If I asked you who Kyle Mooney is, would you know? What about Beck Bennett? Unless you’re a comedy enthusiast like me your answer is probably “I have no idea.” (They’re both featured players on SNL) So, do you know who Brooks Wheelan is?
Some people might actually know the answer to that last question. “Wasn’t he the guy that ‘Saturday Night Live’ just fired?” Technically the answer to your question is a big fat yes, but I’m not going to let it go by that easily.
It’s an honor to be fired from SNL. Brooks Wheelan would totally agree. Let me explain:
There is a strange sense of mystery around my favorite thing in the world that no New York Times article or biographical book can answer; how does SNL work? Although I’m still trying to figure that out myself (what I devote my spare time to), there is a lot we do know.
For starters, to be in the cast you have to be invited to audition. SNL spies go out and find people from Seconds City, UCB, and Groundlings (among other places like Internet sites) and invite you to come audition, interview, or do something (part of the mystery) because they believe Lorne will like you. If you make it through the entire hiring process (which is pretty crazy and complicated in itself) you’re on the show.
Then the really hard shit begins. To survive to the next season at SNL you have to do something (from what I’ve observed) that is next to impossible at a comedy institution that has lasted 40 years on television. Get on air. Any way you can. Meaning you have to pitch things that both Lorne and the head writers like as well as the American public aka people like me that watch the show.
After seeing Brooks Wheelan perform stand-up on Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa (where I live, yes) I instantly saw exactly why he was fired. I hadn’t understood it before because I had always been a fan of his and knowing he came from Iowa I had a certain respect for him. I was rooting for Brooks.
But after hearing his side of the story Wednesday night (it was sarcastic and played for laughs) I realized that he was fired because he didn’t fit in at SNL, not because he isn’t funny.
While I was watching his stand-up set I realized that he reminded me a lot of John Mulaney. His kind of comedy is smart and observational instead of gross. A few local comedians opened for him and all they joked about was porn, genitalia, and more porn. Gross and unoriginal. Brooks never once reverted to a cheap joke to get a laugh. He told self-deprecating stories about his childhood growing up in Iowa and silly things he’s done in his life.
His smart comedy made him easy to like and even easier to laugh at. I also noticed that he was a pretty great improvisor. At one point during his set his microphone shorted out and stopped working. He slammed it on the ground and ran off stage as he yelled “It’s ruined!” A moment later he was back with a big grin on his face as he picked up the now functioning mic and said “Just kidding!” He also did a bit where he came into the audience (right in front of me) and told a joke. Someone from the back yelled “Hey Brooks!” as he was doing this and he turned around and said “No, we’re not going to do that.”
So, why did such a talented and fun guy get fired from SNL? The same reason Adam Sandler and Chris Farley got fired. He wasn’t what 2014’s incarnation of the show needed. During his set Brooks read off some sketches he had pitched that never made it to air, and they all sucked. He’s not the kind of comedian that should be writing for celebrities and playing wacky characters. It was an honor for Brooks to be fired from SNL because he can now do exactly what he’s good at; being his hysterical self.
He’ll have a long stand-up career. Maybe he’ll even get into movies (Sandler plays himself in everything, doesn’t he?). Whether he knows it right now or not, Brooks Wheelan is exactly where he needs to be (He also does a surprisingly good Lorne impression. Have I said too much?).