peek inside the campus of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, where Hennessey Studios resides.

Transcript

Jason Hennessey: Mr. Neil Casey, thank you for joining me.
Neil Casey: Thank you very much for having me. It’s a great setup you have here.

Thank you.

Yeah.

Appreciate that. Yeah, this is the first time we’re meeting in person. I’m super excited by this episode, because you have a pretty fascinating background.

Oh. I’ll take it. Yeah-

So for those that don’t know who you are, and well, we’ll get more into the specifics, maybe give everybody just a quick glimpse of who you are.

Okay. My name is Neil Casey, I’m 40 years old. I’m a writer. I’m an actor; comedian. I have been doing, working in comedy in one way or another for about 20 years at this point. I started at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, like a lot of people. And I started there as a 19-year-old kid.

And then I was there all through my 20s, and then I left for California when I was on the older side of working around UCB. So I was the kid, and then I was just there, and then I was directing shows, and teaching classes, and was one of the more established people that was directing, and teaching, and running the place.

Occasionally they want to point a camera at me, and I don’t say, ‘No.’

So yeah, I’m UCB New York all the way. I have worked as an actor in a number of things, I’ve worked as a writer on a number of things. I make most of my living, I think it’s fair to say, as a writer. But I pop up on… Occasionally they want to point a camera at me, and I don’t say, “No.” So…

Huh. So you grew up on the East Coast then?

Yeah, I’m from Wilmington, Delaware.

Okay.

Yeah. And I’m from Wilmington, Delaware. I went to the University of Delaware, and then I just made my way to New York in the early 2000s.

Huh. Easy to make your way to New York from Delaware, I guess, right?

It’s not too hard. I mean, it’s like when you’re young and you don’t know what you can’t do, I guess. My friend Jay and I, when we were seniors in high school, we really liked the Upright Citizens Brigade TV show, which was a sketch comedy show on Comedy Central, it was in the late ’90s. And we loved that show. So yeah, we’d go find our way to the Jersey Transit, catch the train up, stay at a youth hostel, go see shows at their theater. Because we liked the show, and then we found out that they actually had a theater. It was a Giuliani era thing where they were shutting down all the adult entertainment venues throughout New York.

Yup, 42nd Street. Mm-hmm.

Right. And this was just a little hole in the wall on 22nd Street, in Chelsea, 22nd and 7th. And the Upright Citizens Brigade themselves, who were Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Matt Besser, and Ian Roberts just took their cable sketch show money and opened a little stage so that they didn’t have to be renting space to do live performances and stuff anymore.

A lot of careers got launched out of there. And yeah, I was just lucky enough to be around.

So they started this theater, and then it really just became the magnet for a lot of people of that age, under 40 then, and that sort of sensibility that everybody gravitated towards it, it’s just one of those magic things that you look back on and how unlikely it was. But yeah, all these people showed up at the same time and did shows, and did improv sketches, and a lot of careers got launched out of there. And yeah, I was just lucky enough to be around.

Now, what were you… As a kid, were you a funny kid? Were you a class clown?

Yeah, a bit. Yeah, I mean, I was a pretty good student most of the time. But there were… I had both sides I think. There were teachers who had me, who probably would say that I was disruptive and a class clown, and then there are other teachers who probably said that I was pretty studious. I guess it depended on the subject.

Okay.

But yeah, I mean, I was always into comedy, I had tapes, and my buddy at the bus stop, his name was Patrick Flynn, he and I would swap tapes of standup, sketch, Monty Python, Firesign Theater, Steven Wright, Cosby, whatever. We had a little bootleg economy of comedy records happening. And yeah, I was always into… Yeah, I think I was a pretty funny kid.

I think I was a pretty funny kid.

Yeah.

Yeah. Well, I tried at least.

What inspiration did you have as a kid? Did your parents allow you to watch some of Eddie Murphy stuff? Or what was your inspiration growing up?

My dad was great. My dad showed me a lot of stuff. My dad gave me some of those tapes, and things, and all that stuff. My dad knew I was into it. I remember my dad took me to see Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, when I was in first grade, which was pretty awesome for a kid.

My dad was great. My dad showed me a lot of stuff.

And I think everybody thought Jessica Rabbit was pretty hot back then, right? [laughs]

I don’t remember having that reaction. I was in first grade, so I was pretty-

I was a little older I guess.

Yeah, shiny dress. Yeah, I was in first grade for that, and that was pretty mind blowing comedically, because I know cartoons, I know the rules of cartoons, I know what makes me laugh about cartoons. And then they take it, put the cartoons in real life, and then just completely turn everything on it’s side. I thought it was really brilliant.

Mm-hmm.

But yeah, my dad was great. I mean, I never had any aspirations to work in the arts or anything like that, but I liked comedy. And I did act a little, I did Tiny Tim, and the high school play when I was in middle school, and stuff like that, and all that.

I never had any aspirations to work in the arts or anything like that, but I liked comedy.

So what did you want to do when you were a kid? What did you think you were going to do when you…

Probably something with computers, I was pretty computer savvy. We had an Apple that you could mess with; program in BASIC, and program in Logo, and stuff like that. If you would have asked me what I was going to do pretty much until I was in New York doing comedy stuff, I probably would have said that my income would be most likely to come from something technical.

Yeah. Huh.

Something like that.

So were you into Saturday Night Live when you were a kid?

Yeah. I mean, it’s the… Everybody’s SNL era is when they’re just old enough to stay up and watch it, right?

Yeah.

So my era would have been the Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri. That Jim Carrey episode when he hosted it for the first time was just hilarious, I remembered loving that as a kid. But yeah, I mean, in that age when you’re staying up to watch it, and you’re kind of not supposed to, and all that. I mean, I think everybody locks into that era of everybody’s SNL was the SNL that was on when they were 13 or 14 years old.

Yeah.

Right before you could drive.

The best. I mean, yeah, for me, I think it was the Will Ferrell days is what I grew up with. But then my parents would watch the Chevy Chase days of that era, right. So then you were living in New… How did this all come about? I’m really curious, right, because I know that you wrote for Saturday Night Live for a couple years.

No, just one season.

Just one season?

Just one season.

One season, okay.

Yup.

Not just one season, that’s a pretty big deal just to get called up to write for the big leagues like that, right?

Professionally it’s great because it’s something everybody has heard of, so it is almost like, ‘Oh, he was a Major League ball player.’

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s great. I enjoyed working there, and I have a lot of friends who continue to work there, or not, or we just went through it at different times. But yeah, it’s a great… Professionally it’s great because it’s something everybody has heard of, so it is almost like, “Oh, he was a Major League ball player.” Saying somebody was a Major League ball player and then finding out that they played for the Reds in 1979 or something is great. But if somebody was like, “I pitched for the Yankees.”

