Any longtime fan of Saturday Night Live is familiar with Robert Smigel, who came into the show during its disastrous 1985-1986 All Star season (with Robert Downey, Jr., Anthony Michael Hall, Billy Crystal, etc.) and was one of the few who survived the purge when Lorne Michaels returned to SNL in 1986. Until a few years ago, he had written for Saturday Night Live off-and-on since 1985, he created the Ambiguously Gay Duo, and he was the head writer of Late Night with Conan O’Brien for years, where he created Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. Smigel is basically one of the best all-time sketch and late-night comedy writers, and he sat down for an hour and a half with Bill Simmons this week on the B.S. Report for a fascinating look back at Saturday Night Live and his time on Late Night with Conan.
I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast , as it’s a must-listen for hard-core fans of SNL. In it, Smigel talks at length about that disastrous All-Star season of SNL; confesses that 1995 — when the NY Magazine called SNL a “grim joke” and Janeane Garofalo was criticizing the show from afar — was one of the lowest points in Lorne Michaels’ career on the show; that Jan Hooks, Phil Hartman, and Kevin Nealon basically saved the show in 1986; and that Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression was the closest the show has ever gotten to the cultural relevancy it had during its early run.
He also revealed that Bill Murray is probably the funniest guy he has ever known (and told a fantastic story about Murray) that Chris Farley was probably the most explosively funny SNL cast member ever (and that Matt Foley was probably the best character in SNL history), and that Will Ferrell was the best all-around cast member in the history of the show, simply because he could do everything: Straight impressions; exaggerated impressions; he could lead a sketch; he could play a background character; and he could play straight man.
He also spoke about the Hans and Franz movie that Arnold Schwarzennegar actually pushed, but that fell apart after a Schwarzennegar box-office bomb. One of the more interesting stories, however, was the conversation about the Da Bears movie that Smigel actually left Conan to write, along with Bob Odenkirk (SAUL).
Here’s how that movie would’ve gone down:
Odenkirk had this great idea. It was during the baseball strike and, [we] wanted to make it about sports being taken away from the regular fan. Odenkirk had this idea of having Martin Short play this young, inheritance guy who buys the Bears and wants to change Soldier’s Field to an exclusive 200-seat [stadium] with just couches and piano bars. [He was just this] fruity guy who called it Soldier’s Club. We had that going, and there was a whole parallel story about how all the sports were going on strike at once, and how the fans all reacted. Then it ended with the superfans [coming up with] a sport called ‘fanball’ during the strike by accident while they were mobilizing. They go town to town to mobilize, saying ‘We’re going to fight back,’ but they would only get into fights with other fans. Like, they go to Boston, and Sandler wasn’t famous, but he was going to do a cameo, and Farley would go, ‘We all need to mobilize because, despite our differences between our superior town and your piece of crap town and your beans and your farts, and Sandler would be like, ‘F***K YOU, YOU MOTHERF***ER. BEANTOWN RULES.’ And then they would get into a fight, and every city they went to would end up in a fight, and then one of them gets the idea that this could be a sport … each team of fans would be in an arena and would have to pass their fan from one side to the other just by carrying him and punching out all the other fans, and in the movie, this becomes a huge success, and Farley becomes and huge fanball star, and he gets to host Saturday Night Live.
Yikes. I can definitely see why that movie never got made.
It’s a great podcast, though, and I cannot encourage you enough to check it out.
(Source: BS Report)