Baby, Don't Hurt Me: Stories and Scars from Saturday Night Live

Baby, Don't Hurt Me: Stories and Scars from Saturday Night Live

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Overview

You may know him as Mango, Mr. Peepers, the gibberish-spouting Suel Forrester, or one half of the head-bopping brothers in A Night at the Roxbury. Maybe you remember him as the forlorn gothic kid Azrael Abyss, Gay Hitler, or the guitarist in the “More Cowbell” sketch. Whichever it is, Chris Kattan has earned a spot in the hearts of a generation of comedy fans.

Chris Kattan has defied comparison, expectations, and sometimes gravity with his inimitable style of physical comedy. By creating some of the most memorable Saturday Night Live characters, as well as his many roles in film and television, Kattan has remained one of the most fearless and versatile comedians in the world.

Not long after Chris was labeled one of the improv group Groundlings’ “must-see” performers in the company, he was cast on SNL—and within the first six weeks, Chris’s film career also took off.

Now, for the first time, Kattan opens up about eight seasons on SNL, performing alongside friends and future legends including Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, and Tina Fey, and guest hosts from Charlize Theron to Tom Hanks to David Bowie. He also shares stories of his unusual childhood (involving a secluded mountain with zen monks) with Leonard Cohen and Alan Watts. Baby, Don’t Hurt Me offers an unprecedented look into Chris’s life, from his fascinating relationship with Lorne Michaels, a private Valentine’s Day dinner with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, an unforgettable flight with Beyoncé, and even breaking his neck on live television.

Baby, Don’t Hurt Me is a candid, revealing memoir from a timeless comedian and a window into the world of millennium-era SNL, from the rehearsals to the after-after parties, as narrated by your hilarious and inspiring friend—who just so happened to be there for all of it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781944648763
Publisher: BenBella Books, Inc.
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 270
Sales rank: 766,651
File size: 12 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

Chris Kattan began his comedic career as a member of several improv/sketch comedy troupes, including The Groundlings in Los Angeles. His father was an original member of the troupe. Kattan also did some minor roles on TV, including an episode of NewsRadio. He moved to New York City to work on Saturday Night Live from 1995 to 2003. His recurring characters included Mr. Peepers, Mango, Azrael Abyss, Kyle DeMarco from The DeMarco Brothers, Gay Hitler, Suel Forrester (known for the term "dagitybo") and, most notably, one half of the Butabi Brothers with fellow SNL (and Groundlings) cast member Will Ferrell, known for their trademark head-bobbing. Kattan and Ferrell continued the characters in 1998's A Night at the Roxbury. Kattan has made one appearance on Broadway, playing Xanthias in a production of Aristophanes' The Frogs. Kattan appeared in a Diet Pepsi MAX commercial during Super Bowl XLII that featured the song "What Is Love" and had many actors in the commercial performing the Butabi head bob. In August 2009, Kattan starred in the IFC miniseries Bollywood Hero, where he portrays himself and the difficulties he faces after a career as a comic actor, trying to attain leading man status. Starting in fall of 2009, Kattan appeared in a supporting role in The Middle. He also appeared in an episode of How I Met Your Mother as a star in a fictional movie within the show. In December 2011, Kattan made a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live's Christmas show, hosted by Jimmy Fallon.

Bestselling author Travis Thrasher has written over 45 books, from love stories to supernatural thrillers. His inspirational stories have included collaborations with filmmakers, musicians, athletes, and pastors. He’s also written memoirs and self-help books. His novelizations include Do You Believe? and God’s Not Dead 2. Upcoming projects he is working on include Olympic Pride, American Prejudice, about the lives of the other 17 American black athletes who competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Travis lives with his wife and three daughters in a suburb of Chicago, and fittingly enough, will have a children’s book titled Brave Girls Confidential released later in 2017.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

NO, PEEPERS! NO!

So there I was, hanging upside down by my bare feet, which were wrapped around the neck of a seven-foot-tall gentleman by the name of Roy Jenkins.

