Kyle Mooney isn’t trying to be himself
By LORI MCCUE | The Washington Post | Published: July 9, 2017
“Saturday Night Live” cast member Kyle Mooney admits that the idea of standing at a mic and telling jokes about himself makes him uncomfortable.
“I definitely am more observational of the people around me and how they interact and less introspective about myself,” says Mooney, 32. “I just don’t know what I’d say as myself.”
Thank goodness Mooney, who co-wrote and stars in the upcoming film “Brigsby Bear,” has a handful of other people he can pretend to be when he takes the stage. Since joining “SNL” four years ago — and even before that, alongside castmate Beck Bennett as part of the YouTube comedy group Good Neighbor — Mooney has been building an arsenal of recurring characters based on his love of pop culture and the regular folks he comes across.
What can people expect from your live show?
We want to keep it a bit of a surprise, but basically people will be seeing me doing a variety of characters and we’ll show some videos. Dave McCary, who I’ve worked with on all my videos and at “SNL” and who directed “Brigsby Bear” — we’ll be sharing the stage at parts. It’s characters that fans of my stuff would recognize, either from “SNL” or videos.
What do you see as the throughline to all these characters?
A lot of the characters I play seem to be lying to themselves in some way. They maybe present themselves as confident or good at something, but in reality it’s clear that they don’t know what they’re talking about.
It’s also clear you love TV -- you’ve written digital shorts about things like those VH1 “I Love the 90s” specials, reality shows and sitcoms like “Family Matters.”
I love (ABC’s 1990s programming block) “TGIF” and that stuff. But if you watch it from another perspective that’s not just listening for laugh lines, it becomes a very abstract, almost psychedelic thing. You can get another layer and realize, “This is actually really weird.”
Do you still watch a lot of TV?
I think my first season on “SNL” I watched every single episode of “Step by Step,” and a few years prior to that I watched every single episode of “Family Matters.” Now it’s just getting to a point where I’m finding more obscure shows from that same era. One that I was getting into this year is this Disney Channel show from the late ’90s to early 2000s called “Bug Juice,”which was all about middle school-aged kids going to summer camp. I’m fascinated by adolescence and that time in which kids are flirting with each other and you’re awkward and you don’t really know what you are.
I’ve seen spoilers, but I think “Brigsby Bear” (opening in limited release July 28) is best seen when you know as few details as possible. So is it giving away too much to say that you star as a man who decides to re-create a children’s TV series that was important to him growing up?
That works. Ideally, that’s the way everybody sees the movie, but unfortunately just with how promotion works and trailers and reviews, not everybody will get to have that experience. We’ve fought creatively from the beginning to maintain as much mystery as possible. At the core I think it’s a sweet movie, and there’s a strong theme of friendship and making friends.
Did making a sweet movie feel like a transition from the writing you do for sketches or videos?
I envisioned the movie in my head as darker and weirder, but then in the process of writing it, the movie that it became was really natural. I got to kind of embody the character as we were writing, so maybe I enjoyed being in that sweetness. When we first started showing the script to people, they were surprised, as well, that that element is there.
What was showing it at the Cannes Film Festival like?
Surreal. The biggest question I had (going in) was, “How will this translate?” But it was really positive. I’ve made a career out of stuff that I figured my friends would like, you know? So to play the movie in front of not just international audiences, but also a room full of — in my eyes — genuine grown-ups was intriguing. Seeing people I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of when we conceptualized it enjoy it, that was really special.
Meet Mooney's awkward alter egos
Bruce Chandling: Mooney’s New York comic — a “Weekend Update” regular — is so bad at telling jokes, he’s ... still bad. But he’s so insecure you can’t help but laugh and groan at his juvenile gags anyway.
Interviews: Mooney hunches over and mumbles into a microphone to play his interviewing character, asking uncomfortable questions of real, unsuspecting people. In various videos, he’s questioned fans outside a Justin Bieber concert, the crowd at a Los Angeles Lakers victory parade and attendees at a reptile convention.
‘Inside SoCal’: Imagine if the obnoxious, disaffected skater boys you rolled your eyes at in high school got their own public access show: Those are basically the bro-y characters Mooney and Beck Bennett brought to “SNL” from their YouTube days.