do you get to 'SNL'? How do you get to 'SNL'?
By Aaron Barnhart,
Kansas City Star - 10/22/05
Ever since Jason Sudeikis joined
the writing staff of "Saturday Night Live" two years
ago, the Shawnee Mission West grad has heard the inevitable question:
"People ask, 'How do you
get to "SNL"?'?"
"I don't know," Sudeikis
tells them. "I could tell you how I got there, but
four other people would tell you totally different stories."
Still it's likely that Sudeikis
- who now also appears on the show in sketches - would have one
of the more interesting stories.
Like most "SNLers,"
he toiled for years on the improv circuit, starting with ComedySportz
(now Comedy City) in Kansas City before moving on to the renowned
Second City company, first in Chicago, then Las Vegas.
While most of the writers for
late-night TV shows graduated from elite four-year schools, Sudeikis
attended Fort Scott Community College on a basketball scholarship.
And not only did he drop out, but he also was kicked off the
team. For having bad grades.
"I failed English,"
he said. "I've written professionally for two years. I can
laugh about it now, but it drove my teachers and parents cuckoo
for Cocoa Puffs. We were talking about it last night. My dad
asked, 'What would you do when you went to school?' I
dunno. Just laughing, having a good time. I attended all the
discussions. I just didn't read the material."
Now he writes the material. In the first two weeks of "SNL"
this season, he's authored and appeared in a sketch featuring
"Napoleon Dynamite" star and "SNL" guest
host Jon Heder. Sudeikis also has played Sen. Bill Frist and
future "Nightline" anchor Terry Moran, among other
Working on a turkey-and-beef
combo at Gates Bar-B-Q in Leawood last weekend near his parents'
home in Overland Park, Sudeikis tried to recall the years before
his ambition kicked in and he decided to try show business.
"I was a hyper-procrastinator,
to the point of not doing anything," Sudeikis said.
He laughs at this. He does not
exactly match the tortured-comic description. He's 6-foot-1,
handsome and easygoing. Married to fellow improv comic Kay Cannon
and having just turned 30, Sudeikis is looking at a great future.
"Some of the nicest compliments
I've ever gotten were, 'You look comfortable. You look like nothing
ever bothers you.' My friend Andy Samberg, one of the new cast
members, said, 'Aren't you ever nervous?' And I said, 'No. People
don't like to look at people who are nervous.'?"
A good insight. But Sudeikis
comes by his nonchalance honestly.
His first two years of high school
were at Rockhurst, where his habit of ignoring homework began
in earnest. Not that his folks didn't try.
"The grades thing - my parents
were super (ticked) at me," he said. "My dad (Dan Sudeikis)
played the heavy. He would drive me down 95th Street to school,
yelling at me."
Sudeikis hadn't imagined himself
in a comedy career until Rockhurst classmate Cam Lynch took him
to a performance at ComedySportz. The club, now known as Comedy
City, in the River Market area, staged improvisational comedy
After transferring to Shawnee
Mission West, Sudeikis joined the basketball team and, now bitten
by the comedy bug, the drama team as well. He started attending
workshops at ComedySportz. What he didn't do was homework. He
took remedial English just to get his diploma.
During his second semester at
Fort Scott, he was declared academically ineligible to play basketball.
So he tried out for a play at school, got the lead and was given
a $500 stipend. Now he had two scholarships. And he was
still flunking out.
Sudeikis was driving up to Kansas
City from Fort Scott every weekend to take classes at ComedySportz.
He also wanted to perform but kept forgetting to fill out the
little slip every week telling ComedySportz management what nights
he'd be available.
"I was just irresponsible,"
he admitted. "Now I was failing comedy."
Then the hammer fell. After he
returned to school and played what he called "the best basketball
of my life," Fort Scott killed his hoop dreams on his 20th
"I was redshirted, which
basically means they're cutting me because they're worried about
my grades," Sudeikis said. "I had, like, 36 hours of
'F' at not necessarily the toughest school."
The love for the game started
to evaporate, and Sudeikis started filling out his slips at the
club. There was one last bit of glory at Fort Scott, when he
landed a major part in "The Fantasticks." For that
he credits his mother, Kathy Sudeikis, the oft-quoted president
of the American Society of Travel Agents.
"In my car we always listened
to show tunes," Kathy Sudeikis said. "In his dad's
car it was rock 'n' roll."
At age 22, Jason Sudeikis finally
started to apply himself. He and a group of improv pals from
the club began performing at Java Break in Lawrence. Out of that
emerged a sketch group with the name Der Monkenpickle ("juvenile,
but it sounded funny").
Between that and ComedySportz,
Sudeikis had hundreds of performances under his belt by the time
he and others in their group moved to Chicago.
He found work with the Second
City National Touring Company, Improv Olympic and the Annoyance
Theater. He spent four months abroad in Amsterdam with the group
Boom Chicago. And he was one of the founding members of Second
City Las Vegas in 2001.
It was there in June 2003 that
his Uncle George came to see the show. Sudeikis' uncle is George
Wendt, the former "Cheers" star and Second City alumnus,
who up to that point had played no role in his nephew's career.
But this time Uncle George brought some friends, including Larry
Joe Campbell, who plays Andy on ABC's "According to Jim."
"George and Larry had the
same manager," Sudeikis said. "It's not George's way
to go in and say, 'Hey, you should go check out my nephew.' But
he brought Larry out, and it was a good show, and Larry said,
'Have you ever thought of auditioning for "SNL"?'?"
Sudeikis put together a tape
and got it into the hands of the show's talent coordinator. He
was quickly hired as a writer for the 2003-2004 season.
Twenty weeks a year he all but
lives inside the offices of "Saturday Night Live" in
Rockefeller Center, going through the same trials as hundreds
of "SNL" writers and performers have the last 30 years.
The Monday get-together with the guest host (this week: Catherine
Zeta-Jones) to pitch comedy ideas. The Tuesday night writing
marathon, which starts in mid-afternoon and doesn't end until
The "table read" later
that day, where the freshly scribbled scripts are tested before
the host, executive producer Lorne Michaels and a roomful of
other staffers. Learning that evening which of his scripts have
made the cut. And then the 72-hour sprint to the finish: rewrites,
set design, blocking, rehearsal, show time.
This spring Sudeikis was upgraded
to an on-camera role, and early results suggest he's well on
his way to becoming a top-tier, or repertory, player on "SNL."
He's even auditioned for the "Weekend Update" job.
But he declares himself "just lucky to be in the building"
and claims to think about his future about as much as he's thought
about how he got here, which is to say, not very much.
In fact, Sudeikis says he's still
a hyper-procrastinator. Only now, he said, "there's no time