Holy shit, I thought to myself, I'm hanging upside down with my feet around someone's neck. When did I learn to do this?

It was a Monday night in 1993. Monday night's class was the one you never wanted to miss because not only was it the one time you got to do improv exercises, it was the only night to pitch sketches that might get you in the lineup for the upcoming Groundlings Sunday show.

The Sunday show director was Melanie Graham, who'd started as a member of the Groundlings main company and would years later become a writer for SNL for a few seasons while I was on the show. Melanie bore a strong resemblance to Edna Mode from Disney's The Incredibles (as well as to legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head, who I believe the Incredibles character was based on). Melanie was intimidatingly smart, but encouragement was not her forte. She was critical, with high expectations, and it was easy to feel like she was being too hard on you. But ultimately, Melanie's expectations made us all better performers and better writers. At the time, I didn't realize that writing was such an important backbone of comedy. Looking back now, I can honestly say Melanie was one of the greatest teachers I've ever had.

Anyway: Monday night, 1993. We were just finishing warm-ups, and Melanie instructed Roy and me to go onstage and do a scene as poorly as we possibly could, breaking every improv rule. This was one of my all-time favorite exercises. I mean, to do a scene where you got to make the worst possible choices without any justification? Oh my God, I loved it!

For the top of the scene, Roy was alone onstage while I waited offstage for my cue. Roy began by doing terrible "space work." He held an invisible glass and pretended to make himself a drink, then walked over a couple feet and — forgetting he was supposed to be holding a glass — grabbed a sword out of nowhere with two hands before returning to make his imaginary drink. His imagined props just kept disappearing and reappearing without any visual justification. It was really funny. Then I heard Melanie's scratchy, dehydrated voice belt out, "And Kattan enters!"

Without having a single thought to back me up — no character in mind like you're supposed to when entering a scene in an improv — I threw open the weightless stage door and galloped, gazelle-like, over to Roy and leapt up with my arms opened wide enough to wrap around his chest. Then, some mysterious impulse combined with an enormous surge of strength took control. Like an Olympic athlete executing a pole vault, my feet swung up toward the theater lights, my arms let go of Roy's chest, and my calves wrapped around his neck as my bare toes locked together. Roy, now on the phone, still holding a drink, continued, as if totally oblivious to the fact that all 138 pounds of me was swinging from his neck like a human pendulum. More like a monkey, actually.

The talented Roy Jenkins was one of the most prolific cast members in the Groundlings' Sunday show, which featured Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri, me, and a few others. Roy and I were both good friends with Will, but Roy and Will had been a team months before I came into the picture. In fact, the first time I ever saw Will was in a sketch with Roy where they played a barbershop-type a cappella duo singing to passersby in the Main Street section of Disneyland.

Roy and I both recognized my vault onto his neck for the golden nugget of possibility it was, and knowing how rare the birth of an original idea can be, we immediately rushed to find each other during the break to talk about it. Now we just needed to structure some kind of story around ... whatever we'd just come up with.

At the time, I did not know one person who wasn't a fan of Johnny Carson. He was so engaging, so funny, you would need to have the worst comedic taste not to like him. He was there for us five days a week for thirty years, so you could take him for granted, forgetting that someday he might not be on the air anymore. When Jay Leno took over The Tonight Show, everyone missed Johnny. And Doc Severinsen and His Orchestra. And Ed McMahon. I especially missed Johnny doing Carnac the Magnificent or acting as the host of the "Tea Time Movie" (who, by the way, Horatio Sanz does a dead-on impression of). I even missed the prescription sunglasses that Ed McMahon wore when he was drunk. But what I missed most of all was when zookeeper Jack Hanna was a guest, bringing along some supposedly well-trained animal. Inevitably, the creature would misbehave and do fun animal things, like jumping on Johnny's desk and trying to cuddle up behind him. The cameras would zoom in on Johnny laughing while some koala or something played peekaboo from behind his earlobe. Adorable. Then for the big closer before they cut to commercial, the animal would pee in his eye. If they were really lucky, meaning the encounter would eventually make it on to some volume of The Best of Carson, the creature would take a classic Tonight Show dump on Johnny's desk, right next to his coffee mug.

