Top 10 Crazy Stories Behind Legendary SNL Skits

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Top 10 Crazy Stories Behind Legendary SNL Skits

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Jason McLean
You won't believe these crazy stories behind the best “SNL” skits. For this list, we'll be looking at the hilarious, odd and wild origins of — or later fallout from — some of Saturday Night Live's funniest skits and characters. Our countdown includes “Diner Lobster,” “Wayne's World,” “More Cowbell,” and more!
Transcript
Behind the scenes, from New York, it’s Saturday night! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Crazy Stories Behind the Best SNL Skits.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the hilarious, odd and wild origins of — or later fallout from — some of Saturday Night Live’s funniest skits and characters. We will be ranking based on how interesting the background story is, combined with the quality and popularity of the sketch or recurring bit.

#10: Seafood Isn’t Funny
“Diner Lobster”


In 2010, SNL writers John Mulaney and Colin Jost had an idea for a musical parody of “Les Misérables,” with the premise that ordering lobster in a diner is never cool. Unfortunately, nothing happened with it. That was, until 2018 when Mulaney returned to host the show and Jost was co-head writer. The pair revived their old idea with Kenan Thompson playing the doomed lobster, Kate McKinnon as his daughter Clawsette, Mulaney as the waiter and most of the main cast taking part. It was an instant hit that several people agreed seemed to come out of nowhere but just worked. Now, fans look forward to a new musical number every time Mulaney hosts.

#9: Hands Up
“Movie Pitch With Stefon”


Stefon is one of Bill Hader’s most popular and enduring characters. From his origins in a skit with Ben Affleck called “Movie Pitch” to a recurring three-year stint as a City Correspondent on Weekend Update, he only grew in popularity. Stefon’s signature characteristic, putting his hand over his mouth as if to gasp, wasn’t originally part of the script, though. It was instead something Hader started doing to cover his own laughter. The character’s co-creator John Mulaney would throw new jokes onto the cue cards just before the live broadcast, which meant Hader would only hear them for the first time as he spoke them, and sometimes just couldn’t stop himself from cracking up.

#8: Olympia Café
Multiple Sketches


While a restaurant that only has three specific items on the menu may seem a little far-fetched, SNL’s Olympia Café is based on a real place. John Belushi used Chicago’s Billy Goat Tavern, a restaurant he frequented in his Second City days, and in particular, their staff, as inspiration for this famous skit. While we’re not sure if they always only sold Pepsi (not Coke), chips and “cheeburger, cheeburger, cheeburger, cheeburger” or if Belushi focused on the people and embellished the rest for comedic effect, it’s clear that life started to imitate art after SNL made the place famous.

#7: Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin
Multiple Sketches


From the moment Sarah Palin entered the national spotlight, it was clear to everyone that Tina Fey was the perfect person to play her on SNL. Fey apparently agreed and while no longer a regular cast member, returned as a guest several times playing the Alaska governor during the 2008 Presidential Campaign. However she refused to appear in a two-shot with the real Palin, so when the VP candidate did appear on the show, she was in a cut-away standing next to Lorne Michaels, before crossing Fey on stage. Fey later said that if the two had appeared together “that’s what they’ll show when I die. And they still might, but they’ll have to splice it.”

#6: Made in Canada
“Wayne’s World”


Wayne Campbell wasn’t the only character Mike Meyers brought with him to SNL from the Canadian TV show show “It’s Only Rock & Roll,” but it would turn out to be the most successful. Meyers had enough confidence in Wayne’s potential to ask one of the show’s biggest stars, Dana Carvey, to play his sidekick Garth, but Lorne Michaels and his team were clearly less sure, and only gave the inaugural Wayne’s World sketch the last slot of the night. The audience loved it, and it became a recurring skit that frequently kicked off the show, and spawned two hit movies that would be ingrained in the cultural psyche for years to come.

#5: Herb Welch
Multiple Sketches


In 2001, correspondent Dick Oliver got into an on-air argument with “Good Day New York” anchor Jim Ryan over how the veteran reporter was, or rather wasn’t, doing his job. While this unusual exchange turned some heads at the time, it wasn’t until nine years later that it would enter the cultural consciousness thanks to Bill Hader and SNL. Hader channelled Oliver into Herb Welch, an argumentative, out-of-touch and quite popular recurring character. Welch also had a habit of hitting people on the head with his microphone. That bit didn’t come from Oliver, but rather from Hader joking around while rehearsing a completely different reporter character a week before he premiered Welch.

#4: Heavy Story
“Chippendales Auditions”


Chris Farley may be known best for playing motivational speaker Matt Foley, but it’s this 1990 skit that really put him on the comedic map. The premise was simple: Chippendales executives had to choose between guest host Patrick Swayze, and his chiseled body, and Farley with his bulging stomach for their next male exotic dancer. It was Farley`s jiggly physicality that made this a hit, and the sketch’s success cemented his signature comedy style. Unfortunately, it also meant he would maintain unhealthy eating and drug habits that would lead to his untimely death in 1997. Co-star Chris Rock later remarked that “as funny as the sketch was...it’s one of the things that killed him.”

#3: Coulda Been Norm
“More Cowbell”


It may be hard to imagine anyone but Christopher Walken asking for more cowbell, but we almost got Norm Macdonald. He was the SNL host who would have played the record producer when Will Ferrell originally pitched the famous skit, but Lorne Michaels rejected it that week, and at least six more times. He eventually gave it the green light when Walken was hosting, so Ferrell re-tooled it for the notable deadpan star, and the rest is history. It also got history right, for the most part, according to members of Blue Oyster Cult. While some of the names were wrong, SNL captured the vibe of their “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” recording sessions pretty well.

#2: Voted Off the Island
Keep Andy/Dump Andy


SNL’s history is full of times where the real-world story is wilder than the skit it inspired. But there was only one time where the real world story and the skit were one and the same. After repeatedly annoying the SNL audience with his antics, both on air and off, legendary experimental comedian Andy Kaufman left his future on the show up to its viewers. SNL asked the audience at home to vote by phone whether to keep or dump Andy. They voted him off and Kaufman respected the decision, though he did buy local commercial time during subsequent episodes. Jim Carrey would later dramatize this in his Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon.”

#1: Pryor Notice
“Racist Word Association Interview”


Getting Richard Pryor, the biggest comedy star in the world in 1975, to host SNL wasn’t an easy task for the show in its first season. NBC wanted a delay in case they needed to censor the unpredictable host, something Pryor refused. Pryor, meanwhile, had several demands, including that the network hire Paul Mooney as his writer. The network subjected Mooney to what Prior called a condescending job interview, so the pair created a skit where Pryor got to clap back at Chevy Chase’s boss character, launching racist epithets at him while interviewing for a janitor job. While Chase had lobbied for a skit with Pryor, the sketch kicked off a rivalry between the two comedians.
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