The muses smiled upon Aidy Bryant when she found a ridiculous recipe for an “overnight salad” in a cookbook for sale at a Portland hardware store/thrift shop while shooting the second season of Shrill last summer. Right away, Bryant started singing a little tune about it. Little did she know, it would lead to the last sketch to air on Saturday Night Live before the pandemic shut down the studio version of the show, giving “Overnight Salad” an unexpected poignancy for her. It’s fitting because, in retrospect, the charming yet deeply sinister sketch felt like the culmination of the work Bryant has been doing both on and off SNL.
On Vulture’s Good One podcast, Bryant talks “Overnight Salad,” shooting SNL at home, and how doing so shaped her plans for the future there. You can read some excerpts from the transcript or listen to the full episode below. Tune in to Good One every Tuesday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.
On the Origins of “Overnight Salad”
We were in Portland, shooting Shrill. And I think maybe the second episode of the second season, there’s a scene that happens in a hardware store. Our production designers and location scouts are really great for Shrill. And so they found this place that was basically … the front of it was a hardware store, but the back of it was half thrift store, half saddle shop for horses, as you’re wont to need. And basically, as we were just killing time between scenes, we were going through the thrift store area. And Lindy West, who wrote the book Shrill, found this weird self-published cookbook. We were flipping through it, and there was something — I think it said “Grandma Galutso’s Overnight Salad” or something. Then over the course of hours, we kept talking about, like, God, there’s something so sad about making a salad overnight in hopes that it tastes good the next day when what’s good about salad is that it’s fresh, I guess? Just everything about it made us sad. And also the idea that it’s a proud recipe for someone. And there was so much mayonnaise in the recipe, which just felt so gnarly.
So then around set, I started singing little bits of the song, and we were just laughing, and other people were chiming in. And Rob Klein, who was the head writer of SNL — and now he writes on Shrill with me — we just were sort of like, “That’s it. That’s going to be a big hot sketch for us in the darkest hours.” It is really funny to me that basically in March — which is really when you’re starting to run truly out of ideas and you’re just hurting; you’re kind of limping in the race that is finishing the season — that was when I returned to my notes and was like, Uh, I guess “Overnight Salad”? So Rob and I wrote it together for the show.
I always sing little songs. It’s how I’ve written lots of songs for SNL, basically; it’s just little germs of ideas. Same with the “Joan Song” that I wrote for Harry Styles. It’s always little tunes that I’m singing around and then later I’m like, Well, maybe that could be something. There were little threads of it that we came up with on the set of Shrill, which was basically just this woman hoping that it impresses her family, and that there’s a lot of sorrow, just really wanting to have status with her family based on her salad.
I think what we really liked was the idea that it’s sort of a solo fantasy that then is completely shattered. You’re almost in her dream world. And then it’s kind of shattered by this reality of: This thing is basically poison, and it’s disgusting. It’s kind of like a basic classic sketch where you take a simple premise and then heighten and heighten and heighten. I mean, I would say my favorite part of that was her thinking that making this salad would make her husband the “king of the guys.” I just loved that it was, This disgusting salad is going to make other men think “that guy really fucks.” It just seems like such an insane line of thinking. Or that her daughters would be so proud of her. So it was just taking it to the turn, keeping it simple. This is part of why we wanted to do it with Daniel [Craig] — just finding an actor who could let it rip, just go hard at me. I love to play characters that are like, “Of course, yes,” while someone is screaming at them.
My favorite spot in the show is the last sketch of the night, always — and that was even when I was a kid. So when you get to be in that space, it’s like, why not try something? I don’t think the first joke comes for like 30 seconds, but I always like that build. I think it leads to big payoffs, where you’re along for the ride. There’s something a little more narrative-based in it than maybe your typical live sketch, which might be a little more game-based.
Not to get too heavy with it, but I honestly think there’s something to be said about the female servitude of making food. I think obviously dynamics have changed a lot over the decades, but there’s still a “mom makes the food” kind of thing. That energy just exists in the world. It’s something I’ve been thinking about in quarantine too, because I’m such a bad cook. I’m trying to get better. But I’ve had this experience a million times — like once I tried to make cookies and then I used salt instead of sugar because I just wasn’t paying attention. They were disgusting, and you throw them away. I just think there’s something really sweet and really sad about spending all night thinking that the outcome is going to be good, and then it’s horrible. I think it’s particularly female to do it through food and to make it in an effort to her family. There’s a deep desire for love and adoration, and the only way that she can get it is through cooking, and she’s instead gone the opposite way. I think there’s something kind of true about that; that feels kind of real. I remember nights as a kid where my mom worked to make dinner and then [me] being like, “This is gross.” It’s maybe the cruelest thing that a person could do in that dynamic. There’s something sort of emotionally human about it.
