Thursday, March 22, 2012

Let's speculate why Paul Brittain left SNL

UPDATE: Added more info around Jenny Slate, Michaela Watkins, and Casey Wilson.
============================

Speculate on why Paul left? That sounds like a good idea, right? =^)



Paul Brittain is said to have left "to explore other projects."

It sounds like he fell victim to what so many before him did. Basically, SNL is tough for featured players (and sometimes for anyone who's either black or female and who doesn't push their own stuff and get the writers to like them). Typically the featured player has to push their own skits, get a few hit characters or impressions, and slowly prove themselves to the audience and to the writers. Once the popular players leave, the writers slowly move over to the new regular players, and that's when they finally get to shine (sometimes 4 or 5 years into it). It can be very frustrating and obviously requires endurance and some sort of planning and strategy.

The first people to complain were in the 75-76 season (the very first). Garett Morris felt like the writers never wrote for him (he was right). Laraine Newman felt the same thing (also right). The only woman the writers wrote for was Gilda Radner, and it was because she had the flair that Kristen Wiig and others had. Gilda would write her own skits and slowly prove herself to the writers, who would then write for her too (the formula that Wiig, Oteri, and Poehler used). Plus Gilda was part of the National Lampoon radio show, along with Aykroyd, Chase, Belushi, and the head writer, Michael O'Donaghue. So she was already familiar with the cool kids, and they were all friends and clicked well together. (Lorne was actually accused of basically hiring out all of Lampoon, and ironically the other players from the Lampoon radio show that he didn't get were Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, and Brian-Doyle Murray, who competed on the rival show, Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell, and of course all three later joined SNL.)

The next season (75-76), Bill Murray felt it (Bill's rival Cosell show flopped after 14 episodes, and he was hired to replace Chase, who left to make movies). Bill entered the show with the writers already knowing the other players. And so he couldn't get the writers to write for him (Aykroyd wrote him in as a supporting actor, but that's all he could get), and Bill wasn't used to writing his own stuff. Finally he told Lorne that he's really funny (in a funny way) and deserves a skit of his own, and Lorne responded by telling him to do what he just did as a short monologue. He did (explaining how he's actually funny to the audience), which warmed the fans to him and got the writers on his side more.
In the 80-81 season, Gilbert Gottfried complained that no one wrote for him.

Fast forward to 85-86, when Damon Wayans was frustrated that he didn't get his own skits (no one was writing for him, and he only got a small handful of his own  skits through), so he made a skit about him (playing a gay cop), which got him fired. And of course, Damon went to his brother Keenan Ivory, and In Living Color was born (and the careers of Damon, Keenan Ivory, Jim Carrey, Tommy Davidson, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, Marlon and Shawn, Jennifer Lopez, and Rosie Perez).

In 88-89, Ben Stiller joined the show but didn't last long. He had trouble getting his skits through, so he left and later started his own show (Ben Stiller Show).

Later in 90-91, Chris Rock started his SNL career, which he later called very frustrating. No one wrote for him, and when he wrote for himself, he had to write himself as a stereotype in order to get any skits through. He left at the end of the 92-93 season and went to work at In Living Color as an occasional guest player instead. He said he felt a lot more freedom on In Living Color, but one thing he liked about SNL is that the original writers were given credit and ownership/authority with their skits. On In Living Color, they might decide to do your skit without you if you're not around.

In 93-94, Janeane Garofalo started and then left mid season (they started her out as a regular player). The reason is that she was frustrated with all the sexual skits and immature skits on the show then (which was led by Sandler, Farley, Spade, and Sandler's friends, who were writers, and who went on to become writers on Sandler's films now). Her biggest frustration was with Sandler. Basically, when she was written into a skit, it was never a skit she wanted to be in.

Jay Mohr started in 93-94. After being a featured player for two seasons, he wanted a bump up to a regular player. When told that he would be a featured player again (right before his third season would start), he walked out and quit. Read Jay Mohr's book, Gasping for Air Time. In there, Jay talks about how hard it is to fight for air time (you have to get the writers to write for you, or you have to write and push your own stuff... and still get the writers to collaborate with you).

