JONATHAN COULTON: Welcome back to ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Sitting in for Ophira Eisenberg this week is the inimitable Faith Salie.
FAITH SALIE, HOST:
Now please welcome our very important puzzler, the man who stood tan-to-tan with Donald Trump, looked him in the hair, and dared to do an impression of him - Taran Killam.
TARAN KILLAM: Hi, hi, thank you. Is this me? Is this right?
SALIE: That is you.
KILLAM: I just - I have a habit of walking towards the nearest free mic.
SALIE: ...Everybody wants to know about Trump.
SALIE: You are charged on the show with being the Donald Trump.
SALIE: ...The cast Donald Trump...
SALIE: ...Which generally involves lampooning someone...
SALIE: ...Caricaturing him.
SALIE: So what's it like when you are faced with the person you are satirizing?
KILLAM: Yeah, you try not to, like, mimic them and study them as you're mid-conversation, but…
SALIE: But you do.
KILLAM: You do. You're trying to - you're kind of analyzing, and it's also - you know, I did him for a brief moment in the monologue. It's the best sort of intro into an impression because normally you're kind of - you'll work on it during the week and then whatever it sounds like on Saturday is kind of pulled out of thin air. But to hear it immediately speak before you is such a nice crutch 'cause all you have to do is - I'll just copy that sound.
SALIE: And what are the keys to Trump? How do you nail Trump?
KILLAM: I mean, it's a lot of mouth - you know what I mean?
SALIE: Your lips are mesmerizing when you're Donald Trump.
KILLAM: That's nice, thank you.
SALIE: There's a lot of entropy. There's a lot of wasted movement.
KILLAM: Are we falling in love?
KILLAM: Yeah, Darrell Hammond, who did him on the show before me - that's one of my favorite things that he'd done. And he had such a great rhythm. And I would talk to him. I'd ask him for advice. He was very helpful. And he says, you know, find one physicality and one sound. The physicality is, you know, obviously hands. Whenever he's done talking, his body kind of sets.
KILLAM: Like, he's very animated, he's very talking, and as soon as he's made his point it goes into lockdown.
SALIE: Taran is currently looking like a turtle.
KILLAM: Yeah. He goes into like his phone charger, you know.
SALIE: And what's the touchstone sound for Donald Trump?
KILLAM: I - for me, probably, I would say - for Darrell it was, like, he said it was huge, you know huge or millions - you know, those liquid Ls. But for me it's China.
SALIE: Can you share with us how he adapted to the process? I mean, there's a lot of cue-card reading.
KILLAM: Yes. He and Lauren have the same reading glass prescription, apparently, because we sat down to do the table read, and he didn't have his reading glasses, so he and - Lauren was able to help him out. And every now and then, he would sort of blaze past punctuation too.
KILLAM: There's a great sketch we read at the table. It took place at Disney World, and the last line of the sketch was, told you - turkey leg? But he read it, told you, turkey leg, which somehow made it so much funnier.
SALIE: Is there an impression that you've been working on that you would love to get into the show?
KILLAM: This is a work in progress, but I would love to do a talk show as Werner Herzog.
KILLAM: Yeah. Maybe, like, just, you know, some BET-hip-hop talk show - all right. And now, you see, we have with us the Drake, whose very popular hit, "Hotline Bling" is blazing the airwaves.
KILLAM: It's a work in progress, but I'll get it there.
SALIE: We hear tales of, you know, all-night sessions at "Saturday Night Live…"
SALIE: Yes, clearly. I mean, Lauren Michaels is famous for, like - what? - hearing pitches or having read-throughs at 1 o'clock in the morning or something.
KILLAM: The late night is Tuesday night. It's writing night, so people will show up - and this is sort of a general average - but around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and won't go home until about 5 or 6 a.m.. Now, many of our writers don’t go home at all, so they'll show up in the afternoon, write all night long, sometimes into the morning, and then we start a table read the next day around 3 in the afternoon - 3 or 4 or so.