On SNL at Home
When we were first talking about doing SNL at Home, I was just like, “No, we can’t.” And not on the producibility level. I was just so sad, being in New York and hearing constant sirens, and I don’t live far from the Javits Center where they had set up a temporary military hospital. I was just like, “How are we going to do this?” We had multiple crew members lose family members from COVID. I think the week before one of our first shows, we lost Hal [Willner], our music supervisor. It was just like, “How are we going to do this? We’re just too devastatingly sad.” And then we started doing it, and I gotta say, I was totally dead wrong. I was so grateful to be doing it and just get on Zooms with everybody. Initially, I was like, Man, this is going to suck. It’s going to feel like this really neutered version of SNL.
In the end, sometimes when you have extra parameters, you have to get creative or you have to think outside the box. And certainly, like when I think about the journals piece that I did, or “Eleanor’s House,” those are things I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever pitched or written for the show, that I did because we were at home, and they ended up being some of my favorite things I did all season. Same with working on the sketches where it was groups of us: It was so complicated. We had Zooms that were going, but we were also running actual filming on our phones. For every sketch, we would do multiple takes. There were probably over 50 files for every sketch of audio, video, all the different things that we would upload. Then our post-production team would coordinate. It was so complicated. I kind of can’t believe it happened. That was so early too, in the pandemic, as far as where we are now.
I’m so proud, especially of our post-production team. Matt Yonks, our post-production supervisor, he did that all. He wrangled all those editors, all those actors, and got that footage in to look like a show. It was pretty amazing. It was cool because it basically took all the systems that make SNL and shattered them, and then we had to start from scratch. It’s something I hope we never have to do again, but I’m also really proud of what everybody made, and how we managed to make it like an ensemble show even though we were all really far from each other.
On Staying at — or Leaving — SNL
When I was in Chicago, I sometimes did ten shows in a week, and I just don’t really do that anymore because I’m working on Shrill. So being on SNL, I think being away from it and having to do those shows at home, it’s made me truly appreciate and sort of fall in love with a live audience all over again. Especially at SNL, sometimes if you write something that you love and has made you and your friends laugh all week, and then it eats shit at dress [rehearsal] and you’re like, Damn, I really loved that thing. But that audience hated it. And fuck that audience, they didn’t get it because they were fans of Justin Bieber or whatever. They waited out all night for those tickets and they ruined my good sketch. There are times where you have this kind of adversarial feeling towards the audience where you’re like, I wish you got that sketch. I do feel like being forced to do comedy in my living room in front of a green screen with my husband and dog as my only sounding board, it did make me like, Oh yeah, I get to do one of the most special things in the world, and I get to do it at this place that’s done it for almost 50 years in this room where magic happens. It sounds so corny, but it really is a very special place, and that room really allows for extremely stupid shit to get huge laughs. What a joy.
I don’t want to and I can’t stay at SNL forever. I want to make room for those new people to become the fifth-year people and the eighth-year people. And they’re ready: Look at Bowen [Yang], look at Ego [Nwodim], look at Heidi [Gardner], look at Melissa [Villaseñor], look at Chris Redd. They’re ready; it’s happening. So it’s kind of a bittersweet, weird moment. But also, sometimes I’ll be on a plane and someone will be like, “Hey, Li’l Baby Aidy!” And I’m like, Wow, I feel 400 years old. How dare you call me Li’l Baby Aidy. But I also am really grateful for that time.
I literally have asked Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg, Rob Klein — all these people — I’ve asked them, “How do you know [it’s time to leave SNL]?” And they always just say, “You’ll know.” It’s funny because I actually think, on some level, I was getting to that feeling. I think I was getting there, and then these At Home shows happened, and then everything was kind of turned upside down. And I don’t have that feeling right now, so I don’t know. I’m waiting to know that feeling. My hope is that I’ll know that feeling at the same time as Kate [McKinnon] and Cecily [Strong] or some of the people who I started there with — Beck [Bennett], Kyle [Mooney]. Because I think it is kind of a generational thing. It’s kind of like your class that you come up with. I was just thinking about this the other day — that Kate, when we first started, was this little dorky, freaky alien who is like just a little New York goof. And Cecily and I were such Chicago hicks. I was just thinking about how different things are now, and how we’re all juggling other productions on top of SNL. And just what a massive change it is. I can feel that part of it. And that feels like part of the feeling. But I don’t know. We’ll see.
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