It’s one of the Saturday Night Live sketches that never was, thanks to the Election Night 2016 that almost happened.
Before bowing out of the series a few weeks ago after nine seasons, Bobby Moynihan brought back his popular character Drunk Uncle—played by the SNL vet as a rambling, racist, incoherent schlub—one last time during the season finale hosted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It was typical Drunk Uncle, with moments like the character bumping fists with Weekend Update co-anchor Colin Jost and inappropriately cheering “Whites!”
Moynihan laughs conspiratorially, however, at the memory of how differently the character’s final appearance was supposed to go. He and the writers had actually come up with a bit where Drunk Uncle, after learning that Donald Trump had lost the election, was going to kill himself by jumping off the roof at 30 Rock.
“We were writing—we wrote a Drunk Uncle that week where the whole joke was he was going to kill himself,” Moynihan recalls. “We wrote it, finished it, I was so proud of myself. And then we were like … wait a minute. What’s happening here? That whole week of the election was just nuts.”
For Moynihan, the election was also something else—a fitting bookend to his time on the series. He’d first come on board back in 2008, during what was, shall we say, another big election year. Moynihan’s first episode? The one in which Tina Fey trotted out her Sarah Palin impersonation for the first time.
Alas—Drunk Uncle lives, Hillary lost and Moynihan has moved on, having said goodbye to writing and playing wacky characters on the sketch comedy series that represented the main career ambition he first set out for himself (“To be honest,” he told Paste, “all I ever wanted to do was be on Saturday Night Live.”). He’ll be seen next as a lead in CBS’ new sitcom Me, Myself and I, premiering this fall and telling the story of a man at three different points in his life.
Moynihan plays that character during his middle age years, with another actor handling the teenaged version of the character and actor John Larroquette playing the older version.
None of it—his departure from SNL, taking meetings in L.A. and ultimately saying yes to the offer of a CBS pilot—was planned, really. Moynihan had gone out to L.A. to visit a friend and “just ended up taking a couple of meetings.” One thing, as they say, led to—you know the rest.
“I’m about to have a baby and was just very much thinking about that,” he says, “and I read the script for Me, Myself and I and loved it. I met with the writer, and we hit it off great and started talking about it. I mean, I’d been thinking about … I think the first day you get to SNL, you start thinking about the day you’ll leave. It was a lot. I was not expecting it.”
Speaking of expecting, Moynihan used a recent Instagram post to showcase two important things about himself simultaneously—that he’s a pop culture superfan, and, as he told Paste, that he’s a soon-to-be father.
“Hi @PattyJenks,” Moynihan wrote, tagging Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins. “Big fan. Quick question. How soon do you think is appropriate to show my daughter @WonderWomanFilm? She’s due in July.”
Continuing about the new show, Moynihan says, “There was no world in which it was like ‘I’ve got to leave right now and star in my own sitcom.’ That was not a priority. I just really enjoyed the script. It was funny and sweet and kind of reminded me of, like, The Wonder Years. Shows like that.”
For Moynihan, who sometimes punctuates his answers with a boyish chuckle, it’s the continuation of a dream gig. The comedian-actor who grew up a fan of the likes of Chris Farley and Bill Murray is now part of what he sees as a kind of new Golden Age of television.
His favorite are shows and movies that “build universes, that create a universe of characters.” “Lost,” he says, was like that and was thus one of his favorite shows. The same with Star Wars.
Ask him about his favorite memories and sketches on SNL, and he turns instead to the camaraderie of the enterprise. The late nights, that point when the goofiness takes over, when the writers start to write and eventually realize some crazy thing they brainstormed is actually going to be used. (“Like—wait, we’re really using this idea!?”)
He singles out sketches like the one parodying The Office and The Hobbit as well as “Aw Nuts! Mom’s a Ghost” as among his favorite.
At some point during his recollection, Moynihan adds, “To be honest, I was really just always trying to make Lorne [Michaels, SNL’s creator and producer] happy.” Never mind that the versatile funnyman, of course, did a lot more than that on the TV show that brought him into living rooms for almost a decade and helped him hone the chops he’ll use for everything that comes next.