Yankees.

That’s a pretty-

Through ’96. Right, uh-huh.

So, it is that. So as a calling card, it’s great. But if I have friends who were doing commercials or something, and they want to hire me to punch up the copy or something like that, it’s such a shorthand. It’s like, “Oh, my friend will take a pass at this, he was an SNL writer.” It’s almost 10 years ago, I’ve done a million things since then, but still, it’s the first thing on your resume.

I’ve done a million things since then, but still, it’s the first thing on your resume.

It’s part of your… Yeah.

For sure.

So I’m curious though, so how did that even happen, right? Because I can go back and watch Jimmy Fallon‘s auditions, or Will Farrell, they’re on YouTube, right? You can go and see it, right? And it’s pretty obvious where the talent is when you’re watching those clips, it’s like, “Whoa, this guys talented.” Right.

Yeah.

How does one audition to be a writer for Saturday Night Live? How does that even happen?

It’s not that much different from working at any show that they set the perimeters for their packet submission. And I don’t remember exactly what mine was. But it was like, “Write a commercial parody. Write a straight sketch for the show, and write…” They have their rules. It’s open ended, of course. But it was just a packet submission. I had screen tested that process as a cast member, or auditioned as a cast member. I might get the years wrong here, but I had… So I got hired to write in 2012.

Okay.

And I think two years before that, 2010, I had screen-tested. So it is that thing that you’ve seen Fallon do, or whatever, where you go-

You were trying to be a cast member first?

Hey, they said, “Do you want to-”

Really?

Yeah, they said, “Do you want to do it?” I mean, trying to be a cast member, I mean, yeah, it’s like trying to go to the moon, right. A lot of people have to be on your team, a lot of things have to go right.

Uh-huh.

But yeah, I was lucky enough to screen test for them. So that’s the process of putting together your 5-to-7 minutes. Again, I don’t remember the specifics. But you put together your one-man character stuff essentially, and then do it on stage for them. And you’re on the main stage, they’re all off stage, down in the dark, and you see the light for their pens, and the little pen thing going on. And they’ve got the real camera going on the jib and everything.

The pressure is on purpose, like you’re doing live TV, or simulating it for the audition.

And it’s really meant to simulate as close to possible of what it’s like to be on the show, the pressure is on purpose, like you’re doing live TV, or simulating it for the audition. And yeah, I mean, I thought that went all right. I did some fun stuff. It’s not like I’ve been doing one-man characters for 20 years. At the time, 10, I guess. I took ideas that I’d done in sketch shows with other people, and stuff like that. They needed a certain number of impersonations. I remember I did Gordon Ramsay.

Did you?

Yeah, they need impressions. So I did Gordon Ramsey doing Kitchen Nightmares at Jekyll & Hyde, a spooky restaurant. It’s angry at the werewolf. “Where the fuck is that fucking werewolf?”

You’re good.

So I screen tested for that in, I guess, 2010-ish. And then, didn’t get it, obviously. Tarryn, I think, got it that year.

But did you get far? It seems like you got pretty far in the process even to get onto the stage like that, right.

Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Yeah. And was Lorne Michaels one of the people that-

Oh, of course. Yeah. It’s that.

Wow.

You’re on the stage with the camera, doing your bits, playing to the senior writers, and Lorne, and everybody else there. Yeah.

Talk about some pressure. It’s like, “All right, time to be funny, right.”

Right, time to be funny. Yeah. When the camera goes red, that’s your cue to start.

Yeah.

So yeah, I didn’t get it, obviously. And then I don’t know what I did the following year, I didn’t… I mean, it’s one of those things, it’s so obvious in retrospect, but some friends of mine who work there, and when I told people that I screen tested, people were like, “Well, did you submit a writing packet too?” I was like, “No.” And they go, “Well, a lot of times when they screen test somebody, if they submit as a writer, they’ll hire them as a writer.” I said, “Oh, yeah, I have heard that.” Just don’t know why I didn’t think to do it, I mean, it’s criminally stupid to not do that.

But it was one of those things where it’s just like, somebody has to say it, and then you go, “Oh, yeah, they do do that.” So then the next summer, when it was there, I got somebody to get me the packet, I forget who. I might have had an agent at that point. So then I was just doing the normal things, trying to put together a Daily Show writers packet, trying to, anytime that they were hiring a Daily Show correspondent, I’d try and take a hard run at that.

And then when SNL came around, I just got the packet, write the packet, and then… It’s not that exciting. I mean, it’s actually just a grind. I was working. I was teaching improv at a theater festival up in Western Massachusetts.

Okay.

I had most of my days free. I wrote the packet. I did write that packet up there, I remember doing it up there. Submitted it. And then like anything, you just… That would have been late June, or July that I submitted the packet.

And then out of nowhere, in early September, they’re like, “Well, you’re going to come have a meeting with Lorne.” So I was like, “Okay. That’s normal.” So I talked to my friends. I’ve had so many friends who’ve either worked there, or-

Probably coming up from the improv world, right? Yeah, that’s…

Yeah, yeah. I directed Kate McKinnon‘s one-woman show before she got SNL. That was the last thing she did before SNL. I would do a weekly show with Horatio Sanz a lot. I would do, John Lutz was a friend of mine, and I would perform with a lot. And then I knew other people there, Chris Kelly, Sarah Schneider were both there. I just knew everybody. I knew Seth Meyers from doing a show at UCB, an improv show he would do. I knew Poehler of course.

Yeah.

A lot of my friends were on 30 Rock. So yeah, it’s just New York, it’s a small world.

Sure.

So I knew a lot of people to ask for advice, and people to set me straight on what to expect and all that. So yeah, they told me I had a meeting with Lorne, I showed up. Had met with some of the senior writers ahead of time.

I had a brief meeting with Lorne, he was very polite, very business-like. He’s a really interesting guy, and he’s the big boss at that place

Went in, I had a brief meeting with Lorne, he was very polite, very business-like. He’s a really interesting guy, and he’s the big boss at that place, and operates it in a more traditional way. He is the boss. Right, like 30 Rock, it’s Alec Baldwin, right, it’s… Not in terms of his personality or demeanor, but it’s like there’s no question who the boss is at this place.

Yeah.

And it’s old fashioned that way. It’s the bullpen of… He’s got three secretaries out front, and then you go down the hall, and then into there, and then you wait, and then you wait, and then you wait.

“Lorne will see you.” Okay.

It’s intimidating, like, I don’t know, meeting a president of the bank

And then you finally go in the room. And then, yeah, it’s that kind of thing. So it’s real old fashioned that way. And I guess that some people in the arts, when people talk about it, they talk about it as being this massively intimidating thing. And in a way it is, but it’s intimidating, like, I don’t know, meeting a president of the bank. It’s just that old fashioned way where the architecture of the building is supporting the authority of the person in the corner office, and just…

He goes, ‘Well, everyone else seems to want you here, so that’s fine.’

