Ask any comic what their scariest audition story is, and they say Saturday Night Live. The fact that the whole Lorne Michaels-led process is shrouded in mystery only adds to the anticipation and intrigue. So for comedy junkies, The New York Times’ compilation of interview stories, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, and remembrances is mandatory reading. You should really go and scroll through the whole thing now (where else on the Internet today can you read new info about 22 different auditions?), but we’ve compiled some of the best quotes below.
1.) “There was a woman scouting for the show, and she said: “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.” – Molly Shannon
2.)”In makeup, they go, ‘Hey, Jimmy, some advice: Lorne Michaels doesn’t laugh when you audition. So don’t let that throw you.’ Then the audio guy, he goes, ‘Hey, little advice – Lorne doesn’t like to laugh.’ I’m like, ‘O.K.’ Then Marci [Klein, a longtime SNL producer] comes out: ‘Jimmy, they’re ready for you. But hey, a little advice for you. If Lorne doesn’t laugh, be cool.’ I’m like, what is this guy’s problem? He’s doing a comedy show. Why does he not like to laugh?” – Jimmy Fallon
3.) “Chris [Kattan] and Will [Ferrell] and I all went out – I don’t want to say where, because it’s a famous restaurant and it’s Italian-owned and I don’t want any trouble. But I ended up throwing up all night from food poisoning. All the blood vessels in my eyes were broken, and the blood vessels in my face. I did not sleep. I walked into the audition and the makeup person said, ‘Oh my God, what happened to you?’ I looked like I was in a car accident.” – Cheri Oteri
4.) “I didn’t get it that year [of her first audition]. They hired Horatio [Sanz], Jimmy [Fallon] and Chris Parnell, and they said: ‘We’re not taking any women this year. But maybe next year.’ I was at peace with it.” – Rachel Dratch
5.) “The directive for my callback was even less structured than the first audition. But first there was a meeting with Lorne, face to face. I started to go through what I was going to do, and Lorne basically said, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t do that. We’ve already seen this.’ By the end of it, I said, ‘Are you saying, basically, come up with a whole new audition?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah.’ I [had come] in with a briefcase full of counterfeit money that I’d bought at a toy store. And in the middle of whatever Lorne was going to say, I was going to start stacking the equivalent of $25,000 on his desk. ‘Listen, Lorne, you and I can say whatever we want to say. But we really know what talks, and that’s money. I’m going to walk out of this room, and you can either take this money or not. And I can be on the show.’ But it was just not a joking atmosphere. It was just tense. And I never get to do my gag.” – Will Ferrell
Of course, it all worked out for the above performers. Writer Dave Itzkoff also talked to someone who didn’t make the cut: Marc Maron. He shared, “If it panned out, my life would have been dramatically different. I wouldn’t be mildly obsessed with Lorne Michaels. I talk to people about Lorne because I’m hung up on it. I feel like I need to talk to him again to get some closure [Laughs].”