How did Melissa land SNL gig?

Windsor Star - - YOU - ELAHE IZADI

By the time Melissa McCarthy hosted last week­end’s Satur­day Night Live, she had al­ready be­come a highly an­tic­i­pated pres­ence on the show for one rea­son: “Spicey.”

Her take on White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer, which de­buted in Fe­bru­ary, has be­come a stand­out mo­ment for this sea­son of the NBC show, help­ing draw record view­ers and even re­port­edly un­set­tling the pres­i­dent him­self so much that Spicer’s longevity in the job be­came ques­tioned. Con­sid­er­able buzz built ahead of that episode when cell­phone videos and pho­tos emerged ahead of time of McCarthy in char­ac­ter as Spicer trav­el­ling along a busy Man­hat­tan street on a por­ta­ble podium.

So how did this year’s big po­lit­i­cal com­edy mo­ment come to be? It all started with an air­plane pitch about a mono­logue to Kris­ten Ste­wart, McCarthy ex­plained to The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter.

McCarthy was headed to New York for a movie shoot, while Ste­wart was en route for her SNL host­ing gig.

“She has a rep­u­ta­tion for not lov­ing to be in­ter­viewed, which I think be­comes very funny, so I shame­lessly pitched her (this mono­logue idea where she’s) do­ing the worst open­ing ever,” McCarthy told The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter for their cover story about SNL’s “yu­u­uge year.”

At the same time, SNL writ­ers had been watch­ing Spicer’s first few media brief­ings.

“They were just so in­sane,” writer Kent Sublette told The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter.“It was a Tues­day, and one of our pro­duc­ers, Erik Ken­ward, told me that Melissa had flown out with our host and had a mono­logue idea. That’s when I just blurted out, ‘Melissa should play Spicer.’ ”

In that lead-up to that mo­ment, many peo­ple had lamented that they wished Chris Far­ley was still around to play Spicer, Ken­ward told the out­let.

“In a lot of ways, Melissa is the clos­est thing just in terms of sheer power and com­edy phys­i­cal­ity that we have to Chris Far­ley, and I knew Lorne (Michaels) felt the same way,” Ken­ward said.

“I called him and he im­me­di­ately was like, ‘Ab­so­lutely. Let’s make it hap­pen.’ ”

Sublette, who’s friends with McCarthy, knew the co­me­dian would be OK play­ing a man and be­ing out­ra­geous on cam­era.

In fact, McCarthy played Far­ley’s famed Matt Fo­ley char­ac­ter on SNL for the 2015 40th an­niver­sary episode. When she ap­peared on Week­end Up­date, Fey in­tro­duced her: “Oh, it’s just Melissa McCarthy do­ing her favourite char­ac­ter!” There was still a prob­lem. “I don’t do im­pres­sions. I don’t have the ear for it,” McCarthy said. “But when I read the script, I was like, ‘Oh, God, that is juicy, but I don’t un­der­stand how we’re go­ing to phys­i­cally make it work.’ To which the amaz­ing spe­cial ef­fects per­son at SNL was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s not that big of a deal. That’s gonna take me, like, 15 min­utes.’ I was like, ‘Hey!’ ”

Sublette told her “it was more about the at­ti­tude — the bom­bast and the anger.”

McCarthy told The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter she was “so ner­vous” play­ing Spicer for the first time.

“It was very quiet at first, and I’m think­ing, ‘The au­di­ence is al­ready turn­ing be­fore they even know what’s go­ing on.’ There was this weird, great de­lay, and first peo­ple fig­ure out it’s Spicer and then they fig­ure out it’s me. You could just feel it in the room. And then I get off, and I have all of th­ese texts, like ‘Oh, my God, are you look­ing at what’s hap­pen­ing?’ I didn’t quite know what to do with the re­ac­tion.”

The sketch was a big hit, even over­shad­ow­ing chat­ter about Alec Bald­win’s Trump im­per­son­ation that week.

And while SNL writ­ers wor­ried that it would be too soon to bring her back the fol­low­ing week, there was more to tackle: A new con­tro­versy erupted over the White House re­sponse to Nord­strom drop­ping Ivanka Trump’s ap­parel line.

The im­per­son­ation still draws view­ers. An es­ti­mated 10.3 mil­lion view­ers tuned in Satur­day, mak­ing the McCarthy-hosted episode SNL’s high­est-rated May edi­tion in seven years, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary ratings num­bers from Nielsen.

For this sea­son, only Bald­win’s turn as host on Feb. 11 had more view­ers (McCarthy played Spicer on that show, too).

Amid ru­mours the real-life Trump may fire his press sec­re­tary, this lat­est Spicer sketch ended with her char­ac­ter re­ceiv­ing a mafia “kiss of death” from Alec Bald­win’s Trump.

That, plus the lo­gis­tics of work­ing around a non-cast mem­ber’s sched­ule, has left some won­der­ing whether that was McCarthy’s last turn as Spicer.

Sublette told The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter that the show didn’t have a short­age of po­ten­tial “Spiceys.”

“If it hadn’t been Melissa, it would have gone to Beck (Ben­nett). He has an amaz­ing im­pres­sion,” Sublette said. “In fact, he reads Spicer for the read-through be­cause Melissa’s not usu­ally there.”


Melissa McCarthy’s im­per­son­ation of White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer has gen­er­ated plenty of buzz for SNL.

Melissa McCarthy

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