SALIE: I have a guest with a weird question. Why don't people show up in the morning and just go home at night?
KILLAM: It's just not charming.
SALIE: (Laughter) I mean, what has this done to your personal schedule? Could you go to bed at 10 p.m. at night if you wanted to?
KILLAM: Absolutely. I - not to boo-hoo myself, but I am a father of two, so my mornings are not my own. So I would love to be asleep right now.
SALIE: We're going to try to keep you awake.
KILLAM: If mid-game, if I pass out, you'll please forgive me. That's what I'll remember, you know, years from now when I'm off the show. I'm not going to remember, like, I got home at 8 and had dinner. I'll remember the stretch where -there's one where I left my house at 11 a.m. on Thursday and didn't get back into my bed until 7 a.m. Saturday. Thanks, yeah, no.
SALIE: Applause, yeah.
KILLAM: Not for work, just, you know, I was going through a difficult period.
SALIE: I think we all remember from college - it's the late night when you - that's when the weirdest, craziest things happen.
KILLAM: I think, also, it's hard to write for that show by yourself. I find that writing with people is necessary because if you have two or three people in a room and you're all laughing, that's a good bet that you're onto something. But also hearing laughter through the walls, hearing everybody in the hallways and shared misery seems to help comedy.
SALIE: In 2011, you made a video where you danced to the Robyn song "Call Your Girlfriend." How did that come together?
KILLAM: So that was funny because, like, that was something kind of done on a dare. I didn't know who Robyn was that week that she was - I saw the name on the board. Like, you see - who's Robyn? And they played me the song and I was immediately hooked. I was like, ah, this is a feel-good song because my favorite kind of music is happy, angst-like yearning. So "Call Your Girlfriend," which is, like, dance out your feelings but tell your girlfriend you're cheating on her with me is so conflicted. It's so complicated. That's my favorite kind of music. And I started going around office to office playing the video, like, as loud as I could for people and then just kind of doing the dance while they were trying to get work done. And Sarah Schneider, who's a writer - I went and did it for her, and she's like, you should just, like, shoot that in your office. And our writing offices are rinky-dink (ph) - so tiny. So I called down to wardrobe, knowing they're there, and I'm like, do you have a pink, fuzzy sweatshirt? And I, like, rallied everybody and we - yeah, we shot it that night at, like, 4 in the morning just for fun - just to sort of, like, wipe the cobwebs away. And then it made everybody laugh, and we thought about maybe putting it on the show. But I was still new, and it was, like, a thing we shot just on a video camera. So I ended up putting it online. I get such nice feedback about that because I think people share my love for happy angst. That's life, man.
SALIE: You created a comic book series.
KILLAM: I did, I created a comic book called "The Illegitimates" about the bastard children of a James Bond-type superspy...
KILLAM: ...Who come together and - thanks, yeah. Check it out. Check it out. It's good.
SALIE: It makes sense, right?
KILLAM: Yeah, it was fun. I mean, he - every movie, he's left on a beach or in a hotel room with some - there's no way he was carrying a condom with him every time.
SALIE: You guys need to Google Image "The Illegitimates." It's so great. It's this picture of these incredibly hot, almost-naked women in heels and they're all about - I don’t know - they're deeply into their third trimester.
KILLAM: Exactly, yeah.
SALIE: It's like - it's fantastic. You said about "The Illegitimates," it's creatively the thing you're most proud of.
KILLAM: Absolutely. I came at it as a fan first, you know? Performing and writing TV movies was always something that I participated in, but comic books were always something that I just sort of admired and worshiped from afar. So just sort of throw my hat into that ring and start from absolute scratch - from, you know, just words on the page to hiring an artist, an inker, a penciler (ph), and seeing it come to life. It was just - the whole process was a dream.