And I had a good meeting with him. And then the funniest part was that the meeting ended, and he said, and I quote, he goes, “Well, everyone else seems to want you here, so that’s fine.” And then he just sort of turned away, and I was like, “Well, I guess I’m leaving.” And that was my cue to leave. And I was like, “Okay, everyone else seems to want you here, so that’s fine.”

You remember exactly what he said, huh?

Yeah, “Everyone else seems to want you here, so that’s fine.” It’s like, that sounds like I got the job. So, but I had a show to do that night, I had a 7:30 show, on a Wednesday night, down at UCB in the East Village with my friend Anthony Atamanuik, and we were just about to go on stage, and then I got the call from Seth Meyers and he goes, “That’s his way of saying you got it. So come in Monday.”

Wow. “Pinch me,” huh? This is really happening.

Yeah, yeah.

So then what is it, they sign you for a season? Is that how the contracts usually work with SNL?

It’s all Writers Guild.

Okay.

So the Writers Guild, when you’re getting paid scale, again, this is googleable, but they hire you, I think, for 13 weeks, that’s what they have to hire you for, it’s 13 weeks, and then with a pickup for the rest of the season.

I see.

And it’s 13 calendar weeks. People at higher levels, writers, producers, people in supervising positions tend to get paid per episode. So then what their… They have a quote per episode. So-

I see. Got it.

Just one of those little things.

Got it. And so now you’re like, “Okay, let’s get to work here.”

Mm-hmm.

So you show up. Now, you said you were in Massachusetts when you got that. So were you out there, or visiting, or were you living in Massachusetts at the time?

No, I just wrote the packet in Massachusetts.

I see.

So I had… I’m trying to think if I’ve told this story publicly. So I-

Ooh, we’re going to get something juicy here.

I mean, it’s juicy in that struggling-artist-in-New-York way. I lived in an apartment at 28th Street and 8th Avenue in New York. And I was month-to-month. And then my landlord raised my rent, and it just broke the bank. I forget what it was, but he wanted… And Chelsea was… I knew it could happen someday, but you never expect it.

And then that was like… It was 30 days rent increased on April 1st. And I was like, “There’s just no way.” And I knew that if I could make it to June, then I can go up and teach in Massachusetts. And they’ll put you up. And I used to do that every year, it’s the Williamstown Theater Festival, which is this awesome summer stock theater program that sends a lot of shows to Broadway and off-Broadway, and stuff like that.

We’d teach at 8am. or 8:30, and then a 10 or 11am class, and then we’d just wander the Berkshires, just hike, and look at the cows.

And it was this great gig that I got through my friend, Ryan Carls, who got it through Alex Timbers, who directs every show on Broadway these days, is a genius. So it was just this great gig where we would just teach improv in the morning from 8 until 10, and then just be done. So it was like, we’d teach at 8am. or 8:30, and then a 10 or 11am class, and then we’d just wander the Berkshires, just hike, and look at the cows.

But, so I lived out of my car. I moved all my stuff into storage, and I just couch surfed, and lived out of my car, and just did other stuff for April and May. And then in mid-to-late June, I went up to Williamstown. And then I was there through July. So I wrote the packet up there. And then when I came back, I had a sublet in Williamsburg. My friend, Nick Kocher, who actually wrote for SNL for a season a couple years after me, Nick was going out to LA, so he had a sublet. So I just sublet his apartment in Williamsburg, so I was living in Williamsburg. But I was there for Sandy. So that was pretty wild.

Oh, I remember-

Yeah, yeah, I was in Williamsburg for Sandy. So I needed to get to 30 Rock, and it was kind of touch, there was no L train.

There were not a lot of things happening in New York at that time, yeah.

Mm-hmm.

So you started your gig at SNL, right?

Yeah.

Do you just start writing? How does it all happen then, right?

Yeah, I showed up, I shared an office with Bobby Moynihan, who’s a very old friend of mine. He and I had… We’d done college shows together for years on the road, and I mean, I probably met him when I was 19 or 20. He was one of the first people I knew at UCB. And yeah, we were always good friends. So it was awesome that I got to share an office with him.

We had both quit smoking at some point in our lives. But then when we were sharing an office, we both started smoking again, which is an error in your early 30s. But so we started smoking again, which was funny, and old fashioned. Kenan said to me one time, and Mike O’Brien made fun of me too, is, our office was this weird throwback, me and Bobby’s office. I had a buckling spring mechanical keyboard that I brought from home, because I like real keyboards.

I had a buckling spring mechanical keyboard that I brought from home, because I like real keyboards.

You got to have your certain way to… Yeah, totally.

Yeah.

Uh-huh.

I don’t like my joints taking the full impact of each keystroke, I like the spring. Unicomp, a great company in Lexington, Kentucky, has the patent to the IBM Model M. So, plug for them. But anyway, Mike O’Brien and Keenan both made fun of me because I got the newspaper every day, and I’d read the newspaper on my couch. We had an ashtray, so Bobby and I would always be smoking in there. But then because of that, we’d have the window open.

And then I had a radio, I like background noise, so I’d have the radio on. It’s like walking into His Girl Friday, it’s like walking into an office 1940, just clicky typing, people just casually smoking, WNYC on, and there’s a gust of cold air coming from the window, a small pile of newspapers, all that.

So yeah, you just show up, and you just write. So the thing that’s documented everywhere is true, you pitch to the host in Lorne’s office Monday. Some people stay and write Monday night. Tuesday, everybody writes all day, and that’s the one that goes all night. The schedule is designed for people on uppers in the ’70s, even though that’s not really around anymore.

The schedule is designed for people on uppers in the ’70s, even though that’s not really around anymore.

I’d sleep there a lot, not always, but I’d sleep there a lot. And then the big table read’s the next day on Wednesday. You wait all day for that. You read your stuff at the table. Sometimes, your stuff gets cut before it even gets read. As the super junior writer, that happened a lot to me. But it’s all just par for the course, it’s just what it is.

So I remember Seth Meyers told me early, he said, “Every week write something that’s for the show that is what you think would fit on the show.” So for a lot of times, that would be a game show piece, or an update, a “Weekend Update” piece, or something like that. And then he’d go, “And then write something that you’re really excited about.” So at minimum, every week, I’d try to write something that I thought would just check a box, or fill a slot on the show.

Sometimes, your stuff gets cut before it even gets read. As the super junior writer, that happened a lot to me.

So you’re writing three pieces each week?

Four.

Three or four pieces?

