Question: Could you talk about how you originally got into comedy? (What led you into it? Was it what you were always interested in pursuing?)
Bobby: When I was a kid I wanted to be a cartoonist. Or at least draw comic books or make action figures. Then I started doing the youth summer theatre in my town. Mostly just to hang out with my friends at the diner after rehearsals. When college time came around I got into UCONN for Acting. So I went. I did mostly plays and musical theatre while I was there but we had to a final presentation for our senior year and we kind of did sketches and then a roast. I think that was my first real jump into sketch comedy. Then when I came back to New York I saw an improv show at UCB. I loved it so much and I knew instantly that that was what I wanted to do. I signed up for classes the next day and I have been doing it ever since.
Question: What was your audition like for Saturday Night Live? Did it feature any characters/impressions that have since been featured on the show?
Bobby: My audition process was torture. It was 14 months in between the first time I auditioned and the second time because of the writers strike. The first time I auditioned I believe I did Hurley from Lost trying to open a jar of Dharma Initiative Chili, Turtle from Entourage. I did Mark Payne, and I did another character called Simply Victor that will never be on the show and a bit where I tap danced. The second time I auditioned I think I had a better handle on what they wanted from me. I did like 13 short bits. I believe I did a character called "The Biggest Douche on the Subway", I did Nathan Lane for the National Hamburger Society, I did Snagglepuss at a swingers club, I did Jack Black at a funeral, I did a character called Mark Dark Narcoleptic Narc, I did Simply Victor again and Mark Payne. I also did other stuff that I am forgetting and when I write it out like that I don't know how I got on the show.
Question: In your first show at SNL, you got your character Mark Payne on the air. How did you succeed in getting a character on the air in your first week and what was it like to feature so prominently in a sketch that early on?
Bobby: Honestly, I have no idea. I think it was all a matter of timing and stupidity. I pitched my only good character right out of the gate. Not the smartest thing I have ever done. But it was the only thing I had that I knew really really well. I had been doing that character in a show with my sketch group Buffoons (with Charlie Sanders and Eugene Cordero) for three years so I felt comfortable with it. Everyone was very nice at my first read through and I was terrified. But it went well and it got picked. Still can't believe it. I also think it had a lot to do with the fact that Michael Phelps was hosting and he had just won like a million medals and he was exhausted. All he had to do in the scene was sit and not swim. If an actual actor hosted I don't think it would have seen the light of day. To this day I still cannot understand the chain of events that led to getting that on the air in my first show. We did another one a few episodes later with Tim McGraw that I loved and another two, one with Rosario Dawson and one with Tracy Morgan, that got cut for time. The Tracy Morgan one was the Mark Payne origin story. A flashback to Tracy training Mark at Uno's. I love it more than anything. But it will never see the light of day. The Mark Payne saga is complete in my mind. I love that character and believe it is a big part of what got me on the show. The biggest thrill of all was seeing Mark Payne in the opening credits sequence of the SNL in the 2000's documentary. I can remember the moment I saw it. I will never forget how thankful I was that I worked in Pizzeria Uno for 9 years too long.
Question: One of my favorite things that Saturday Night Live has done in recent years was the now infamous Single Ladies sketch, the writing of which was attributed you. Could you talk about the conception of that sketch, what it was like to work with Rudd, Timberlake & Beyonce and how it felt to see it turn into a pop culture phenomenon?
Bobby: Monday - Kenan showed me the Beyonce video in his dressing room. I wrote down on a piece of paper (That I still have) "Backup dancers for Beyonce". All I was thinking was that it would be funny to see a chubby guy in a leotard.
Tuesday: I asked John Lutz if he wanted to write with me. He said yes. I pitched the idea to him and we started writing it with just me and Andy as the backup dancers. Lutz came up with the structure and made it into a real sketch instead of just a sight gag. People kept telling me that Beyonce had done the show before and that she didn't do any sketch's. We stopped writing it. Half way through the night we got the news that Abby and Michaela were joining the show. We went back to writing and we immediately put them in the sketch, just in case. At this point I did not think we were even going to hand it in.
Wednesday: It went to the table read with Kristen playing Beyonce. She sold it and it did better than I expected. I figured that it would not make it in and it didn't. I was not surprised.
Thursday-Saturday: I kind of have no idea what happened. We weren't doing it and then Andy asked me to come and ask Beyonce if she would do it. I was really scared to go in her dressing room and ask which was ridculous. She was a complete doll. She was so nice and she told me to sit next to her on the couch. I just kept saying, "Thank you, Beyonce" over and over. (A sidenote... I remember one of the women in Beyonce's entourage just kept saying, "Wouldn't it be funny if I was in the background eating a bagel!" It did not make it into the sketch. Weird.) We asked and Beyonce said she would do it if we could pre-tape it because she wanted to concentrate on her musical performances. We said thanks but we would need to do it live. The next thing I know, I don't know what happened. Someone called Justin Timberlake and what seemed like moments later he was at the studio, he bum rushed her and Beyonce said yes. The rehearsal process was nuts because we only did it twice before the show. The choreography wasn't that bad, I just couldn't understand what was happening. I just kept thinking, "What is happening and what have I done". I also remember Lorne coming to the studio half way through the rehearsal and saying that he watched the video and that there were only two back up dancers. I said, correct, but now we have Justin. Then there was talk that I would be cut from it and that it would just be Andy and Justin. I said I completely understood and tried not cry. Andy and Lutz stood up for me reminding Lorne that it was kinda my idea. I will never forget that. I think that the whole thing was a test because that was the last I heard of it. I remember Lutz saying that it was one of the most bizarre experiences he had working the show. Lutz played Justin for one of the rehearsals and he was great. Lutz is one of the best comedians in the world. The next thing you know we did it at dress and people went nuts. One of the crew guys came up to me and said "Congrats on making history." All I could think was that my Dad was going to see me in a leotard on TV. We did it on air and I remember every second. Darrell had the first line, it was Abby and Michaela's very first appearance on the show. And I was on SNL. That sketch, for some reason, I was completely aware of my surroundings. I enjoyed it more than I can explain.
The Next Monday: I woke up and it was in Entertainment Weekly. That is when I realized how strange and amazing working for this show was going to be.
Every time I see a picture of it in the hallway at SNL or hear that song coming from a car, I get chills and just shake my head and laugh.
Read the full interview here:
I think the audition was the most interesting part. Essentially it was:
Audition 1 (four longer bits):
- Hurly from Lost
- Turtle from Entourage
- Mark Payne
- Simply Victor
- Tap Dancing
- The Biggest Douche on the Subway
- Nathan Lane for the National Hamburger Society
- Snagglepuss at a swingers club
- Jack Black at a funeral
- Mark Dark Narcoleptic Narc
- Simply Victor
- Mark Payne
Bobby also reveals that he tried to get Mark Payne on two more times after the first two. I think he might be tired of trying, so he's done trying.
Plus it's interesting to see how Single Ladies just fell together like that. They need to call JT up again, because he was sorely lacking from season 35 (this last season)!