We got to hang with John for a little Q&A session while he was in Philly this week, and we covered everything from Boy Meets World to boybands. (The boyband part was mainly just for us, though.) Check out the full interview below!
Q: You get asked a lot of questions about writing for SNL, and Stefon in particular, but we were actually more interested in how the character of Herb Welch came about, because he’s absolutely our favorite.
JM: Oh my god, I’m really glad you like Herb Welch! Well, I remember Bill [Hader] wanted to do an older reporter who walks around and hits people in the face, and then we had both seen this New York news clip on YouTube—-there’s a news anchor arguing with a reporter, named Ollie. It’s from the 90s or the late 80s maybe, and Ollie is just old, and there’s clearly some contention with the anchor, like, he used to be the anchor and now he’s not. And from that we just said, “Well what if this guy is like an old reporter who really hates that he’s not able to be the anchor anymore and hates that they’re in charge of him?” And so we wrote one for Anne Hathaway, and it was really fun. All Saturday of that Anne Hathaway show we were trying to get the level right because Bill needed to hear how loud the [microphone] hits were, so he has an earpiece whenever he does Herb Welch so he can hear how loud the mic hits are. And we were so focused on the technical things, that I had forgotten how funny it was, so when it did well we were really excited, and it became one of my favorite things to work on with Bill. Herb Welch is just such an angry, really funny person, and I’m so glad you like him. It’s really fun to come up with his little asides to Jason [Sudeikis] who plays Jack Rizzoli, the anchor—calling him a mannequin and a lifeguard. Those are so fun.
Q: There are a handful of shows on television that have obvious SNL ties— 30 Rock, Parks & Rec, and Portlandia. Are there any plans for you to possibly get involved one way or another with any of those shows in the future—with either writing, or maybe a guest appearance?
JM: Oh I mean I’d love to. I love Portlandia, it’s so great. I missed the first few episodes when it aired so I went back and just did a marathon of the first season and it’s so funny and it’s so great for Fred [Armisen]. Because when we have our read-throughs every week, we have like 40 pieces and end up picking seven, and so there’s all these things that Fred does that no one ever gets to see. With Fred, I just really couldn’t like anyone more and Portlandia is just pure, uncut Fred’s sense of humor, and Carrie [Brownstein] is so funny, too. And Jon Krisel, who actually directs some things for SNL, and used to work on Tim & Eric, is the producer and director of that show and he’s amazing, so it’s just three people that I’m huge fans of together. It’s such a great show. Shows like that, that are really from like one comedy voice, are great. Louie feels that way, too. I just love Portlandia, and 30 Rock and Parks are hilarious, too. So yeah, I’d do anything that any of them would ask me to.
Q: Who are some of your favorite musicians or bands of all time? And who would you love to see as a musical guest on SNL?
JM: I’d love to do anything with David Bowie. He’s been on a couple of times, and he had a really cool performance in the ‘70s when Martin Sheen hosted that I’ll sometimes just watch over and over on our video server at work. I’m just a huge fan of his, and that would be amazing. We did a David Bowie shoutout with Stefon where we said that he was his dad. Lots of other bands I’m sure I’d enjoy, but that would be the coolest for me. I mean, Paul McCartney was amazing and Elton John was so cool, but I’m just like “I like everything you do, David Bowie”. That would be what I’d say to him.
Q: Who would you say was your first childhood celebrity crush?
JM: That’s an excellent, excellent question. I have weird celebrity crushes. Uh, Yvette from the movie ‘Clue’, she plays the maid. And I was a little kid, and it’s almost perverted how much of a sex object she was. Oh, Alyssa Milano from Who’s The Boss, but by the time she was on Charmed I was in high school, so before that. I was a little too old for Topanga, but I recognized that she was attractive. I probably wasn’t too old, I was just more interested in adult women as a young boy.
Q: If you could put together the “Ultimate Stand-Up Comedy Show” where you could tour with any comedians, living or dead, who would be on that tour?
JM: Hmm, Nick Kroll.. Joe Mande.. Sheng Wang, I don’t know if you know Sheng Wang. Bernie Mac.. well, The Original Kings of Comedy is one of my favorite things ever. Yeah, I would tour with The Kings— just one weird break where I come out in like a t-shirt. That’s a good question. I mean, it would be fun to tour with a lot of the people I watched when I was young. I loved every stand-up comedian when I was a kid, and there were guys like Dennis Wolfberg in the ‘80s and ‘90s. A lot of those comics made such an impression on me when I was little and it would be really cool to do a show with them. I didn’t mean for that answer to sound so corny.. there’s just so many comedians I look up to. Gosh, who else? Emo Phillips, I don’t know if you know Emo Phillips. These are also people who I never get to see, so I’d want to do a tour with them just so I could watch them.
Q: I think it’s fair to say that you get asked a lot of the same questions pretty often when you do interviews. Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to talk about, or be asked about in an interview, but never get the chance to?
JM: Oh that’s a great question. That’s an excellent question. You guys have had a lot of great questions. Sorry that I keep saying how good the question is and not answering it. Well, I guess I would say that there’s some SNL sketches I’ve worked on—-this is not the answer, by the way, but—-there’s some sketches that I worked on that no one ever mentions, that I really liked. I worked on this sketch with Fred where he was a weather vane in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ that we did on the Anne Hathaway show. I don’t mean that I want to be asked about that, but if I had to think of something that I never talk about, there’s a bunch of, like, one-off sketches that were a lot of fun for me that I never get to talk about.
[This last set of questions was a “This or That?” kind of game]
- The Sandlot or The Mighty Ducks?
JM: The Sandlot because it lives larger in my memory. Like the scene where the fat kid is explaining how to make a s’more. There’s just a lot of moments in The Sandlot that I think about a lot. And The Mighty Ducks didn’t hit with me too hard.
- Mr. Belding or Mr. Feeny?
JM: Mr. Feeny. He seemed more cultured. Belding seemed like they didn’t work too hard on him as a character. I mean they’d sometimes refer to like Mrs. Belding and his life, but it was a very thin character. Feeny was like a cultured man who was very wise and he was a gardener, and he had a lot of things going on.
- Joe Montana or Joe Mantegna?
JM: Joe Mantegna, ‘cause he had that episode of SNL he hosted in the ‘90s and the whole monologue is a kid and his dad walking out, and he goes, “Excuse me, can I help you folks? Why are you leaving?” and they were like “I’m sorry, we thought you were Joe Montana.”
- Gene Hackman or Hugh Jackman?
JM: Hmm. Andy [Samberg] as Hugh Jackman. Gene Hackman normally, but if Andy is playing Hugh Jackman, I’d pick him.
- ‘NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys?
JM: ‘NSYNC. Chris Kirkpatrick? Joey Fatone? Lance Bass?… yeah, definitely ‘NSYNC. I don’t know anything about the Backstreet Boys. I should have said 98 Degrees, or O-Town.
Thanks again to John for taking the time out to hang with us!
And shoutout to Marcia just for being awesome.