I’d typically write four.

Okay.

Because a lot of times, at least two of mine would get cut.

I see.

Speaking of playing in the big leagues, you might warm up and then never pitch.

And then if I only had two, it would be a little… Again, this is how it works. So speaking of playing in the big leagues or whatever, you might warm up and then never pitch. It’s just the way it works. But yeah, sometimes it would be like, “Okay, I’m going to write two things I’m really excited about, and then I’m going to write an ‘Update’ piece,” that was a cast member’s idea for them, taking their idea and writing it. And then I’m going to write some wild pie-in-the-sky thing that I think could be a pre-tape, or something like that. And then they’d cut everything but the “Update” piece.

Interesting.

Right. So you just have to be prepared for that. Now, you could bring it back the next week, but then who’s the host going to be next week? Et cetera, et cetera. It could just be… I mean, all of television writing, this isn’t particularly SNL, but all of television writing is just writing into the garbage.

All of television writing is just writing into the garbage.

Yeah.

The printer might as well be connected to the shredder. You just write, and then it’s trashed.

Wow.

And you can’t be too precious about it. But there especially, it’s not knowing. Stay up all night, write four things, and then when you see the list of what’s getting read at the table read, it’s like, “Oh, well.”

And have you ever been really bummed, you’re like, “Oh my God, this is going to be the best, they’re going to love this one.” And it just gets tossed out?

I would try not to be too bummed. It’s the normal disappointments of a job like that.

It is.

Yeah.

It’s like auditioning for an acting job.

The job is to just crank it out and let them do what they want with it, including nothing.

If you let it get to you after it’s happening once or twice, you’re probably making a mistake and just not doing the job, because the job is to just crank it out and let them do what they want with it, including nothing.

Yeah. I had a question, so with Saturday Night Live, with some of the hosts, right, some of them come on with hilarious monologues, right?

Mm-hmm.

Are they writing that themselves, or is there a cast member, or a writer that’s writing that for them?
 
They’re usually pretty involved, the hosts.

They are?

And then because ours was the smoking office, I got to meet a lot of the hosts, because a lot of them decided to have their smoke while they were working for one week. Don’t smoke, anybody. I happily quit while I was there. I quit again and never started again.

Don’t smoke, anybody. I happily quit while I was there.

Mm-hmm.

But yeah, it depends on who the host is. Seth MacFarlane has a team of writers from Family Guy, and probably came in with whatever concept he wanted to do, whether it was a song or whatever. Other people, they’re actors, and they go, “You guys do it.” Somebody like Louis C.K. or a standup is probably going to write-

Their own stuff.

Bill Burr clearly wrote all his stuff. So yeah, it’s really whatever the host wants. And the monologue approach was pretty above my pay grade at that time. Nobody was coming to me to see if I wanted to collaborate with the host and write the monologue. I was too junior.

I see.

I was the only new writer they hired that year. But the head writers, certainly Lorne, if the host has any idea they’re more than open to it. But for the most part, it’s written by writers on the staff.

And I know that the cast gets swapped out every couple years, and are there any writers that have been there for 30 years?

Yeah, there are some very senior writers. Paula Pell still has an office there, and she… To this day I don’t know if she does, but I know she’s welcome to come any week she wants.

Huh.

And there’s some hosts like Timberlake and stuff that she’ll be sure to come back for.

I see.

Kent Sublette has been there a while. I couldn’t say how long. James Anderson has been there for a long time. Downey is still there, and he’s been there since the beginning.

Is that right?

Yeah, he’s been there for a long, long time. But I don’t know if he still comes in, but he did my year. Yeah, so there are people who’ve made their whole career writing for that show and are still there. And that’s great. And then other people who are more in my position, yeah, we cycle through.

Awesome.

Yeah.

See, I’m learning, man, I’m a fan of the show, but when you hear it from the opposite side of what it takes to actually put a show on like that.

Yeah. It’s a very exciting place to work.

Sure.

There’s a couple times, I mean, there was one time where we did a sketch, it was an idea that me and Bobby and Cecily had to get everyone in the cast on stage at once. So we did it, that they were all McDonald’s employees working at a McDonald’s. And Anne Hathaway was the host.

Uh-huh.

And Nasim had gum that she was supposed to have. And the way the sketch played is that they would… As everyone in the cast got named… So the premise was Bobby and Cecily were telling off everybody that they worked with at McDonald’s now that they were getting fired.

I see.

So it was just a joke parade as they’d go to each person in a single to react to being told off, right. So Nasim had gum, and her whole thing was that she was going to be like… I forget what the line was, but it was something like, “Who cares?” Or, “I don’t care.” Or something kind of teen girl attitude.

Mm-hmm.*

And right before the sketch, we were at commercial, she didn’t have the gum. So I ran from the stage, out the big barn doors, to the page desk right there, and got gum from the drawer of that desk. It was just some intern’s gum.

Okay.

And then ran back in, took the slice out, handed it to Nasim, and my hand left frame right as we came back from commercial.

Ooh, wow.

Soon as the light goes red, there’s 7 million people watching.

And that’s live TV. Soon as the light goes red, there’s 7 million people watching. And it’s like, good thing I got that gum.

There you go, saved the day.

I got it right just in time.

So what were some of your favorite sketches that you either wrote or participated in writing?

Let’s see. I wrote the first thing that I got on air with Bobby was a very silly sketch where we had Jeremy Renner on for, I guess, the first Avengers.

Mm-hmm.

The joke of it was as simple as he runs out of arrows, and he’s like, “All right, that’s it for me, guys, I’ll see you.” He shoots his last arrow, and then he’s like, “Great.” But it was that… I’m not sure it was the funniest thing I’ve ever written with people, but it is one of those SNL magic things where the costume department, all the departments got to shine, because they’d build the set of the New York battle from the first Avengers, they make McKinnon Black Widow, they make… Oh, man, I can’t remember. It’s a great picture of it on the wall.

Uh-huh.

But they have everybody in the cast, they build the Avengers costumes and all that, and then they have Renner do it. So that was killer.

That’s awesome.

I was just the writer attached to that, so it wasn’t really my idea, it was Bobby’s idea, but that was the first thing that I took from the page through the process of getting it produced, camera rehearsal, Thursday or Friday, dress rehearsal, notes after dress where you got 45 minutes to rewrite it for air, and all that process. And that’s a huge learning experience.

Sure.

And then the first thing that I got on air that was all mine, and I had Mike O’Brien attached to it, he wrote it with me as well, but it was my initial idea that I pitched to Louis C.K. was just a very textbook Monty Python-y style sketch where it was Bobby checking out of a hotel, and Louis itemizing the extra charges that were on the hotel bill.

