Talking ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ’90s TV Shows with Vanessa Bayer
The Brooklyn Comedy Festival is currently underway, and tonight at The Bell House, there are two great shows in store for fans of Saturday Night Live and ’90s TV. After hosting a standup showcase featuring comedians Joe Pera, Erik Bergstrom, Bridey Elliott, and Dave Hill, SNL cast member Vanessa Bayer will take the stage with her brother Jonah, Kyle Mooney, and Blossom’s Jenna von Oy for Series FUNale, a new live show where the Bayer siblings watch and discuss the finale of one of their favorite ’90s shows with a former cast member and special guest. I recently spoke with Bayer about how Series FUNale originated, what it’s like working with her brother, and the upcoming 42nd season of SNL.
You’re doing a show with your brother at the Brooklyn Comedy Festival this Friday, Series FUNale. Where’d the idea for the show come from?
Jonah and I have never done this show before, but we’ve been talking about doing it forever. Basically we’re both really into ’90s TV, so we wanted to do something where we show a series finale of a ’90s show then we discuss it with someone from the cast. For this one we’re showing the finale of Blossom and we’re discussing it with Kyle Mooney and Jenna von Oy, who played Six. So we’re really excited about it.
Why did you want to focus on finales in particular?
Well, finales are so interesting. I mean, sometimes they’re obviously not on purpose — sometimes a show gets canceled after the last episode has aired — but it’s just really interesting the way the creators of a show will decide to wrap it up.
The finale of Blossom is really unique to me, because the way I met Jenna von Oy is that I had remembered the series finale of Blossom being a certain thing…I had thought that they had talked about how it was a TV show the whole time, and then I saw the series finale when it aired as a repeat on the Hub Network a few years ago, and that’s not what it was. When I was watching it then, Jenna and I started following each other on Twitter, so I messaged her about it and she said “No, you’re thinking about this other episode,” which I was. Then she got back to me a month later and was like “Oh, I just realized who you were!” She had written me back not knowing who I was or that we were working in the same industry or anything like that, just to be a nice person, which I thought was so great. So we started messaging each other every once in a while, and then when I did Bonnaroo this summer I was in Nashville and we got to hang out and get a drink together. So I mentioned this idea to her, and then when I got the opportunity to do these shows at The Bell House for Brooklyn Comedy Festival I was like “We would love to do the first one about Blossom!” So that finale is very important to me.
What other shows are you excited to cover?
We’d really love to do all the TGIF shows. We’ve talked about Growing Pains and Who’s the Boss? There’s just so many of them. And again, some of them have finales that you remember, because they were, on purpose, written to wrap things up or they were written on purpose because the show didn’t want to wrap up so they were giving the network a message or whatever. But then there are ones where the last episode that aired is the finale. There’s just so many of them.
What’s it like working with your brother on things like this?
It’s really fun. We have this web series Sound Advice that we work on together. He’s more in the music world and I’m more in the comedy world, but I think we have similar senses of humor. So it’s really fun to get to work with him, and of course my parents really love it. We have different ideas a lot, but we find a good way to bring them together.
And you’re doing other shows at the festival too?
Yeah. Earlier in the night I’m hosting a standup show with lots of funny comedians, so that’ll be more of a traditional standup show. That’s at 7:30 also at The Bell House.
I’m so glad you’re returning to SNL next season! It’s your seventh season on the show, so I’m curious: Is there ever a point where you feel 100% comfortable there?
I think you always have moments where you really can’t believe that you’re there. But at the same time, once you start working there, you’re working so much that you’re just really in it, so you aren’t thinking about it as much. But I think especially as new people come in, you start to realize how long you’ve been there because things are always changing. But yeah, I don’t think you ever feel totally comfortable there, because everything happens so quickly and it’s so last-minute and it’s always exciting in a way that keeps you on your toes.
I was thinking about your SNL characters, and the two that popped out to me as my favorites are Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy and Laura Parsons the child actor. I just love the way you play kids, it’s hilarious. What draws you to playing kids like those two?
Kids are so funny, because they’re not that self-aware, so they don’t edit themselves the way that adults do. Or if they do — like how Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy does — it’s in a way that he hasn’t quite figured out yet. Also, I think both of those kids are being very presentational, and kids being presentational is so funny because they’re kind of miming what they think they’re supposed to do. I just think there’s such a whole world with kids because they’re just so weird but they don’t really know that they are, and that’s just so fun. And also, those are both really characters that are pulled from my life, so they’re a little bit easier to make more specific.
I’m excited that Sarah Schneider and Chris Kelly will be head writers next season. What do you think we can expect from SNL with them in charge?
They’re such great writers and really nice people too, so they’re gonna be great. They have contributed so much in the past few seasons. I mean, a lot of their stuff gets on, so I think a lot of the things that people have really loved from the show that they’ve done they’ll continue to do. It’s exciting to have them be head writers, because they’re both so talented and they do a lot of funny stuff. I’m sure they’ll bring back the kind of stuff they did before — they wrote a lot of those music videos with Kate and Aidy — but I also think that they’ll bring a lot of new things too. They have such strong stuff, so it’s very exciting.