John Goodman has always been able to move freely between the comedy and drama worlds. He’s not a comic but he’s frequently the funniest person in comedies. He’s back to doing the lord’s work in the new season of The Righteous Gemstones, bringing a coiled fury to the role of a televangelist and megachurch honcho and paterfamilias — a close cousin, if you will, to Brian Cox’s Logan Roy on Succession. But early in his life he aimed for a more overtly comedic career. And, he says, it did not go well.
Goodman appeared on The Tonight Show Jimmy Fallon, and he wound up discussing SNL, which he’s hosted a whopping 13 times, not counting his seven guest appearances over the years. But his first blush with the sketch show was a non-starter. In 1980, years before his breakthroughs in Raising Arizona and on Roseanne, Goodman auditioned for SNL, which was one of his favorite shows.
“It’s not that I had any material to show or anything good to do. I just knew they’d hire me, ’cause I’m a nice guy,” Goodman recalled. “It’s the worst thing I’ve ever done in front of people in my life. I wrote something about 15 minutes before I went over there and… oh, God, it was awful.”
Had Goodman gotten the gig, he would have joined the semi-notorious 1980 season, the first without Lorne Michaels and which debuted a completely new cast, including Joe Piscopo, Gilbert Gottfried, and Charles Rocket.
But it all worked out in the end. Goodman would eventually find fame on another comedic show, which led to him frequently hosting the program that once turned him away. “It used to be my favorite thing I’d do every year would be Saturday Night Live,” Goodman said of his hosting duties. “They always made me feel at home, and you’re with a bunch of smart and funny people. It just feels great.”
You can watch Goodman’s virtual appearance on Fallon above.