And I mean, it was very A, B, C, formula sketch comedy. But people liked it, it went well. Lorne pitched a joke for it, which I added, which I thought was super cool.

Okay.

And I took that from… I mean, it really is just the most textbook sketch, but it was mine, got it on air, it did well. Seth told me that it would make the rerun. So afterwards, if the sketch is going to make the, whatever it is, the 50-minute cut for the hour reruns they do sometimes, the writers watch both dress, and air, and pitch what they thought was better, because they can edit the two takes from dress and air, and do it. I was like, “Okay, so that’s a win.”

It really is just the most textbook sketch, but it was mine, got it on air, it did well.

That’s a huge win.

That’s a success.

Yeah.

And then that was it. So that was a big one. Those are my two favorites, because it’s the magic of the show, and then just really feeling like something that was all mine got on. And then yeah, but after the new year, I’m trying to think, the Christmas episode… Well, it doesn’t matter. But yeah, then I got very little on the back half of the year, things got shuffled around, Seth left to go do Late Night. And then I didn’t get too much on for the back half of the year. And that was it. So that was my year at SNL.

Those are my two favorites, because it’s the magic of the show

Cool.

Yeah.

Well, knowing that you’d be here, we’ve got a SNL trivia game that we’re going to play.

Oh, I’m not going to be good at this.

I don’t think she made it that hard.

I couldn’t remember the cast members who played the superheroes in a sketch that I wrote and produced.

Well, we’ll have fun with it.

Mm-hmm.

Which two women were the first female co-hosts of the “Weekend Update”?

Oh, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

See.

Yeah.

Starting out strong.

That’s my era, yeah. Okay, yeah.

Starting off strong.

Mm-hmm.

According to Burt Reynolds, what is a funny name?

Oh, “Turd Ferguson”?

Yes.

Mm-hmm.

Ding-ding-ding. Nice job. “My name is Matt Foley, and I’m a motivational speaker. I am,” blank, blank, “and I live…”

“In a van down by the river.”

You got that part. Do you remember how old he was?

No. 33?

Close. 35.

35.

“Thrice divorced.”

“Thrice divorced,” yeah.

And “I live in a damn van by the river.” So you got part of that right. Who was the first person to say, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night“?

Was it Carlin? No, the first episode. Andy Kaufman?

I’ll give you three guesses. Not Andy.

Okay.

His name-

Paul Simon?

His name was already referenced once in this podcast.

Oh, really? He’s the first person.

Chevy Chase.

Oh, Chevy Chase.

Yeah. I didn’t know that either.

Mm-hmm.

On what date… Even if you get the year correct, I’ll give it to you, did Saturday Night Live first air?

In was ’79.

’75.

Oh, ’75. Was it really?

Yeah.

Okay. Oh, yeah, I could have done that math, because I know I was there for Season 38 and that was 2012/2013.

Yup.

I should have just sat here quietly and done math. Yeah.

October 11th.

Cool.

Which of the following actors were never a cast member? Joan Cusack.

She was.

Michael J. Fox.

He was not.

Process of elimination here. Robert Downey Jr.

He was.

And Ben Stiller.

He was not. Or was Stiller on? Was Stiller on in the Julia Louis-Dreyfus years? Yeah, he was. He was.

Yeah. And so it’s Michael J. Fox. Yeah. What was the last name of Craig, the Spartan cheerleader?

Oh, that’s funny, that’s my era too. I have no idea. No idea.

Buchanan.

Oh, okay. Yeah.

Yup.

Does not even ring a bell.

Craig Buchanan, the Spartan cheerleader. Funny bit.

Mm-hmm.

This cast member was known for his impressions, especially of singers. He co-hosted the “Weekend Update” on SNL, and had a recurring sketch as “Nick Burns,” a sarcastic computer technician, before moving to host Late Night, and then The Tonight Show.

Jimmy Fallon.

There it is.

Mm-hmm.

Yup. On April 22nd, 1978 episode of Saturday Night Live, host Steve Martin paid homage to which historical figure in a song?

Can you repeat the beginning of  that?

Yup. April 22nd, 1978, episode of Saturday Night Live

King Tut.

Yup. Exactly right. Christopher Walken‘s character, “The Bruce Dickinson,” had a fever, what was the only prescription for this fever?

“More cowbell.”

See, you did okay.

You see, the sweet spot of my era there, so yeah.

Yeah, Whitney, I think, loaded the questions a little bit in your favor. Good job.

Thanks.

Yeah, I think you got pretty much all of them right, for the most part. I think there was one, Chevy Chase was the one that-

Chevy Chase I didn’t get, yeah.

Yeah. But yeah, pretty good. And that wasn’t your era.

Was it Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford? Did he-

You know, I don’t know. I want to go back and watch it now. Mm-hmm. I’m curious.

I did that. When I lived in New York, when I had gotten hired there, and during the first big break, I would go to the Paley Center there, and I would watch some old SNL, and then I would watch the old Your Show of Shows, and Sid Caesar, and stuff like that. That was just my way to settle my mind a little bit, just watch the way it had been done before, and try to get some inspiration that way.

The coolest thing in that time was, I remember I went to the Paley Center one time, and then I was walking back from the Paley Center to the subway, and I needed to use the bathroom, and I just went up to Studio 8H, which was empty, and dark, and just used the bathroom, because I had the keycard, the company card. I was like, “Hey, you know, if I were this close to my office at any other job, I’d have no compunction about going in and using a bathroom.” So here I go.

So I’ve got a couple questions about comedy.

Uh-huh.

How do you know what’s funny? How does somebody know what’s funny? Right, because it’s so subjective, right?

It’s only funny when people laugh, the audience is always right.

It is, yeah. I mean, it’s only funny when people laugh, the audience is always right. So as a writer, you are trying to make yourself laugh, as weird of a thing as that can be. If I’m writing something, I’ll chuckle to myself and write it, but then you get in front of an audience, it might still stink.

Yeah.

It’s just, you develop a sense for it over time, like you develop your own compass towards what type of thing you can write. But yeah, it is subjective. I mean, there are rules, there’s rules of one, two, three, right, where it’s like, if I set up a pattern with the first two things I say, and then I break the pattern in a way that makes clear that we meant another pattern on the third, that’s usually a laugh.

Mm-hmm.

So it’s like, we need all the essentials for our camping trip, sleeping bags, tent, and these two huge googly eyes. That’s the rhythm of a joke, you know.

Mm-hmm.

So there are things like that. K words are funny.

What’s a K word?

Just words that have a hard K sound. Like “duck” is funnier than “bird” 100% of the time.

Interesting. I’ve never heard that, okay.

“Did somebody step on a bird?” Is not funny. “Did somebody step on a duck?” Is funny. There it is, right. That’s just, that’s Dangerfield‘s thing.

