For a faux soap opera on a late night comedy goof-em-up program, “The Californians” has managed to stir up a lot of feelings in the general public. Namely, feelings of sublime giggly joy or sheer blind rage. There’s rarely an in-between reaction for this recurring SNL sketch of yesteryear featuring blonde left-coasters twisting the English language into baffling shapes while discussing traffic directions and crowding around a mirror. On Tuesday night’s edition of Late Night with Seth Meyers, SNL alum Bill Hader explained how the sketch came to be.
If you’re hoping for an elaborate academic unpacking of the symbolism of “The Californians,” you may be in for a bit of a disappointment. Hader, who currently has the Meyers-affiliated Documentary Now! to promote, shared that the genesis for the sketch bubbled up thanks to goofing around at table reads while waiting for Lorne Michaels.
“We’d just be sitting there waiting, for like, 10 minutes for Lorne, so we’d start this bit where we’d go, ‘Hey man, did you go to L.A.?’ ‘Yeah, yeah.’ ‘How’d you get back to your hotel?’ And then we’d go, ‘Well, dude, I would go down Sunset, then I would take a left on La Cienega, and I’d take that all the way down to Pico, hop on the 10, hop on the 10 West, take that all the way down to the beach, then head up the PCH.’ And we just would do these things for hours. We did that for years. Kenan Thompson was in on it. Andy (Samberg) would get in on it.”
That bit would later be morphed into a soap opera sketch by Fred Armisen and writer James Anderson, introducing us to The Californians Era. This interview chunklet is definitely worth a watch. Hader shares what it was like to have Armisen lean hard into his character and even manages to sneak in a mini Lorne Michaels impression. Hit play on the magical rectangle located at the top of the page to watch.