“Potato Chip” isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to run in a “best of” montage during, say, SNL’s 40th anniversary show. Have you ever heard how certain comedians are referred to as “a comedian’s comedian,” in that the material makes other comedians laugh? “Potato Chip” is a lot like that. It’s the definition of a cult favorite.
On Dec. 5, 2009, SNL aired a show, hosted by Blake Lively, that featured Andy Samberg’s Swedish Chef in the monologue and a sketch about Tiger Woods’ infidelity (which seems crazy that that was seven years ago). Then the last sketch of the night aired.
The last sketch of the night — often referred to as the “10 to one” sketch, signifying about the time it airs on the East Coast — can often be, well, odd. It’s where things are often slotted that the cast likes, but mainstream audiences might not appreciate closer to 11:30 p.m. The quintessential “10 to one” sketch, written by Will Forte and John Solomon, is “Potato Chip.”
The sketch opens with an establishing shot of NASA, which then fades into a sad-looking office where an older Foghorn Leghorn-sounding man, played by Jason Sudeikis, is being interviewed for a job as an astronaut by a high-pitched, raspy-voiced man, played by Will Forte, who has a large bowl of potato chips on his desk. (Forte is raspy-voiced in this sketch because he blew out his voice performing this sketch at dress rehearsal. I have seen the dress rehearsal version and I can describe it by imagining what Forte does here, only amped up by a few degrees.)
Forte’s character has one rule: Do not take his potato chips. When Forte leaves the room, Sudeikis takes a potato chip. When Forte returns, a non-stop yelling match between Forte, Lively (who plays his assistant) and Sudeikis commences, ending with Sudeikis regurgitating the potato chip into Forte’s hand.
Ahead, the creative forces behind this sketch — Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis, John Solomon, and head writer Seth Meyers — reflect on what they all feel is one of the strangest things they’ve ever put on the air… a sketch that was actually performed three times in front of an audience, as it had been cut at dress rehearsal a month earlier when Taylor Swift hosted the show. (And maybe strangest of all: Sudeikis reveals that his would-be NASA employee character lived on to see another day as the judge in “Maine Justice.”)