Interesting.

‘K’ words are funny, they just land hard, and then everybody laughs at the same time because it hits harder.

But yeah, K words are funny, they just land hard and then everybody laughs at the same time, because it hits harder. But yeah, it is, it’s subjective. It’s funny when people laugh, if they laugh.

And do you think, is comedy something that people learn or you think people are most… Like Will Ferrell, is that because he was taught comedy, or it’s just him, he was born with it?

Well, I mean, I think everybody does… I think everybody, at some stage, whether it’s as an actor, or a writer, or an improviser, whatever it is, does an impersonation of the people that they think are the funniest. So if you were to watch me doing improv when I was 24, I’m just straight up doing an Ian Roberts impersonation. So people’s taste guides them to what they like, and then most people start… I mean, this is probably true of any kind of art, or any kind of creative thing is, everybody starts with imitation, I think.

This is probably true of any kind of art, or any kind of creative thing is, everybody starts with imitation

Mm-hmm. Sure.

Or at least a lot of the time. So I would be curious… Will Ferrell is clearly naturally incredibly talented. He’s got this awesome comedy face where he looks like anybody. He looks so normal. But he also has that contained anger thing he can do. He has great eyes. So he’s blessed genetically with a lot of tools to put to work. I would be curious what his biggest influences are if I were talking to him. And I’d bet you, I’m not certain of this, but I bet you that when he was starting out, he was doing some type of impersonation of the people that he really liked.

Interesting.

Or some combination. Everybody steals. It’s like everybody borrows, but great artists steal, or that whole cliché.

Everybody borrows, but great artists steal, or that whole cliché.

Uh-huh.

It’s funny. But yeah, I think that people get good by impersonation, and by trying to do what they see. Ira Glass has that great old quote that everybody has hung up these days where it’s like, the first thing you have is your taste. Your taste guides you towards what you think is good. You try to do what you think is good. Your own abilities don’t clear the bar that’s set by your own taste, but if you continue to pursue it, and are diligent about it, then eventually someday, maybe what you’re able to produce will almost match what you imagine is the best version of something out there.

If you continue to pursue it, and are diligent about it, then eventually someday, maybe what you’re able to produce will almost match what you imagine is the best version of something out there.

Sure, sure.

I’m sure he said it in two sentences, and I just rambled it out. But that’s the idea.

So now when you go about your day, right, I imagine a lot of inspiration just kind of… It’s like Seinfeld, right? Inspiration just happens as you’re walking in the grocery store, and this, and that. Is that where a lot of your comedic writing comes from, just things that happen naturally in the world, or do you ever take notes? Do you carry a notebook with you, and you see something funny happening, or document it on your phone?

Yeah, I do. I send myself a lot of texts. Sometimes it’s ideas that would fit into something that I’m already working on, like a screenplay or something like that where it’s like, “Oh, this would be good for that.” Definitely when I have a job, my thinking is going to conform to whatever that job is. When I was doing Haute Dog with Whitney, I was paying a lot more attention to dogs on the street I saw, thinking about dog jokes and things like that. So I know if I’m working on a dog show, I don’t need to force myself, I’ll just naturally be drawn to whatever is going to inspire the next dog joke I want to make.

If I’m working on a dog show, I don’t need to force myself, I’ll just naturally be drawn to whatever is going to inspire the next dog joke I want to make.

So yes, I text myself regularly. I have a note capturing app, I use Evernote. And I have that hooked to my phone so I can just text myself something, and then it’ll just all be in a non-email inbox to deal with at some point. And then if I’m working on a show, or have a deadline, or something, I’ll typically have a notebook that’s devoted to that, and I just sit and try to grind out whatever I got to do before people tell me that I’m late.

And do you have a place where you like to write? Or do you travel, you do coffee shops?

I do. I mean, pandemic stuff notwithstanding, I do like to go somewhere else. I have a wife and a 5-year-old son, and I don’t have an office at home or anything like that, I have a corner for my computer. But I don’t work at home a lot, and that’s just not what it’s for. If my family is there, I’m not going to be like, “Go away, I’m trying to be funny over here.”

If my family is there, I’m not going to be like, ‘Go away, I’m trying to be funny over here.’

Trying to be funny.

Yeah. So yeah, I’ve always… I travel. I’m a pilot. I have a little plane.

Really?

Yeah. And I fly it. Sometimes I go to weird places to do that. I needed to write, it was a multicam pilot that I really needed to finish. So I flew to Vegas for that. I’m pretty good at that discipline. I’ll stay somewhere, I’ll wake up, write from 9 until 11, then I’ll go in the pool, take a swim, come back up, write from-

I’m a pilot. I have a little plane.

In the hotel room?

Yeah.

Okay.

Yeah. Write from 1 to 4. And then reward myself with a sandwich, or maybe a nice cut of meat, or something. I’ll go out to the desert sometimes, like Borrego Springs, I’ll write. I don’t do that all the time. That’s usually what I got to do when I have some unbelievable deadline where I really need to-

You need to force yourself to be accountable.

I wrote a book with my friend, Anthony Atamanuik, and at the end of it, it was clear to me that I was really doing the lion’s share of the last round of copy editing. And I needed to get just a hotel room out in Van Nuys. But I got the HotelTonight, I got a $50 room at the Holiday Inn Express, and just exploded that hotel room with paper, and just did the last pass, cut stuff, moved stuff around. And then the next day, put it all back in the document and sent it to HarperCollins. And that was like, “Phew.”

So it’s kind of like a vacation, but it is kind of like, “I’ve got a mission to accomplish,” I get somewhere that I’ve always wanted to go, even if it’s a little weird. And then it’s like, yeah, you got to put in the full day, and then if you achieve it, then you can reward yourself with something like a cocktail, or a steak, or something like that.

It’s kind of like a vacation, but it is kind of like, ‘I’ve got a mission to accomplish,’

I wait the last minute to do things, and then force myself to go somewhere else where I don’t have any distractions and just get it done.

Yup.

Yeah, same way. So we’ve talked a lot about the behind the camera stuff. But you’re also an actor.

Mm-hmm.

Are you still in front of the camera these days?

Yeah, it’s one of those things that I feel very lucky that my phone rings in that regard. I really enjoy it. I just did a pretty small part in this miniseries they’re making about Watergate, for HBO, called White House Plumbers, with Justin Theroux, and Woody Harrelson. So that had me going to New York and Washington, D.C. And that was pretty funny, we were doing these big crowd scenes outside the real Watergate courthouse, and it was 80 degrees in D.C. but we were all wearing these huge winter coats.

I was just there actually, you guys were there while I was there. Yeah.

That’s funny. Across from the building with that bird statue on top.