In 03-04, Finesse Mitchell started. He's an incredibly funny comedian, and he managed to become a regular player two years later, but it was also his last season... he felt like he wasn't being written for, and he couldn't compete with all the new players pushing their skit ideas.

In 09-10, Jenny Slate had her only season. Jenny's online videos are hilarious. But she got almost nothing of hers on the show... no one wrote for her and the reason that her online skits are hilarious is half because of her writing partner, who was not writing for SNL.

And that brings us to Paul Brittain who left in the middle of his second season in 2012. Why did he leave? Most likely because he had a tough time getting his skits to air, and again no one is writing for him. But to be fair, no one is writing for any of the featured players. They're focusing on the established players. So the trick is for the featured players to get their own skits in themselves and slowly build trust in their abilities to the writers and to the audience.

==================

More about Jenny Slate and the ladies who left SNL (Casey Wilson, Michaela Watkins, and Jenny Slate)...

The F-Bomb wasn't the issue why Jenny Slate left SNL. If it was, she would have been fired right after that, not at the end of the season (the F-Bomb was at the very beginning). Besides that, Cheri Oteri survived after slipping out an F-Bomb (she put a dollar in the Swear Jar during the goodbyes). So that's not the issue.

The biggest thing that F-Bomb did was shatter Jenny's confidence to push her skits in the meetings and get air time.

Sure the F-Bomb got people fired in the past, but that was because they did it on purpose, weren't humble, and didn't apologize to the producers immediately... both Jenny and Cheri did that (which is why Jenny was kept on for the rest of that season).

Jay Mohr wrote a book about SNL called Gasping for Air Time. Getting air time is a huge struggle (Finesse Mitchell wrote about his struggles with it in an interview, even after he was a regular player... the newbies like Bill, Jason, Andy, and Kristen were making bigger collaborations with the writers than he was), and if you're not an A-type who's fighting for air time (in a good natured and collaborative way), you don't win it. Jenny had that enthusiasm when she started the season, but after the F-Bomb, it was gone.

Read up on some more of the history here:
http://andysamberg.blogspot.com/2009/09/snl-fires-casey-wilson-michaela-watkins.html

And Michaela and Casey also were separate issues. The bigger issue there was that Lorne had just lost a series of A+ women on the show (Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler)... and then he just had Kristen Wiig. He was trying to build out more women who could work up to become the A+ role.
Casey didn't have it in her. Michaela was funny, but she overlapped with Kristen Wiig and didn't bring enough "new" to the table (although Lorne was right that she could hold her own show).

On the same season that they brought in Michaela (08-09), they also brought in Abby Elliott. Abby works great for the show. A few funny characters and she nails hilarious female impressions. That was the mix Lorne was looking for. Abby stayed.

Next was Jenny and Nasim (09-10). Again, Nasim nails the characters and the impressions (her Kim K is super popular). Jenny Slate didn't get the characters and impressions out there (no one wrote for her, and after the F-Bomb, the only thing she wrote and pushed for herself were her hilarious Tina commercials). Nasim had to earn her right to get air time and to be considered funny. It really does go back to Jay Mohr's book, Gasping for Air Time.

So it's not really about clearing the plate of all the women (because Lorne kept Abby when he let go Michaela and kept Nasim when he let go Jenny; Abby and Nasim met the need he was looking for), and it's not about the F-Bomb. It was about getting your stuff on the air and proving to the world that you're funny. Jenny's online stuff is hilarious, and it proves that. But that never translated onto SNL.

Enjoy!

- TAE

8 comments:

AsiaA said...

