Backstage | Meet John Mulaney, Simon Rich and Marika Sawyer: SNL Writers, John Hamm fans

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“After a long night of smoking cigarettes and eating gelatin, you may feel the urge to visit the powder room. A lady does not do this while company is present. Wait until all your guests have gone home and the house has been cleaned, then you may go to the woods to relieve yourself. If it ends up being diarrhea, you must leave society and live in the woods as an animal. Never return.”

— From “A Ladies’ Guide to Party Planning”

Did you see that sketch from last week’s “Saturday Night Live” called “Pool Boy?” Ashton Kutcher, wearing a blond wig and goatee, plays a pissed-off pool boy named Angel who is pained to learn that his recently passed 110-year-old bed mate left him nothing in her will. That is, except Stage V chlamydia. The sketch came from the minds of Simon Rich, John Mulaney and Marika Sawyer.

Rich, Mulaney and Sawyer don’t look much older than college students. After a Master’s Tea hosted this week by the Yale Record in the Branford College common room, the funny wunderkinds spoke to scene about their favorite sketches of all time, Jon Hamm and a sketch that never made it on the air called “Filipino Baby-sitters Club.”

Q: What actually happens in your sketch, which never was produced, titled “Filipino Baby-sitters Club?”

John Mulaney: It was a fake episode of “The Baby-sitters Club.”

Simon Rich: And all of the members are middle school-aged girls who join the club for fun to have adventures, to solve mysteries. Except that one member of the baby-sitters club is an older Filipino woman who is there purely out of economic necessity.

J: So she wants to baby-sit in that neighborhood. But they have a monopoly on the neighborhood.

S: So she has no choice but to join the baby-sitters club.

Marika Sawyer: And solve mysteries with them and do their carnivals and stuff.

S: Even though she is purely in it for sustenance.

M: She’s a woman with a family that she needs to support.

J: She has a son, and she needs to take care of her son, but they always want to do like apple-bobbing and stuff.

Q: Funny is such a hard thing to quantify. Was there a moment when you guys realized, “Oh I’m funny; oh, I can make a living out of this?” Or did someone tell you that you’re funny?

S: I still don’t think I’m particularly funny. I’m the least funny person in my whole family. So I just still feel like I’m getting away with an amazing con job.

(Pause)

J: That’s not true. You’re very funny.

S: I was waiting for you to offer similarly self-deprecating comments to our reporter.

J: I don’t know in terms of funny. The first summer I lived in New York, I learned that people could make a living in comedy. I was like “Oh, you can do stand-up and you can get paid for it a little and you can write for a show and that pays.” It was seeing it in real life.

M: A lot of times the most insecure people are the funniest people. And it’s usually the people who are like “Oh my God guys I’m really funny” — they’re not that funny.

Q: What is your favorite SNL sketch of all time?

S: Good question.

J: Oh, that we didn’t work on?

S: My favorite is “Japanese Game Show” where Chris Farley is an American tourist who has unwittingly found himself on this game show, and he doesn’t speak Japanese, and it turns out that it’s a very high-stakes game show. That’s my favorite. That’s my favorite sketch.

M: I have one that probably no one agrees is the best sketch. Even I don’t think it’s the best sketch, but I just think I love it because me and my sisters really loved it growing up. It was a very obscure sketch that no one remembers. John Goodman was the host and it was an adult literacy class. He was a student in an adult literacy class and he kept saying that he “ruled the school.” I just really loved that sketch always and I’m the only one I think.

J:I don’t know. Fred Armisen’s Native American comedian is one of my favorite things.

Q: Do you guys have a favorite host that you’ve worked with? I know that’s a very political question, but someone who you really thought was funny and on his or her game.

M: We recently had Jon Hamm, and everyone loves him because he’s like a great guy and super funny. He’s just really, really good at the show.

S: Jon Hamm was a great host. He’s been there twice since we’ve been there and super talented, funny and a great live performer.

J: Like 100 percent commitment.

Q: Another similarly politically charged question: least favorite host?

J: Oh, no comment.

S: It’s unfair almost…

M: It’s also a very specific skill set. It doesn’t mean you’re good or bad.

Q: What are your favorite sketches that you have written? Ones that you’ve gotten the most feedback on?

S: The ones that we’ve gotten the most feedback from were probably — we wrote a sketch for Justin Timberlake where he plays Cornelius Timberlake, his great-great-grandfather coming to Ellis Island.

J: He’s imagining what the life of Justin Timberlake will be like.

S: That was probably our most popular sketch.

J: Out of things that like, “Oh I think people are watching this online and enjoyed,” that was a big one. One of my favorites we did this year was Celebrity Family Feud with Mackenzie Phillips.

Q: Do you look at Hulu to see which of your sketches are the most viewed?

Collectively: No.

J: That’s just one that I’ve been told.

M: If you go online and read people’s reviews, you’ll kill yourself. You have to sometimes think about writing for your job and not for Internet people.

J: Or for cool people.

S: “Rocket Dog.” That’s my favorite sketch that we’ve done. And it aired at 12:55 a.m.

Q: Is [SNL producer and creator] Lorne Michaels really as scary as he sounds?

S:He is, but I should point out that historically the people who say Lorne Michaels is intimidating are comedy writers. And most comedy writers have never had an actual boss before, and those people come from incredibly adolescent backgrounds where they’ve spent their lives being a touring stand-up comedian or like a magazine writer or doing plays at [Upright Citizens Brigade] Theatre. He might just be intimidating because he’s the first person in a suit who we’ve ever worked for.

Q I always have this image of him in the sketch in the 70s with Paul Simon wearing a turkey suit.

J: That’s how he looks still.

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