Seth Meyers, Will Ferrell, and John Oliver Resurrect Failed SNL Sketch

Seth Meyers gathered a lineup of late-night stars on his show Wednesday night to resurrect a lost SNL sketch that has haunted the halls of Studio 8H for years.

Will Ferrell was a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers last night, and following his interview, the former SNL star took part in a new installment of “Second Chance Theatre.”

In Second Chance Theatre, former SNLers are given the chance to restage failed sketches that never made it to air. The recurring segment was something Meyers envisioned when he first took over Late Night, with the first one airing in 2014.

Before last night, however, viewers hadn’t been treated to a new edition of Second Chance Theatre since 2020.

Ferrell’s sketch concerned a superfan of Welcome Back, Kotter star Gabe Kaplan, who took a job at the accounting firm that represents Kaplan just to meet the actor. After six years of dressing like Kaplan—and growing out his hair and mustache—in preparation for the day the actor finally shows up at the office, Ferrell’s character is outraged to learn he just missed him.

Meyers and Ferrell enlisted help from a few late-night regulars to round out the cast. John Oliver, Bowen Yang, and Rachel Dratch play coworkers who failed to alert Ferrell’s character that Kaplan was in the building.

The sketch plays well enough to the audience in 8G, but as Meyers and Ferrell recalled, its reception in 8H was ice-cold.

“There are no laughs throughout the sketch,” Ferrell remembered of the sketch’s dress-rehearsal run, where it died. He added that the only laughter came from a polite stage manager and Molly Shannon’s terror-induced breaking. “The turn gets no laughs. None of it gets laughs. Nary a peep.”

In a post-sketch Q&A, Meyers got the rest of the cast’s thoughts on the sketch’s original staging, which he had provided footage of in advance.

“I was startled by the fact that you didn’t oversell just how unflinching and unremitting the silence was,” Oliver stated. “This was a comedic catastrophe.”

“In one fell swoop, I sucked all the energy out of the building,” Ferrell confirmed. 

If that all sounds like hyperbole, Meyers assured viewers it is anything but. The sketch’s bombing was so renowned, it had become a cautionary tale at SNL. “It was before my time,” Meyers explained. “People would bring new people into their office, because you had a server where you could watch old sketches, and they would show it. And they would say, ‘Just know, no matter how bad it goes…’”

“It can’t go any worse than this,” Ferrell confirmed.

In the Q&A, Meyers asked the rest of the comedians about their own worst sketches-gone-wrong. Dratch remembered a “really annoying child star” character named David Mack Wilson.

“We put it up with Liam Neeson. David Mack Wilson was hosting his own talk show, and he was being really smarmy. And it just totally died,” Dratch recounted. “Maybe that could be the next Second Chance Theatre.”

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