Yeah, because I was there for a conference, and they said it was a “plumber show.”

Yeah, that’s us.

Yeah. Uh-huh. Wow, you guys were there at the same exact time. And it was right in front of the Lincoln monument I think is where I was at the time when they-

The production might have been there. That wasn’t my day but I-

Okay, I see. Yeah.

We were down at the courthouse. But so anyway, yeah, when I was in New York in the old days, I would do commercials, I was just working as an actor as much as possible. I did a series on Adult Swim in 2006, that was the first thing that I really did on TV. And then yeah, it’s just get a little bit of work here and there, whatever it is. And then post-SNL when I was in Los Angeles, I just got to do a million different shows, and every one is a treat.

Yeah.

So yeah, keep them coming, man, I love it.

And Whitney was talking about Champagne-

Mm-hmm, Champaign ILL.

Yeah, what is that?

Yeah, just came out on Hulu.

Yup.

So the brilliant David Caspe, the Libmans, they’re brothers, they’re writers, they’re awesome. They did Marry Me, and Happy Endings, and all that stuff, which were all great shows. They did a show that was on YouTube called… Or YouTube Premium, or “YouTube Red,” or whatever they settled on before they stopped doing it entirely, called Champaign ILL. It’s a very funny comedy, it stars Adam Pally and Sam Richardson.

And the premise of it is that these two idiots are in the entourage of a super famous hip hop artist played by Jay Pharoah. And then he dies accidentally and suddenly, and they’re left basically with nothing. And I play Jay Pharaoh’s character’s music manager named Craig. So I’m just there to be delivering mostly bad news to these guys that there’s no money, and they’re flying coach, and the shoe sponsorship is gone, and all that stuff, and that their clothing lines were making no money anyway, and things like that.

So I’m there as the straight man, I’m there to be the downer. Although, they do have me do some pretty goofy stuff. But yeah, it was great. We shot that in Atlanta. Oh, I don’t even know when that was. I mean, it was pre-pandemic obviously. So that would have been in 2019 maybe.

Okay.

That we shot it. But yeah, it was awesome. Fly to Atlanta, shoot some comedy, come home.

Love it. Can’t wait to watch it. So that’s Netflix.

It’s on Hulu now.

Hulu.

So it was YouTube, and then it just appeared on Hulu, which is awesome. So yeah.

“It just appeared on Hulu.” Awesome. All right, well what we’re going to do… Well, first of all, family, so you said you’re married, you have a 5-year-old little boy.

I’m married, I have a 5-year-old boy, yup.

Okay. How long you been married for?

About 5 years.

Is that right? Okay. And is your wife in the industry too?

Yeah, she’s a stand-up comic.

Okay. Huh. What’s that like having… Me and my wife are complete opposite. So having a wife that is funny like you must be pretty interesting.

We make each other laugh a lot. I mean, she’s very, very funny.

We’re different in sensibility. But yeah, I mean, we make each other laugh a lot. I mean, she’s very, very funny.

That’s awesome.

Yeah. And yeah, she performed. I mean, again, pandemic stuff. As those shows are coming back, she’s booked on a lot of them and that kind of thing. So that’s all great. And she writes as well. She won a writing contest, and pitches… Or she’s got a great show idea that she pitches around and all that stuff. So yeah, we’re just, we’re both in the biz.

Cool. Awesome. And what’s your son’s name?

Eamonn Casey.

Eamonn. What’s he into? I know he’s only 5.

He’s real into Spider-Man.

Okay.

Real into dinosaurs, outer space, rocket stuff.

Yeah?

Moon landing. All good stuff. But yeah, he’s real into Spider-Man right now.

Yeah.

Just yeah, Spider-Man underpants, Spider-Man pants, Spider-Man costume, Spider-Man hat, Spider-Man socks, Spider-Man… He was Spider-Man for Halloween. He’s got a Spider-Man bike.

So I’ve got a 19-year-old, a 17-year-old, and we started over, so we got a 5-year-old.

Oh, wow.

My wife and I have been married 23 years.

Wow. Amazing.

So when my son, Zack, was maybe 7 years old, how your son is into Spider-Man, my son was into The Little Mermaid.

That’s funny, yeah.

And it was interesting, because he had a Little Mermaid pillow, and a Little Mermaid whatever, TV, right.

Mm-hmm.

And on his birthday, we had to go get a Little Mermaid cake. So good luck figuring, “What’s your daughter’s name?” “Zack.”

Yeah.

Yeah, but-

That movie is a hit, man. Yeah.

It was a hit. Yes, it was a hit. So this next part of the episode is what we call “Connection Questions.”

Okay.

I’m just going to ask you some questions, and you just say what’s on your mind.

Okay. Sure.

Simple. Does pineapple belong on pizza?

I don’t particularly like it, but I don’t object to it.

You don’t object to it?

If people want to do it-

Oh, if you grew up in New York, and yeah.

It’s like a mortal- I’m not Italian. People who are purists about it, they come by it naturally I think.

Uh-huh.

Yeah, I don’t like pineapple on pizza. But it’s like a cilantro thing, right. Some people, it’s- just they try it and it’s just disgusting to them.

What is your go-to topping on pizza?

Just pepperoni, if anything.

Just pepperoni. Okay.

Yeah. Garlic and sausage if I’m at the right kind of place. If I’m at a real… If I’m at Palermo in Los Feliz, or if I were back in New York, in Brooklyn, or something like that, getting a little fancier, I would do garlic, sausage, maybe some peppers, that kind of thing. But in LA, just pepperoni.

Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah.

Toilet paper, should it go over or under when you pull it?

It has to go over, yeah.

Yeah, I think there’s a patent about that, and they actually proved it to go over.

Yeah.

I think so. Yeah. What’s invisible but you wish people could see?

What’s invisible but you wish people could see? Oh, that’s interesting. I mean, all scientific phenomena, right, like radio waves would be cool, if you could see the graphic of the antenna on top of the planet pulsing a radio out, and you’d say, “Oh, well it’s blinking out an interesting station.” That would be kind of cool. Dark matter, so that it would be visible so that we would know that it’s not real.

Mm-hmm.

What else? Yeah.

My first thought goes: feelings.

Uh-huh.

Right. When your wife gets mad at you, you’re like, “What is she mad about?” And everything that comes to her mind is spitting out visually.

Mm-hmm. You wish you could see the aura.

Yeah, right.

Yeah.

Because then you could fix it, right. Can’t fix what you can’t see or hear. If animals could talk, which animal would be the rudest?

Which animal would be the rudest animal?

It’s like, what kind of questions are these?

What would be the rudest animal? Well, I mean, I know animals that are rude already and they can’t talk, right, like cats are rude as hell.

