The New York Times' 'SNL' Oral History: We Laughed, We Cried, We Learned 5 New Things

BySamantha Rullo

It's not surprising that after 38 seasons and countless cast members, a lot of people have plenty to say about Saturday Night Live. First there was enough to fill 600 pages in Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, and still, there are more stories to share. Today, The New York Times published its own comprehensive oral history, "The God of ‘SNL’ Will See You Now," which focuses on the show's audition process. The article features 22 SNL cast members, all sharing their audition experiences. Some of the stories are familiar, like Bill Hader's favorite about him and Andy Samberg making each other nervous in the elevator on the way to their auditions.

Everyone confirms that auditioning for SNL is an incredibly nerve-wracking experience, that Lorne Michaels maintains his reputation as the hardest man to get a laugh out of, and that Chevy Chase comes off pretty smug, as usual.

Still, The New York Times was able to uncover some new material, and it's fun to see what each actor chose to audition with, and hear some of the advice they were given — good and bad. Here's some of what we learned about how our favorite SNL stars landed their big break, and a sample of their work.

Molly Shannon Got Some Bad Advice

Apparently, one of the SNL talent scouts wasn't on the same page as Michaels and the SNL audience. According to Shannon, this was her advice: "'Whatever you do, when you audition for Lorne, don’t do that character, Mary Katherine Gallagher. Lorne will hate that. You’ll never, ever get hired if you do that for your audition.'" Luckily, Shannon didn't listen and Mary Katherine Gallagher became so popular a character that she got her own movie, 1999's Superstar.

The New Guys Have Some Stories, Too

A few cast members featured in The New York Times story have plenty of unheard stories to share, because they're new themselves. Last season's featured players, Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon, as well as relative newbie Taran Killam, talked about their auditions that weren't too long ago. We learned that Killam followed a string of impressions with a very odd-sounding musical theater sketch and wasn't immediately hired for the next season. For her audition, Strong played Elizabeth Dole responding to a heckler, while McKinnon did an impression of Temple Grandin that she still hopes will get on the show one day, as well as her Penelope Cruz that already has.

You Must Love New York

Current head writer and Weekend Update anchor, plus future Late Night host, Seth Myers was asked a pretty simple question by Michaels during what turned out to be his final interview, "Do you think you can live in New York?" Myers was pretty shocked by the question, saying: "Does anybody get this far in the process, and then is like, 'It’s definitely New York? Well, if you guys can’t be flexible on that, I’m not sure if I can be flexible on that.'" Little did Myers know he'd someday learn about all of New York's hottest clubs.

Andy Samberg Has a Flea Market to Thank for SNL

After that intimidating elevator ride with Hader, Samberg made then-head writer Tina Fey laugh and earned a callback. The day before he was due to audition again, Samberg bought some short-shorts from a flea market, and jokingly put on a little '90s-themed show for his friend and SNL writer Liz Cackowski. She liked it so much that she suggested Samberg do the same thing at his audition and according to him, his response was, "'O.K., I’ll do it.' Because what have I got to lose, really?" His impromptu sketch even turned into a recurring character on the show, making this the only time bike shorts have been acceptable since the Spice Girls broke up.

Marc Maron was Rejected

The host of popular comedy podcast WTF with Marc Maron and star of IFC's Maron is the only non-cast member featured in the article. He unsuccessfuly auditioned for SNL and recalls an awkward meeting with Michaels and producer Steve Higgins where he was "a little high on pot," and where he thinks he lost them. "It was all very loaded. And then he just starts looking at me, to a point where Steve Higgins goes, 'Lorne?' And Lorne goes, 'You can tell a lot by looking into someone’s eyes.' And then I took a candy. Lorne looked at Steve, and the meeting was over. I thought I failed the candy test." Though Maron says he's now a little obsessed with Michaels, it probably worked out for the best, because WTF is one of the best podcasts out there.

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[Image via NBC]