TV

Alex Moffat On Returning To ‘SNL’ And Portraying A Dane Cook-Type Comic In ‘The Opening Act’

Alex Moffat is returning to SNL this week for his fifth season and, well, he doesn’t quite know what to expect. He went as far to say he was writing down my questions for how the show will work during a pandemic so he can remember to ask them himself this week for his own knowledge. Even in a recent interview with Lorne Michaels, the attitude seems to be, “fingers crossed.” Though, Moffat says he’s being tested for Covid-19 every day and the plan, at least, is when it’s possible to do the show as at all normal, they are going to try. And it’s going to be quite a few weeks, as SNL, with the presidential debates and election all coming up, takes on five shows in a row without a break, which they’ve never done previously. And Moffat’s Eric Trump will sure to get some added attention as the real-life version is soon to be questioned by the Manhattan DA about the Trump Organization’s business dealings.

Moffat is also in a new film, The Opening Act, (opening Oct 16th) about the world of standup comedy in which he plays Chris, a, let’s say, spirited comic played in the vein of mid-2000s Dane Cook – a comparison Moffat says he didn’t think of before, but also doesn’t dispute.

Also, as it turns out, Moffat and I have a mutual friend in common and, without going into details, I do know Moffat has done some incredibly kind things for this friend who had a tough few months around the turn of the year. And having knowledge of all this, I wanted to make sure to point that out because we could all use more stories of kindness these days.

A mutual friend of ours said to thank you for the “pumpkin and pie.”

Oh, she did? My pleasure. Anything I can do to bring her things fresh from the farm.

So those are two separate things? It was not a pumpkin pie? It was a pumpkin and a pie?

Yes. A pumpkin, a fruit of the farm, and a pie.

I know they have had a pretty tough few months and she has told me about some of the stuff that you’ve done. And that is very, very thoughtful. It’s really nice to hear stuff like that.

Well … they’ve become good friends of my wife and me. We really love them.

So, the movie. What is that you’re doing?

[Laughs] “What is that?”

Well, because you’re playing a personality I haven’t really seen from you before. Even with you playing tons of different personalities on TV. It feels like this is like a Dane Cook mid-aughts kind of personality. Is that accurate?

That’s a fun comparison. Yeah. It was meant to be sort of a guy who maybe doesn’t always write the cleverist jokes, but kind of has a lot of zip and pizzazz on stage and kind of enjoys the extracurriculars of the job maybe even more than the job, or the art of standup. And, yeah, Dane Cook is a funny comparison. I think there are probably a lot of people in the biz who are like this character.

I can’t tell if you’re surprised by that comparison or not. Your tone sounds like you’re not surprised.

I’m not surprised. I honestly hadn’t thought of Dane Cook. I guess the character’s probably like an amalgam of … can I say the term fuck boy?

Yes.

I don’t know if that’s appropriate. But again, I was kind of looking at him more as just the guy who loves the nightlife, loves to boogie, and uses his stage presence and charms to kind of get by. Anyway, to answer your question. I’m sure Dane Cook was in the stew of characters in my head that I sort of based it off of. I didn’t necessarily base it off of any one person.

You should just say that’s the real you. Look, you love the nightlife and you love to boogie.

Oh yeah. I mean, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

This feels like it would have been a big summer for you. You are at that stage at SNL where you start showing up in a lot of movies. Did the pandemic derail anything for you? It had to, right?

Well, maybe. Honestly, I hadn’t thought of it a whole lot when everything kind of shut down and everything started happening socially. I don’t know, I just sort of bunkered in with my wife. The overwhelming feeling that I had over and over again this summer was like, “My God, we are very, very lucky in the grand scheme of things.” As far as like, would I have worked more this summer?

Well because of the show you have a limited window and I didn’t know if you had stuff lined up that fell through because of everything.

There were a few things that were either lined up or pending, but everything gets pushed. And anything that was sort of on the docket, as things move around less, maybe with my SNL schedule, a project that I would have gotten to be a part of, I might not be part of it anymore. But again, things move around so much. I’m sure the opposite will be true, too. And maybe something that was going to shoot last spring is going to shoot next summer? And it’s all so much up in the air that it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around what the summer would have looked like. You know what I mean?

Well, speaking of, you now go back to SNL. Do you even know how that works yet? Do you still show up Monday? Will meetings be remote?

These are great questions and I should write these down so that I can remember to ask them myself. I think that a lot of things are still coming together. I know that these are things that the producers have had endless conversations about. I get a lot of emails about COVID protocols and safety measures and new procedures that they’re putting in place. And it sounds like they’re doing everything they can to make sure this is as safe and smooth as possible next week. I mean, I think we’re going to going to be like any other first week, in the sense that we have a read through and they’re going to pick their favorite stuff.

I read Lorne say that he’s only allowed to have two or three people in his office now, which is obviously very different. That’s what I don’t understand. How does the Monday meeting work with two people in the room? Is it stay home and do that remotely?

Well, the first week’s schedule I think is a little bit shifted around. I mean, I think we’re doing the read-through a little bit earlier so we can kind of get ahead of it just a little bit, but yeah. I mean, I’m going to kind of show up ready to work and see where they tell me to stand and what to do.

Will you all be in the same room or do you not know yet?

I don’t totally know all the details and everything. It sounds like the goal, whenever possible, is to be in the same room whenever we can. We’re basically getting tested every day.

Oh wow.

Yeah.

That’s intense.

Yeah, my nostrils now, if they don’t get tickled every day, they’re longing for it. I think the idea is, whenever we can, to try to have some sense of doing it the usual way. And then obviously being as distanced and masked and as hand-sani’d as we possibly can. And as tested and as safe as we can, if that makes sense.

I was very impressed with the romantic comedy you filmed in your apartment for the at-home episode.

Well, thank you. Thank you. Thankfully I live with an entire movie crew. Everyone was happy to have something to do. And by an entire movie crew, I mean my wife, who now can say she’s done lighting, set design, cinematography, and directing. All of that for a romcom: a huge budget romcom I might add.

Your guy who just bought a boat character … do you know a guy with a boat and, if you do, do they call you and go, “This isn’t about me, right?”

[Laughs] I’ve had a few people talk about other people that they think it is, having no idea that they’re also a little inspiration. That’s another one where it’s not necessarily based off of one particular person. It’s some of the guys who I knew in college who may or may not have been on the lacrosse team. It is also based loosely on a dad of a girl I knew in college who once at a barbecue told me about all of the boats that he had. And I said, “Oh that’s quite a fleet you have.“ Add there was a long pause. And he said, “Well, if you live on the Bay, you got to have boats.” I was like, whoa, words to live by.

Have you been paying attention to Eric Trump’s woes? He’s going to have a big few weeks coming up.

A big few weeks?

Well, he’s being ordered to testify about fraud within the Trump company. So I feel like he’s going to be in the news a lot coming up.

Oh, wow. Yeah. That sounds like he will. I mean, as we all know, I think the whole gang there, whether in the family or just in the administration there, is a never-ending gift that keeps on giving to the comedy world, whether we like it or not.

I’m going with not.

Yeah, I hear you.

But Eric’s going to get the special spotlight.

He might just get a nice special spotlight. People text me pictures of him all the time. And a friend texted me a picture of him with his arm around the dude who just won the U.S. Open golf tournament. And they both of course were not wearing masks, looking not at all like there’s a pandemic and a lot of social unrest going on. And it’s like, nope, all we care about is that the U.S. Open winner is staying at Trump Westchester.

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