So, you'll never guess what Roy and I decided our sketch should be about. Yep, you got it on the first try. Roy would be the Jack Hanna type of guy and we'd get Will to be the talk show host, but we didn't just want to write a straight parody of The Tonight Show, and, well, I didn't want to pee on anybody. So for the "blackout" of the sketch — the Groundlings' term for the bit at the end of the sketch that gets the big laugh to turn the stage lights out on — I'd do something even more innovative. Namely, I'd hump Roy's face while I "suck-slapped" Will's.

The only difficult part was choosing what kind of animal I was supposed to be. It obviously had to be some sort of monkey, but an impression of an actual monkey species wasn't seminal or funny enough, and besides that had been done. What really made the scene work wasn't my character but what I was physically able to get my body to do with (or on) Roy. That hyperphysical interaction carried the scene. Finally Roy came up with the idea of this animal being the "missing link" between man and monkey. And, since he was a captive creature, he obviously had to have a moronic pet name that a child would remember at the zoo.

I stood up straight, put down my notepad and pen, and asked him what part of my body looked bigger or more obvious than that of most people.

"I guess your eyes," Roy told me.

"Like, my 'peepers'?"

"Mr. Peepers would be a funny name to yell at an animal when they're misbehaving, don't you think?"

I tried it out, and yelled: "No, Peepers! No!"

And ... it just worked. I have no idea why.

Then I asked Roy if there was some trick I could do. Like a trained seal at the circus spinning a ball on its nose or playing a horn.

(Why they make seals play horns at the circus, I have no idea. Why just seals? Why not a squirrel? Anyway ...)

"Is there something you can throw to me to catch?" I asked.

"A banana?"

"Too cliché."

"What about an apple?"

"Yes!"

There was something hypersexualized about Mr. Peepers. I imagined him like somebody's overexcited puppy who goes around humping everyone's leg. Except, instead of your leg, Mr. Peepers might go straight for your face. The apple became a part of that same ravenous quality, and when Peepers finally got his hands on the forbidden fruit, he didn't just bite into it. He devoured it.

As a boy, I used to watch this old Mickey Mouse cartoon from the '30s called "Mickey's Trailer" on one of those old, portable projection screens on a tripod that my dad kept in his garage. In it, there's a scene where Goofy eats an ear of corn on the cob in like five seconds: holding it at both ends, he gnaws swiftly from one end to the other, a row at a time, rotating the cob like an old manual typewriter carriage as he goes. This was my inspiration. But since Goofy was animated and this wasn't something I'd seen a human do before, I had to practice, figuring out how to eat the apple in as many bites as possible in a matter of seconds, without biting my lip off. I eventually worked out how to get through an entire apple in one ravenous attack, but there was no way I could swallow fast enough to keep the pace while chomping the entire thing.

"Spit it out!" Roy suggested.

When we finally put it all together in front of the audience that Sunday, it was an unpredicted smash.

The following week Melanie scheduled the sketch as the first-act closer for Sunday's show, which was traditionally the slot given to the biggest crowd-pleaser of the night, and it remained there in the lineup for another year and a half.

There were no lines for me to memorize because Mr. Peepers didn't speak; he just barked out an unthreatening "Baa! Baa!" whenever he was hungry or confused.

But while there was some comfort in not having to deliver any lines in order to get laughs, I had to work twice as hard physically. In order to continue performing Mr. Peepers for a year and a half at the same high-energy level the character demanded, I had to stay constantly in shape. By the time I ran backstage to the dressing room, I was usually totally out of breath with my heart racing. A lot of nights I'd make it through the entire apple (it had to be a Red Delicious because they were the softest) and afterward discover that my mouth was full of blood because I'd gnawed open the insides of my cheeks without noticing it.

