John Mulaney is sharing a story about his days as a writer for Saturday Night Live. It was a Saturday, around 11pm, half hour to showtime. He’s walking through the halls of 30 Rock, stressed and holding a pile of papers in his hands when he is suddenly shaken out of his thoughts by a pair of hands thrust into his face performing a series of karate chops. Startled, Mulaney drops the papers and as he bends down to retrieve them, looks up to see the face of that week’s host, Justin Bieber. Mulaney ends the story with a good-natured, “I’ll never forgive him.”
The 92nd Street Y audience erupts in laughter which has been the case for the past 90 minutes as Mulaney leads a panel discussion with former Saturday Night Live writers Sarah Schneider and Chris Kelly. The duo are now writers of their own half-hour sitcom, The Other Two, which premiered on Comedy Central this past January. Joining the group are the stars of the show, Helène Yorke and Drew Tarver, sharing in a lively conversation ranging from writing for NBC’s long running classic, the comedy writing process in general, and the genesis of the new Comedy Central show.
Mulaney is both witty and inquisitive as he moderates the discussion, sometimes introducing his question with an apology for how boring it is, but being the interviewer, it’s a question that had to be asked, like “how did the writers come up with the plot of their show?” The Other Two is about a teen heartthrob singer and YouTube sensation named Chase Dreams who is not unlike a young Bieber, and for those unfamiliar with the show, a full episode was presented before the panelists took the stage. With seasoned comedy performers Wanda Sykes, Richard Kind, and Jackie Hoffman, the episode’s story centered on the Chase Dreams character attending a local high school dance as a publicity stunt. We see him being pulled out of the high school’s heating vent by his manager, a move based on stories on how Taylor Swift was moved in and out of locations, one time being whisked into a large SUV while folded up in a large suitcase, “like the ones that went on the Titanic,” chimed in Yorke who plays Dreams’ older sister.
The discussion tried to stay on a serious course, but these fast-thinking writers and actors took many of the questions and ran with them into hilarious impromptu routines. Especially when you consider that the team of Schneider and Kelly led SNL into its super-successful 42nd season, what else would one expect. To be fair, there were moments of real insight about how the writers took up the challenge of switching gears from crafting five-minute sketches for SNL to episodic TV with real human characters, or how the actors auditioned and won their roles. For those interested in a comedy or writing career, the information was invaluable, and those looking for a fun night out, weren’t disappointed.
Upcoming 92nd Street Y events include discussions on the writing life, the Broadway hit Come From Away, and the ABC’s top rated show, This Is Us with star Justin Hartley. For more details and ticket information, visit 92Y.org.
Photo. credit: Gianna Bertoli/Michael Priest Photography
From left to right – John Mulaney, Sarah Schneider, Chris Kelly, Helène Tarver, Drew Yorke