Summer is usually uneventful for SNL fans, but this year things are different thanks to a new movie written by Colin Jost and starring an array of his SNL friends. Available tomorrow on Netflix, Staten Island Summer is a Caddyshack-esque memoir of Jost’s final summer as a lifeguard before going to Harvard, and with the help of director Rhys Thomas, producer Lorne Michaels, and fellow SNLers like Cecily Strong, Mike O’Brien, Kate McKinnon, Fred Armisen, and Bobby Moynihan, the movie serves as the perfect dose of SNL goodness to tide fans over until September. Ahead of the premiere, I spoke with Moynihan about how he got involved in the film, what he’s learned from working with Jost, and what a nostalgic teen summer movie based on his own life might look like.
How’s your summer been? Have you had any time to relax?
Yeah! I’ve been working a lot but I also got to relax a lot. I’m trying to go on vacation soon – I went on a few trips earlier, so yeah, it’s been wonderful. After seven years on SNL it’s nice to relax and have a good time. Thankfully the fear of getting fired has subsided a bit, so it’s nice.
What’s it like going from being crazy busy with SNL to getting a break from it every summer like that? Can you shift into relaxation mode easily?
In the beginning I didn’t like it so much because I was antsy to get back. I was just so happy to be working there and I wanted to get back, but now I’m definitely at a time where I like a little bit of a break. [laughs] And I’m also working on a lot of other stuff too, so it’s been fun.
I saw you have a part in Sisters, too. I’m excited for that.
Yeah, I can’t wait for that. Paula Pell is the best. Tina and Amy play sisters who, when they were younger, they were known for throwing amazing parties – Tina was kind of a party girl and Amy was the one who organized everything and got everything ready. Then they find out their parents are selling their house, so they decide to have one more party, and I’m a guy who they went to school with who goes to the party. I can’t wait for it. It was one of the most fun things in the world.
But first, you’re in Staten Island Summer. When was it filmed?
Two summers ago we shot it, and then last summer we went back and did a couple reshoots and it’s finally coming out. We call it Staten Island Summers because we did it for two summers in a row, but yeah, it was a long time ago!
How would you describe your character to someone who hasn’t seen the movie yet?
I play Skootch, who’s worked at the pool for what seems like forever and I’m not going anywhere and I’m kind of just this guy who doesn’t do anything but lifeguard; he does it year-round and he’s kind of just a big pot-smoking idiot. I like to say he’s the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the movie. [laughs] So he’s kinda gonna be there doing his thing no matter what.
He does seem like the most enlightened of the bunch.
Yeah! From start to finish, he’s fine. There is no problem. It was a very easy role to play.
Not a hard state of mind to get into?
[laughs] No, and I was a lifeguard for years when I was a kid, so I knew about that. Lifeguarding is the best job in the world – I made more money when I was a lifeguard than I did in my first couple years of acting.
You’ve worked with Colin Jost for years now, so does it feel weird or at least a little surreal to become a character in his life story like that?
Yeah, it does! I kind of love it though. Me and Colin have worked together a lot on SNL and written characters together – one of the best things in the world is we wrote this character called Anthony Crispino I do on Weekend Update, and his friend from high school is Anthony Crispino and he’s actually an extra in Staten Island Summer. [laughs] There’s a scene in the movie where I’m standing next to the real Anthony Crispino, and it’s awesome. We shot it at the Great Kills Swim Club in Staten Island where Colin used to go. If you look on the ground at the entrance they have these bricks of donors, and it’s so funny because half the names of the donors are the names of the characters in the script, and you’re like oh wow, this is awesome – he got to go back to his hometown and shoot a movie in a place where he used to work. It was the best thing to be part of.
What’s it like to collaborate with Jost on things at SNL? Has he taught you anything about how you write or approach characters?
Definitely. I wouldn’t have considered myself a writer when I first got hired at SNL. I had some good friends who I’d improvise stuff with and then write it down, but I had to learn structure and especially editing. Colin’s very good at cutting it down especially with writing our Update things. You know, you write something and perform it for six minutes, and it can be a chore to keep them entertaining by getting it down to three – as far as getting those heavy-hitters out there, Colin’s really good at that.
So if Staten Island Summer is a movie about Colin Jost’s final summer before college, what would a movie about your final year back home look like?
Wow. Probably a lot of me at home drawing comic books while listening to DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and I’m watching old SNL episodes and just sitting there trying to educate myself. [laughs]
Staten Island Summer is available on Netflix tomorrow.