Brooks Wheelan On His ‘SNL’ Days: ‘It’s Just A Lot Of Anxiety, Man’

06.23.15 4 years ago 11 Comments

It’s strange, I don’t even watch SNL every week anymore, but I’m still fascinated by the behind-the-scenes goings-on. I’ve read at least three books by various castmembers and still I seek out new stuff, and it never gets old. It just seems like such a bizarre way to make a show, especially in 2015 — like Lorne Michaels is the headmaster at some weird Hogwarts for improv actors and comics. Hogfarts, say.

In that vein, Brooks Wheelan, who was fired from SNL around this time last year, was a guest on Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend this week, and offered up some interesting anecdotes about his own experience.

On the pressure of producing every week:

It’s just a lot of anxiety man. To be a new guy on that show is a lot of anxiety. Especially, when I’m not getting on, I’m worried about getting fired, and the last thing I ever want to do is get fired. To achieve your ultimate dream, and then not do well, I couldn’t fathom that that would happen. So, when it was happening, I was panicking man. It’s not fun to not do well at your job that you want to do well at.

On his lack of experience:

I’d never written a sketch when I got hired there. I got hired off as a stand-up set, and I didn’t have any characters. I think eight people got hired that year, throughout the year. Everybody came in — they’ve been doing UCB and Groundlings — they had all these characters and sketches. I’d never done a character or sketch. I was like starting at ground zero. And then I just went for it, you know, dove in. Some stuff got on, and it was awesome. But then, the weeks it wasn’t on, it stunk. Just really high-highs and low-lows.

Incidentally, Brooks Wheelan’s official list of impressions includes Kid Rock, Matthew McConaughey and Slash. Not prolific, maybe, but those are some pretty good ones.

On his audition:

I just did stand-up and it went amazing. That’s all that happened. I just went up and did some bits, it was great. […] You’re supposed to do a couple of characters and a couple of impressions and I didn’t do that. I really like John Mulaney, he’s one of my favorites. And he had auditioned with stand-up and got hired to be a writer. I was like, “I’ll just do stand-up and get hired.” I did it, and then I did get hired to be a writer. They brought me in to write for the three weeks before the season started, and then they put me in the cast.

On finding out he was fired:

I was walking on Houston and Avenue A, walking back to our place on Third and D. There was a call from my manager and agent. Usually they’re like, [excited] “Hey! What’s up?” And they were like, [tentative] “Hey dude…” And I was like, “Did I get fired?” And then my manager goes, “Yeah man.” And I was like, “Oh shoot! Yeah, huh.”

Were you joking when you said, “Did I get fired?”

I mean, it was glum, and it was on the day I knew that they had to renew you. So it was like, “Here’s the call.” And yeah, I got fired. […] Nobody wants to be like, ‘Hey man, you got fired.”

But then — all of the producers except Lorne — I went and had dinner with all of them. They’re all super nice like, “Sorry man. You’re really funny, and this sh*t happens.”

These things are Lorne’s decision, right?

Oh, yeah, a hundred percent Lorne, for sure. Man, he gave me a job. I mean, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mad at him. Because you’re mad at anybody who fires you, but the guy gave me a job. And he made the show that I love. So, you know, I think it would be weird if I was like, “I’m not mad at all.” Because you got to be a little mad, you know?

[Great interview, check out the whole thing here]

Lorne Michaels has one of the most unique jobs in entertainment, where he basically gets to be the eccentric king of his own empire. I wonder about his tastes sometimes, when I see cut sketches (especially from Kyle Mooney) that would have been better than anything that made it on the show. But who knows. I’m sure there were other factors at play. Lorne probably did it because he loves us and wants us to be happy. Everything Lorne does he does for a reason. Some people say they’ve never met Lorne and wonder if Lorne Michaels even exists. But honestly, how can you say that? Evidence of Lorne is all around us. It’s in a child’s laughter. It’s in the dew on a morning leaf. It’s in the breeze rustling through the trees. “Lorne,” it whispers.

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