‘Tis this season for TV show panels and receptions, whether they are officially billed as FYC events or not.
Yet an event Wednesday night, sponsored by the Writers Guild Foundation at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills, was unlike any other this season. Huge lines to get in? Sure. Not an empty seat in the house? Undoubtedly.
But it was a unique hour-long-plus Q&A that set this evening apart as it upended some typical traditions. Like, the two participants sprinting full speed down the aisle of the theater and onto the stage.
Andy Samberg interviewed Seth Meyers in a freewheeling conversation that touched upon everything from “Dick in a Box” bobble heads to an impersonation of a Hasidic Jewish accent Hitler might have done to the Samberg sketches that got cut hundreds of times according to the still-bitter-about-it star of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
But let’s back up a bit. Although the conversation was ostensibly about NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” it kept coming back to “Saturday Night Live,” where these two funny guys first intersected with each other and cohabited Studio 8H for a number of years together.
“I got there first and then you left before I did,” Meyers noted of his 12-year stint at “SNL,” where he was head writer and anchor of “Weekend Update’ for the second half of his tenure. “It’s kind of like mentoring a kid — and then he becomes your doctor.”
Samberg almost immediately started nailing Meyers on the number of times his sketches were cut from “Update.” Apparently they all revolved around a character named Topical Frank, whose references to everything were from the ’80s and ’90s and even before — like “The Great Train Robbery.”
“Lorne [Michaels] wanted something more current,” Meyers noted, before Samberg started talking about another writer who would be the actual one who nixed Topical Frank, a 6’10” dude who ended up slapping Samberg with the part of the anatomy that in polite company is usually hidden behind a zipper.
If you’re laughing reading about this, you can imagine what the audience was doing.
During a discussion of “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” the conversation quickly turned to the fact that everyone thinks Meyers is Jewish — but he isn’t. It then evolved into an anecdote of him at an electronics store on 39th Street where the Hasidic proprietor figured out that Meyers was somehow on TV. He asked what show, what network and then finally his name. Presuming Meyers was Jewish, his whole attitude changed and he practically shouted his congratulations. Meyers told the whole story with an accent. (But not a very good one. Samberg intimated Hitler could have done better than that.)
Speaking of shouting, there’s Nicolas Cage — or rather an infamous running skit involving Samberg portraying the bombastic Oscar-winning star of films including “Leaving Las Vegas” “Moonstruck,” “Adaptation” “Face Off” … and a slew of perhaps less worthy motion pictures, including one of Samberg and Meyers’ favorites, “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.” (“More iguana shots than a documentary on iguanas.”)
Much to the surprise — and delight — of both Samberg and Meyers, the actor agreed to come on “Update” and be part of the parody.
“It was not even remotely like Nic Cage. It was just a lunatic person that we called Nic Cage. To his enormous credit, he recognized that and thought that was funny and came on ‘SNL’ and we did it as twin Nic Cages,” Samberg said. He talked about how they gave Cage the script, but that it was apparent that he didn’t bother to read it.
Meyers recalled that at the end of the sketch, the real Cage banged his fist on the desk so hard that it visibly jarred him, in a good way, even as Cage ended with a line talking about “a three-way with the Declaration of Independence.” “Flames shot out of his head. It was so fucking good!” Meyers said.
“Nic Cage is still, for my money, one of the most interesting people in the world to watch. Genuinely, I was enraptured. Then it finished and he was like, ‘OK.’ We walked out and skipped down the hallway, we were so excited,” Samberg said.
Meyers ribbed his former co-star about how often he was confused with another “SNL” great, Adam Sandler, which morphed into the mixed-up name of Adam Samberg.
They talked about making bets on how long it would take someone to call Samberg “Adam” instead of “Andy,” and Meyers related the one time he was mixed up with Bill Hader, whose name isn’t similar and who looks nothing like him.
Samberg brought other beloved “SNL” colleagues into the mix by telling the audience he consulted with Fred Armisen and Will Forte about questions to ask Meyers. Quoting a series of text messages verbatim from his phone, let’s just say that they revolved around that usually zipped-up part of the anatomy — and that Meyers refused to answer.
The sassy one-on-one session rolled in fine form with audience Q&A — as men with mics rushed to get to all the questioners — and ended only because Meyers had to exit the way he’d come in — racing — to catch a red-eye back to New York.
(Proceeds from the event went to a Writers Guild Foundation program to assist military veterans in their writing careers.)