Who doesn’t love Bobby Moynihan? He’s easily one of the most lovable cast members in the history of Saturday Night Live. Even when playing kind of awful people (Drunk Uncle), depressing people (Janet Peckinpaugh), or gross people (Ass Dan), his affection for them is infectious. Though it was difficult to be a big character guy at the show when big characters were being de-prioritized, when he was on camera, it was clear he was having so much fun living out his boyhood dream. Those same qualities are on display in the new NBC comedy Mr. Mayor, which represents Moynihan’s most high-profile gig yet in his very busy post-SNL life.
On Vulture’s Good One podcast, Moynihan discusses his early years on SNL, some of his favorite characters and sketches, and more. 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 His Early Years at SNL
Looking back now, with the hindsight of being gone from there for a couple of years, the first year is silly to me. I feel silly about it. I had no idea what was going on. I had no idea what I had just been handed. I had no idea what was about to happen. I was just playing at SNL and just hoping to please Lorne, and going, “That’s Fred Armisen!” It’s like SpaceCamp. There’s a movie called SpaceCamp where a kid dreams to go to space camp, and his little robot friend accidentally messes with the simulator and sends him to space. A bunch of 13-year-olds end up in space and they have to get back, and they do. But that’s what it felt like; it still does. I just rewatched those Janet Peckinpaugh sketches for the first time in years, and I was laughing — not laughing because I thought they were funny, just laughing because I was like, This is insane.
After two years, it definitely became a job, and it was more about panic. Two years in, it was like, Well, I have officially run out of all my ideas that I have had. I think looking back, I was a good enough writer that I could write for myself, but I definitely could’ve used the help. It wasn’t like, Well, we’re not worried about Bobby. It felt a little bit like, He can handle himself. And I was like, But I need help! It was definitely around the same time Jay Pharoah, Paul [Brittain], and Taran [Killam] came in, and for two years, I was the only new male on the cast. So if Andy [Samberg] was like, “Do I have to come in for that one line?” I was like, “I’ll do it!” I was still very eager. And that adds up. That adds up on your time in the show for the week. So when Jay, Paul, and Taran came, it just became that much harder.
I wish I had come in with a couple people. I wish I had siblings like Jay. They came in with four people. And also, I love John Mulaney, but I knew him very well before we got the show. There’s always part of me that goes, I wish they had just thrown me in with a writer that I didn’t know and we could have become a beautiful writing team. But it’s all in hindsight. Every day I think of a million things I did wrong at that place and a million things I did right by accident.
On the Sketch Where He Kissed Katy Perry
It was just a weird thing. It also led to the most awkward moment of my life. I was new on the show, it was a very weird sketch, and towards the end of it, Katy Perry goes, like, “And we don’t kiss on this sketch? They have to kiss at the end.” I just remember looking around and being like, “I just want to, like, triple down. That was on camera. Everyone heard that.” I just remember not wanting to be a creep and just being like, “It was her idea!” I was super nervous about that. But yeah, it was a big swing. I remember Lorne liked it, but it was definitely different. It felt like a “piece,” rather than a sketch, which is something I noticed Lorne subtly would do. He would call something a “piece” when it wasn’t necessarily the funniest thing in the world. But to be honest, I would hold that easily in the top ten of stuff I got to do on SNL, just because of the feeling I had the second it ended. The second that sketch ended, I went, like, Hey, I think I wrote like a pretty cool sketch! That was fun! I was genuinely floating on the clouds in that moment.
On the Rejected Farewell Sketch He Wrote for Seth Meyers
When Seth left, I tried to write a really beautiful thing where Seth said good night, and Drunk Uncle came over to him and gave him a drink. We walked to the edge of the “Weekend Update” table, and there was a door and I opened it and it was snowing. And we stepped outside, and it was cold, and there was another door that just said “Pub” or “Weekend Update Pub.” We opened that door and it was all the “Weekend Update” characters sitting in the bar, and Seth came in and everybody clapped and cheers-ed him. I wrote stuff like that, like fantasy SNL sketches, while I was sitting in my office at 4 in the morning, and Lorne would be like, “No, I don’t think so.”
On His Favorite Ass Dan Death
I’m going to say Butt Dave was definitely the best. Also, a piece of trivia: Butt Dave was originally Jeff Bridges, but Jeff Bridges did not show up to the tape, so I had to do it. Jeff Bridges was hosting that week, I think. It got cut, so they ended up showing it on the Ben Stiller episode or something. The original “Under-Underground” didn’t air, but it was on like four or five shows before it finally aired. And the first time they did it, it was Jason and January Jones, not Nasim. She’s Little Blaster.