He’ll tell you this himself, but from 2010 to 2016, Taran Killam was living the dream. As a key cast member on Saturday Night Live, he performed an endless number of memorable skits and shorts, while working alongside his heroes and role models on a weekly basis. Even after his abrupt exit from the show last summer, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that Killam is just as bright and optimistic about the future as ever: he’s currently starring on broadway and wrapping up his directorial debut and passion project, which will hit theaters later this year. After all, this is a guy who’s been working in show business since he was a teenager: I first knew him from a bit part in Nickelodeon’s The Amanda Show, while others may recognize him from the Disney Channel original film Stuck In The Suburbs, or a short run on MADTV that preceded his more visible run on SNL.
Right now, the 35-year-old is finishing up his Broadway debut, a three-month run as King George on a show you may have heard of called Hamilton (his final night is April 13), before focusing solely on finishing up and releasing Why We’re Killing Gunther. In his debut as a director, he also plays a starring role (alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others). After seven years in the big apple—a relocation that came along with the gig on SNL—Killam, along with his wife, actress Cobie Smulders (of How I Met your Mother fame), and their two children are also planning on a late-summer move back to California, from where the comedic actor hails.
Before all of that, though, I had the chance to hang out with the very funny actor, writer, and director at Budin, in Greenpoint. Killam was a joy to talk with, touching on everything from the stuff we’re mutually geeking out on (superhero movies, Get Out, and Star Wars), to his experience with Trump, the Los Angeles Rams, and now his own post-SNL career.
Brooklyn Magazine: I know you’re a big fan of nerd stuff, like me. Did you see the new Spider-Man trailer?
Taran Killam: It’s so good, isn’t it?
Yeah, it looks so cool.
It’s so good.
I’ve loved everything Michael Keaton has done since Birdman.
He’s the best. The original Batman, that movie made me want to be in movies. The line in it where he goes “I’m nothing without the suit.” “If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” That’s so good. It’s such a good moment, already, in the trailer.
And Justice League… just blowing it. I just think they’re just blowing it, because, like… there is no reveal that they’re saving, because at the end of their movie [Last year’s Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice], they reveal it. They show the rocks, and [Superman] is still alive. They’ve already revealed that he’s still alive.
Exactly. I don’t know who they think they’re fooling.
People are saying the movie is so far off, but, still—what this trailer should have done is: [MAKES KABOOM SOUND], and you see him land, and you don’t show him, but you show the fist, or you show whatever. And then in the next one you can do a little bit more if you want.
And you know they’re thinking about it so much, like, damage control, after last year’s fiascos.
Oh my gosh. Totally. Yeah, I know. I’m curious to see what’ll happen with The Batman, and all that stuff too.
A few weeks ago I spoke with Alex Karpovsky from Girls, and he did a lot of scenes with Adam Driver, so I was kind of subconsciously hoping something related to Star Wars would slip. But I doubt he knows either, with all these NDAs and stuff.
Lena [Dunham] was hosting (SNL) when it was first announced that he was in [the new Star Wars films], and I remember her saying [in a pretty solid Dunham impression for such impromptu notice] ‘I asked him, and he won’t tell me anything. And I said, well, what’s your character’s name?’ She said she asked him “Are you a [sic]wickie?”… and that was disappointing to hear. And then she’s like, “He said his name was, like, Ashcore Rockney,” And I was like, that is not the name [LAUGHS].
It’s believable enough though!
It’s pretty close—Kylo Ren. Yeah.
Whenever I’m reading or watching the news and see Reince Priebus’s name, I always think how Star Wars-y that name is.
[LAUGHS] He is a trade federation senator for sure.
So, switching gears a little bit, but I’m 24, so when I was growing up and watching Nickelodeon and first getting into comedy shows, one of the first ones I watched was The Amanda Show.
Amazing! That’s so cool.
That was the first thing I saw you in, of course. I was wondering if people ask about that often?
They do! They still do. That, at the stage door coming out, a lot of people love Moody’s Point [The show-within-the-show soap opera spoof in which he appeared] and ask about Moody’s dad’s toe, because there was no resolution. And then I did a Disney Channel movie called Stuck In The Suburbs, which people love, too. I mean, Nickelodeon and Disney replay stuff so much that things never really go away. So, as much of it as there are people who are 24 and up and down, there’s still young kids discovering it for the first time, too.
You’re the first SNL cast member I’ve ever interviewed, so I could ask you so many questions.
Bring it on. I could talk about it for days.
I’m sure you’ve talked about this before, but what’s your favorite memory from six years on the show?
Gosh. That’s so hard. I mean, there’s nothing like hearing that you’ve been hired. There’s just no bigger rush of adrenaline, victory, celebratory moments in the whole process. I don’t think there can be. Did you listen to Jenny Slate’s WTF interview, with Marc Maron?
Yeah, I think so.
She does such a great job of explaining that moment. She gets emotional a little bit in explaining it, breaks down, and listening to that I was sobbing with her; because it is… it’s this childhood dream, or a long term dream, I think, for most people who did it. So, that is the ultimate feeling of exaltation for sure.
In terms of individual experiences, there’s just so many to count. Because you’re really just on this wild roller coaster ride of the highest highs, and working with your heroes, and getting to do sketches with not just people like Jim Carrey, and Drake, and everybody across the spectrum, but the people you work with. I think the greatest performers I’ve ever stood side-by-side with are Kristen [Wiig], and Bill [Hader], and Vanessa [Bayer], and Bobby [Moynihan], and Kate [McKinnon], and Kenan. These are some of the most immensely talented and kind people I’ve ever met in my life. In terms of ‘the best experience’ it gets divided into these categories. Probably the things that matter the most are the things that wouldn’t be too exciting to hear, but hanging out in the writing office, and laughing about some dumb bit that will never see the light of day. Those are probably the most joyful moments I’ve had on the show.
Speaking of the writers office, that Robyn “Call Your Girlfriend” video that you made is legendary.
Yeah! Well, exactly. That was a great way to encapsulate that energy of being loopy, and being exhausted, being full of doubt, but also finding the dumbest things to be hilarious. Robyn was the guest that week, and I just kept playing the music video for people because I just loved that video, and Sarah Schneider, who’s now one of the head writers, she was like, “You should just film that in your office,” and I accepted that dare. And people love it! It’s so funny.
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