As grueling as it was, playing Mr. Peepers gave me one of the best experiences I ever had performing at the Groundlings. After milking and trying out every new physical possibility with the character, I finally ended up leaping off the stage and into the audience — Peepers gave me the perfect excuse to "break the fourth wall." I climbed over people's shoulders, did pirouettes on top of their seats, and crawled from one audience member's head to another until at last I stopped to arbitrarily grab some stranger's face and dry hump it. I know it may not sound all that sophisticated or funny, but the energy of the sketch became its own animal. You had a nonvolunteer audience member nearly being physically abused, and they were hysterically laughing the whole time. There was something amazing about seeing how lucky they felt to be the chosen victim. "Hump my face! Hump my face! Quick! Someone take a picture!"

After my debut in the last six episodes of SNL's 1995–96 season, I came back for my first full season no longer just a "featured player" but a full-fledged regular cast member. And my seventh show, the first show of the 1996–97 season, was the busiest one I'd had yet. First off, Will Ferrell and I did a Roxbury Guys sketch — another sketch first performed at the Groundlings, introduced on my second appearance on SNL the prior season. This time, we head bopped with the week's guest host, Tom Hanks. Lorne came up with the idea of filming a pre-tape of the three of us bopping our heads in the middle of Times Square. I remember Tom Hanks being such a sport when we filmed this. He didn't break character, even when some unknown asshole yelled out, "Hey, Forrest! You're fat!"

Knowing I needed to have more than just a Roxbury guy as a recurring character, I decided to pitch Mr. Peepers to Tom Hanks. That season, I shared a seventeenth-floor office with Colin Quinn. Colin was just a writer at the time and the perfect office mate. Despite being incredibly funny and sharp, he didn't have that comedian thing of being always "on." He was quiet, wise, and maybe because he was older than me, very open and unguarded. He also had probably the most attractive, well-lit office there — I think it was the only one with a plant that was actually alive. When I first moved in, he admitted that he suffered from vertigo, which did raise the question of why someone on the show had placed him at a desk right in front of a seventeenth-floor window — the only window in the office — not to mention why he'd decided to stay there. I offered to switch sides, but Colin said, "Nah, don't worry about it. It's good for me."

Anyway. Tom Hanks made the rounds of the offices to hear pitches for sketches featuring him for that week's show. When he arrived at our office, Colin was at his desk, and I was on a couch under a poster for Adam Sandler's The Wedding Singer that then SNL head writer Tim Herlihy — who wrote the movie with "Sandman," as his friends lovingly called him — had put in Colin's office as a joke when the movie became a success.

Tom took a seat in my desk chair, and I began telling him about Mr. Peepers. I explained that Peepers was the missing link, described how he ate apples, and told him that it was really funny, which is never helpful to say. The more I talked, the worse it sounded. This was one of my biggest problems during my run at SNL. Getting a physical character or idea across in a pitch without any type of demonstration, or by reading it in script form during a table read, is almost impossible.

But guess what, bitches: I came prepared. I had video of the sketch being performed at the Groundlings. So I stopped trying to explain and popped in the VHS tape of me, Will, and Roy. Tom Hanks laughed from the very beginning to the absolute end. I'm not talking a polite little chuckle here or there. No: he laughed so hard he literally fell off the rolling chair onto the floor. He laughed until he started coughing. What a crazy surreal moment this was for me. Tom frickin' Hanks was on the floor in hysterics, curled up like a fetus.

At first, it was incredibly flattering, but when he kept going, it actually became a little scary.

Jesus, is he okay? I thought. Do I wait until he's done? Should I go tell someone this is happening? Tom fuckin' Hanks is on the floor having a conniption fit. Would it be wrong of me to take a picture? What the fuck do I do?

I looked at Colin, who was staring at me accusingly. I mean, come on, what was this? What if we actually hurt Tom Hanks and it was all my fault? Finally, the seizure lessened. Tom got to his knees and said, "What do you got, Colin?" And Colin said, "How the fuck am I supposed to follow that?"