SALIE: Now, Taran Killam, the most important question I have to ask you - are you ready to take an ASK ME ANOTHER challenge?
KILLAM: I am ready, yes. Bring it on.
SALIE: Let's give it up for Taran Killam.
COULTON: Taran, we know that before you were a cast member on "Saturday Night Live," you were huge fan of the show.
COULTON: So we're going to find out just how much you know about the history of SNL.
KILLAM: OK, cool.
COULTON: All you have to do is identify some classic SNL quotes and catchphrases. The twist is we have pulled out our thesaurus and changed all of the words.
COULTON: So let's go to puzzle guru Greg Pliska for an example...
KILLAM: It feels like a cheat, but OK.
COULTON: It's a cheat. It's a total cheat. It's designed to obfuscate the answer. How does that go, Greg? Explain to us.
GREG PLISKA: Well, here's how it goes, Taran. If I were to say, oh, is that not unique.
KILLAM: Sure, church lady.
PLISKA: You'd say, well isn't that special.
KILLAM: OK, got it. I answer with...
PLISKA: ...With the catch phrase as it is supposed to be done.
KILLAM: I love it. Wonderful.
SALIE: And - yeah, you'll get extra points if you answer in the voice of the character.
SALIE: And if you get enough right, you and Marianella Leon-Abar of Delray Beach, Fla., will both win ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cubes.
KILLAM: OK, then there's a lot on the line.
PLISKA: It's a pretty big deal.
KILLAM: It's huge.
COULTON: OK, here we go. We are pair of untamed and nutty fellows.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
KILLAM: (As one of the Festrunk brothers) We are two wild and crazy guys.
SALIE: I'm a character created in 1955 by stop-motion animator Art Clokey, dagnabbit (ph).
KILLAM: (As Gumby) I'm Gumby, damn it.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
KILLAM: I was going to go Mr. Bill for a second - stop motion.
COULTON: Right, here's the next clue. I'm a town in Montgomery County, Md., unlike yourself.
KILLAM: OK, yeah - (as Chevy Chase) I'm Chevy Chase and you're not.
COULTON: That's right.
SALIE: Mary Katherine Gallagher has a strange quirk when she's nervous. I put my digits in my axillas and inhale their odor.
KILLAM: (As Mary Katherine Gallagher) Sometimes, when I get really nervous, I put my hands under my armpits, and then I smell them like this.
SALIE: Just like that.
KILLAM: This is fun. This is like SNL fantasy cam (ph).
COULTON: That came right out of you, too. That was ready.
KILLAM: If you're going to show footage of me at 8 years old, that means I am sure.
SALIE: My home is a small, boxlike vehicle in close proximity to a large stream of water.
KILLAM: (As Matthew Foley) My name is Matthew Foley, and I live in a van down by the river.
SALIE: I never want to stop playing this game.
KILLAM: I know, me neither.
SALIE: You're like a jukebox.
COULTON: Like a jukebox - it's fantastic. Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon played NPR hosts in this sketch where Alec Baldwin said, zero people refuse my dessert item name for a double entendre for the male anatomy.
KILLAM: (As Pete Schweddy) No one can resist my Schweddy (ph) Balls.
COULTON: Yes, very good. That's great.
SALIE: That was a better Alec than Alec.
COULTON: Yeah, I know.
SALIE: You knew this was coming. You knew this was coming, Taran. I feel ill and the only remedy is an instrument hung around a farm animal's neck to make it easier to locate.
KILLAM: (As The Bruce Dickinson) I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell.
COULTON: Thank you for falling for our trick to make you dance around like a performing monkey.
KILLAM: Yeah, yeah.
COULTON: Congratulations, you and Marianella Leon-Abar (ph) win ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cubes.
COULTON: Let's hear it for our very important puzzler, Taran Killam.
KILLAM: Thank you, guys. It was so fun.
(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE OYSTER CULT SONG, "DON'T FEAR THE REAPER")
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