I would agree with that.

Cats would be even ruder.

Monkeys could be kind of rude.

They’re already pretty rude, yeah.

They just throw their poop at you.

Yeah. They just toss poop at you and be like, “Heads up.”

Uh-huh.

Yeah. A cat would… You’d know that the cat could talk and then it would still give you the silent treatment. And that would feel worse, because you’d know that the cat was capable of talking.

What’s a super ridiculous fact that you know?

Okay, here’s a super ridiculous fact that I know.

Okay.

And this is also about the human mind. There’s a guy who got in a car accident that severed the left side of his left hemisphere from his right hemisphere, right.

Mm-hmm. Okay.

Bad. But he essentially became two different people that you could communicate with by showing just one eye a message, both sides could read. The same thing, you could whisper something in his ear, left or right.

And they did these experiments on him. And only the left brain could talk. So the left brain is the only one that can speak out loud. But the right brain could be like, “Point to the chicken.” And with the left hand, controlled by the right brain, it’d point to the chicken.

And then they’d go… So the other one, they go, “Point to the shovel.” And he’d point to the shovel. And then they’d ask him out loud, they’d go, “Why are you pointing to the shovel?” And he would go, “Oh, you need the shovel to clean out the chicken coop.”

Huh.

Think about that.

Yeah.

Right. So then they would tell the right brain that can’t talk, they would say, “Stand up and walk to the door.” And he’s, “Stand up and walk to the door.” And then verbally, they’d ask him, they’d go, “Where are you going?” And the left brain, which is the only one that can talk would go, “I’m thirsty, I want a Coke.”

A lot of times, you have no idea why you’re doing anything that you’re doing.

So the phenomenon that is true is that a lot of times, you have no idea why you’re doing anything that you’re doing. And when asked, you’ll just make up an answer that you yourself will believe.

Wow. That’s pretty powerful.

Yeah.

Yup. Here’s an easier question. What’s the best type of cheese?

I mean, all around just improving everything I’d just have to go with mozzarella.

Yeah.

Great on a sandwich, great just on a tomato with a basil leaf.

I think so.

Mozzarella is so good.

Although, I think provolone is my go-to.

I like a sharp provolone.

Yeah.

I like blue cheese too, goat cheese.

Oh, I hate blue cheese. That’s-

You don’t like blue cheese?

That’s like cilantro, right. I like cilantro, but blue cheese, ugh.

Got it.

Not my thing.

Mm-hmm.

Is there a kids’ movie, or a movie that you’ve seen as a kid that completely scared you?

That scared me?

Yeah.

Well, we referenced Who Framed Roger Rabbit?***

Mm-hmm.

Which Christopher Lloyd is terrifying in that when it… No spoilers, but he’s the cartoon that killed the main detective’s brother.

Mm-hmm.

That’s really scary. Yeah, my brothers and I watched all these video store rental movies. There’s this super creepy movie that was Disney, and it had Betty Davis in it. And it was called Watcher in the Woods. And that scared the hell out of us. But I don’t remember why. It was the ghosts of kids in a house that the kids live in. And that I remember my brothers and I continued to reference throughout childhood as the scariest thing we’d ever seen. So I remember that.

For me, it was Children of the Corn.

Mm-hmm.

I don’t know how or why somebody let me watch that when I was 8 years old.

Mm-hmm.

And that was the thing that I would have reoccurring bad dreams…

Yeah.

I’d be afraid to go to bed at night because I knew I was going to be dreaming about the Children of the Corn.

Wow.

And Malachai I think was the kid’s name.

Right.

Yeah, scared the shit out of me.

Yeah.

Yup. I’m still fearful of watching that, man. If peanut butter wasn’t called peanut butter, what would it be called?

Cream of peanut.

Ooh, that sounds like a fancy…

Mm-hmm.

Fancy thing, right.

Yeah.

A lot more expensive in the grocery store. What would be the worst “buy one, get one free” sale of all time?

The worst?

You got to think about these questions.

I do, yeah. The worst “buy one, get one free” sale of all time. So you buy one, so you got to buy it, then you get another one free. Worst “buy one, get one free.” I’m taking these questions very seriously. The worst. The worst one conceivable, buy one, get one free of all time.

I’m having trouble thinking of this, and I could have even prepped for this if I wanted to.

Wedding gown.

Ooh. That’s good.

Yeah, yeah.

That’s really good. Although, in this day, society, right, it might be okay to have a second one as a backup. [laughs]

Right. But yeah, it’s not going to make the first one… Yeah, then you should have just bought one.

Uh-huh.

Yeah.

That was good.

Thanks.

Who’s the funniest person alive?

Oh, who is the funniest person alive today? Oh, there’s so many. Who is the funniest person alive today? I’m just going to say Fred Armisen.

Yeah.
 
Yeah. He’s just supernatural. And funny, and doesn’t need anything written, he can just own a room full of people immediately, and he’s speaking like Andy Kaufman or something like that, he’s supernatural.

Mm-hmm.

And effortless.

I like it.

And then on the opposite end of the spectrum, I’d probably say John Mulaney, right. He’s got that- But he’s super precise, and super written, and prepped, right, and brilliant that way, right. So two opposite poles. But yeah those are the two-

I’ve seen him in Vegas, he actually came and spoke to a group of 2,500 lawyers.

Cool.

And he totally changed his whole bit, so it was very customized to that room. And it was awesome.

Mm-hmm.

Yeah. If you were arrested with no explanation, what would your friends and family assume you had done?

Wire fraud.

There’s the computer science kid.

Yeah, be some cryptocurrency Ponzi scam or something maybe, I don’t know.

What would be the creepiest thing you could say while passing a stranger on the street?

You’re late.

[laughs] I like how that just came natural.

Yeah.

That just came natural. This has been so fun, man.

Oh, thanks for having me. What a blast. Yeah.

I know your social media is pretty private.

Yeah, I have an Instagram. I have an Instagram. I couldn’t tell you the last time I posted to it.

No, huh?

Yeah, I don’t really do it. Yeah.

So people keep up with you just by googling you.

I guess so. I don’t think people keep up with me. I don’t know, maybe they should come and say stuff to me in the street. Yeah, I don’t really have much of it. I like doing stuff like this, I like doing podcasts, and this, and that, and meeting people, and all that. But no, I’m a pretty IRL person.

I like doing podcasts, and this, and that, and meeting people, and all that. I’m a pretty IRL person.

Well, awesome, man. Again, thank you so much for coming down. I appreciate it. And I’m excited for everybody to hear this.

Thanks. Yeah, thanks for letting me see the inside of the Television Academy complex here, it’s great. Yeah. I’m going to take a picture of myself next to the Emmy statue. Thank you.

Important Links

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