The next day, about an hour before the table read — where the cast gathered to read through all the sketches before the final lineup was selected for air — I saw Tom exiting the executive producer's office, carrying the stack of sketches in his arms. As he spotted me, he stopped and put one of the manuscripts right under his nose, pretended to smell it, and said, "Nope, not funny." He smelled another one. "Nope, not funny." Then he pulled out one last sketch, held it toward me so that I could see the title, "Mr. Peepers," inhaled a long, grateful sniff and said, "Now that's funny!"

Everyone packed into one room for the read through. There was never an empty chair, and people who didn't have seats in the room — research assistants, interns, and assorted others — would sit on the floor just outside in the hallway, reading from the same packet of sketches while we waited for Lorne, sometimes for hours.

Lorne was always the last one in. He wasn't late, just the last one. It was part of the clockwork routine that kept the show's pre-production process working perfectly and predictably for decades.

When he entered the room, Lorne would squeeze between the backs of the cast members seated around the table and the fronts of the network censors and script department people seated in chairs against the walls. Then, on his way to his spot next to the guest host at the far end of the table, he'd reach over between the shoulders of writer/producer Steve Higgins and director Beth McCarthy, grab a handful of green, seedless grapes, and pop a few in his mouth. The assortment of fruit and cold cuts the interns provided for the read-through table was the same every week, and so sad looking and visibly unfresh that no one touched it — except Lorne. No kidding, I think he popped these grapes in exactly the same manner every single week I was there. Like I said: clockwork.

Like any read through, the norm was to stay seated while reading aloud a piece you were cast in. It didn't matter if it was a musical parody or the sketch included a dance number, or if it was one of those "Update" features where Fallon or Sandler played the guitar. There was an unwritten understanding that no matter how much the sketch relied on visuals, to get up and perform would be awkward and uncomfortable for everyone else (and would probably work against you in terms of having your sketch selected for the show). But with Mr. Peepers, I felt like I really didn't have a choice.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Baby, Don't Hurt Me"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Chris Kattan.
Excerpted by permission of BenBella Books, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Seth Meyers,
Introduction,
Chapter 1: No, Peepers! No!,
Chapter 2: I May Have Killed the Poodle,
Chapter 3: Studio 8H,
Chapter 4: Life on Mount Baldy,
Chapter 5: Zip Zing,
Chapter 6: What Is Love?,
Chapter 7: Chris on a Hot Tar Roof,
Chapter 8: "So, What Do You Want? You Want Me to Fu ...",
Chapter 9: Girls Love Funny Guys,
Chapter 10: Below the Belt,
Chapter 11: You Can't Have-a Da Mango,
Chapter 12: From Russia and the West Side,
Chapter 13: Charlie's Angels,
Chapter 14: Yeah, but Have You Seen Them Live?,
Chapter 15: "You Guys Want Some Cookies?",
Chapter 16: Broken,
Chapter 17: This Love,
Chapter 18: Coupling, Complications, and Will You Be My Valentine, Tom Cruise?,
Chapter 19: That's Kip for You,
P.S.: Life Is Good,
Acknowledgments,
About the Author,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"An utterly fascinating and inherently entertaining read from cover to cover."

—Midwest Book Review

“No one appreciates a scar more than me. I always loved Chris Kattan, but this book made me love him even more.”

—Amy Sedaris

“Chris Kattan is one of the greatest physical comedians I have ever seen. He would play a small animal and believe he was 20 pounds. He would play a male stripper and believe that he was an amazing dancer. He would play an old lounge act and you would think he really had been trapped in a smoky Vegas room for 50 years. I’ve always admired his commitment to his characters but also his thirst for learning about comedy. He is a real student of the craft, and he was always great to me and gave me good advice on top of ‘laugh until we are in tears’ moments on SNL. This takes me back.”

—Jimmy Fallon

“I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to succeed in comedy as a performer or a writer. Chris Kattan gives a rare, detailed look behind the scenes of SNL. His stories are laugh-out-loud funny (driving Mrs. Koogle!) and very touching. He bares his heart in this riveting memoir.”

—Molly Shannon

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