Interesting post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, great post! My opinion differs a bit, whereas Jenny Slate is concerned and some of the featured players. Jenny, Mikaela (sp), and Casey were all let go together. It was supposed Jenny was fired when she dropped the f-bomb live- something that has gotten those before her fired.(A whole bunch of featured and regular players were let go that year, right?) As for this season, I felt the featured players were all getting much more time than ever before, with Jay Pharoah unfortunately not getting as much. Paul had showed up as lead in several memorable skits and characters recently, as have Tiram and Vanessa. Thankfully, Jay seems to be getting more time recently. I think all four that were/are featured players are some of the strongest cast members in a while. With this and last season of regulars and featured players, it has included some of my favorite episodes. = )

The Animation Empire said...

Anony,

The F-Bomb wasn't the issue. If it was, she would have been fired right after that, not at the end of the season (the F-Bomb was at the very beginning). Besides that, Cheri Oteri survived after slipping out an F-Bomb (she put a dollar in the Swear Jar during the goodbyes). So that's not the issue.

The biggest thing that F-Bomb did was shatter Jenny's confidence to push her skits in the meetings and get air time.

Jay Mohr wrote a book about SNL called Gasping for Air Time. It's a huge struggle, and if you're not an A-type who's fighting for it (in a good natured way), you don't win it. She had that when she started the season, but after the F-Bomb, it was gone.

Read up on some more of the history here:
http://andysamberg.blogspot.com/2009/09/snl-fires-casey-wilson-michaela-watkins.html

And Michaela and Casey also were separate issues. The bigger issue there was that Lorne had just lost a series of A+ women on the show (Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler)... and then he just had Kristen Wiig. He was trying to build out more women who could work up to become the A+ role.

Casey didn't have it in her. Michaela was funny, but she overlapped with Kristen Wiig and didn't bring enough "new" to the table (although Lorne was right that she could hold her own show).

On the same season that they brought in Michaela (08-09), they also brought in Abby. Abby works for the show. A few funny characters and she nails hilarious female impressions. That was the mix Lorne was looking for. Abby stayed.

Next was Jenny and Nasim (09-10). Again, Nasim nails the characters and the impressions (her Kim K is super popular). Jenny Slate didn't get the characters and impressions out there (no one wrote for her, and after the F-Bomb, the only thing she wrote and pushed for herself were her hilarious Tina commercials).

So it's not really about clearing the plate (because Lorne kept Abby and Nasim when they met the need he was looking for) or about the F-Bomb. It was about getting your stuff on the air and proving to the world that you're funny. Jenny's online stuff is hilarious, and it proves that. But that never translated onto SNL.

- TAE

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, however Paul Brittain was constantly in skits and had his own characters. I'm sure he was fired for other reasons.

Anonymous said...

If you watch SNL episodes through Brittain's career there, you will see that even though he was capable, he hardly ever got skits.

Anonymous said...

Well I live close to where Paul grew up and I became curious what happened to his SNL appearances. So I started a Google search which led me to this post. Honestly it came as a surprise to me he lasted more than 1 year - I thought he was a terrible addition. I am sure he is a capable actor and will find future opportunities like the many before him but as far as SNL, he did not add any laugh value. And speaking of added value, Andy I LOVE your work and you are extremely funny but I certainly hope you apply yourself more thoroughly to your professional writing endeavors than this post as it is extremely difficult to read seemingly due to your more ‘conversational’ sentence construction. I would prefer to hear you speak your post with the seeming pauses and backtracking thoughts than read. But in today’s society of instant bleeps, blurbs, and posts and diminishing emphasis on writing skills in the education realm, anything goes which is unfortunate. But I will still look forward to seeing you perform in all mediums!
P.S. I have the android game, Baseball Hero. Besides the games help which refers to killing players, if you look closely on the ‘league’ scoreboard you will see a team called Dick in the Box – too funny. Maybe a tribute to you!

Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of growing up with Paul B. My theory is that he never outgrew the jerk phase that he had in middle/high school.

Anonymous said...

The fact that the guy a few comments up thinks he's talking to Andy Samberg personally is hilarious. Hey dude I don't know how to break it to you, but you probably are borderline retarded. You should see a doctor immediately.

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