Talking THE AWESOMES, SNL, and Miley Cyrus with Taran Killam
By Clarke Wolfe on August 8, 2014
Taran Killam has a lot going on. Popping up all over, from Hulu’s animated superhero series The Awesomes to being one of the strongest cast members featured weekly on Saturday Night Live, he’s one of the rising stars in the comedy scene. We talked to the former Groundling about superheroes, last years transitional season on SNL and if there were any hosts that surprised him when they came on the show.
“It’s so cool that a random phone call three years ago now has turned into an ongoing series. It’s so fun to do,” Taran Killam excitedly proclaims when speaking about Hulu’s animated series The Awesomes. “The recording for the first season most of it was done right outside of studio 8H, right inside of Rockefeller, so it was just a phone call of, ‘Hey! Will you come help us out?’ And they had me read for a few roles but Frantic and I took to each other. It was really awesome and it’s a subject that I feel strongly about, I’m a big superhero nerd, as are Seth [Meyers] and Mike [Shoemaker], so it was such a random gift that comes out of working with the pool of talent at SNL.”
While Killam feels like some of his co-stars on The Awesomes may have had their characters molded after them, he isn’t so sure there are too many similarities between him and his alter-ego Frantic, saying, ”Frantic is a hyperactive white trash idiot whose obsessed with celebrity. I don’t necessarily want to think that its custom built for my personality…” Killam then went on to elaborate by saying, “Frantic is definitely more of a character that I put on but I think part of the sell from me to Seth for doing Frantic is that I was able to do these long monologues rapid speeds without messing up too many times.”
When I ask Killam if he would ever want to play a live action superhero, he doesn’t hesitate in answering. “I would love it. Yeah. Michael Keaton, the first Michael Keaton Batman in ’89 was like, the movie that made me want to be an actor.”
It’s no secret to anyone that I am a fan of SNL. Even in its weaker seasons, I feel like the show has something to offer in each episode. That being said, it is also no secret that the 2013-14 season of the weekly sketch comedy show was a tough one. I ask Killam about what he must have seen having been on the comedy staple for five years now, having shared the stage with some major players like Kristin Wiig, Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and Andy Samberg only to see them all leave and now having to rebuild. Said Killam, ”Truly for the first time, in a different way than getting the job because obviously, you’re excited when you get the job, but I’m very excited for this season. There’s no trepidation of, ‘How is this going to work out? How are things going to be?’ Because I do feel that last season, as crowded as some felt that it was, there was also a lot that was figured out. People really came into their own and it’s kind of the first year heading into my fifth season where I feel like, you know, I’ve earned my place and I’m a part of the show and I have established relationships with other people on the show too. Because, like you said, it was a working machine when I came in and I’ve seen the machine kind of taken apart over the last couple of seasons but this feels like the season where we come back and it’s a brand new, put together, well oiled machine and it’s also just an exciting time too, to celebrate forty years – four decades – and however many generations if you want to average it out to every five years a different cast, it’s sort of like seven-plus generations of casts coming together. It’s overwhelming. It’s overwhelming. It’s been an amazing, incredible thing to be a part of and I’m just glad that I’ve lasted this long.”
Being a fan of the show I also had to ask about one of my favorite characters, cranky 1860s newspaper critic Jebidiah Atkinson. Where did that invention come from? ”That is just a gift that came from the show,” says Killam. “Seth Meyers again and all of the Update writers came across an article about the one guy that gave the Gettysburg address a negative review and they finally were retracting it and they thought, How off the mark and how angry a person do you have to be to be so wrong. I mean, critiques in general are obviously a subjective art form but I feel like the Gettysburg Address is the one believed American address that isn’t subjective. It’s just wrong not to like it. So that’s just such a great premise and they said we thought you’d be good and we want to try it out but I got that call the Saturday that we first did it so its really just the chaos of the show and how frantic, if I may borrow the word, that creative process is that in something that’s such an after thought that’s so rushed and so thrown together that sometimes the ingredients can come together that people really enjoy.”
Finally, have there been any hosts that surprised Killam? “I would say this past season the person who really most surprised me and was not what I expected them to be and just such a sport, jut really down for anything and wasn’t saying ‘no’ to anything was Miley Cyrus, which was such a pleasant surprise because she, I think the public image spin could have been, ‘Oh, what kind of wild card are we going to be dealing with,’ but I found her to be completely in control, completely accessible, very polite and really just a good sport and that’s the ideal host to me. Someone who comes in and says, ‘Look, I trust you guys and I’m open to what you want to try. ‘”
Season two of The Awesomes is available on Hulu now. The 40th season of Saturday Night Live premieres this fall on NBC.