Speaking at the Writers Guild Foundation’s “An Evening with Seth Meyers” event in Los Angeles, the conversation inevitably shifted to the two comedians’ shared time on “Saturday Night Live.” In an experience that Samberg describes as “one of the high points of my life,” Nicolas Cage joined “Weekend Update” for the ongoing “Get in the Cage” segment, one that hadn’t exactly painted the actor in the most flattering light.
“It was not even remotely like Nic Cage. It was just a lunatic person that we called Nic Cage. To his enormous credit, he recognized that and thought that was funny and came on ‘SNL’ and we did it as twin Nic Cages,” Samberg said.
After he’d agreed to do it, the time came to go over the actual segment. Even though “Get in the Cage” was still built around a parody, they were confident there was enough to ease the tension of having him play alongside a caricature of himself.
“We had to go into his dressing room, with the script,” Meyers said. “There was no sense that he had seen it.”
“We definitely had sent it. He definitely had not looked at it,” Samberg added. “But we had included in the scripts him explaining that this was not a good impression of him. We were admitting that to him and also allowing him to say on air that it was unfair.”
Then came the pre-show run-through, before it even got to the dress rehearsal stage.
“He was very quiet, but ready to act. Nic Cage is still, for my money, one of the most interesting people in the world to watch. Genuinely, I was enraptured. Then it finished and he was like, ‘OK.’ We walked out and skipped down the hallway, we were so excited.”
The dress rehearsal of the segment is available to watch on YouTube, but what that version doesn’t have is something that shocked both of them when the time came to do it for a live audience.
“Then, on air, at the end he slapped the table. You can hear me go ‘Guh!'” Meyers said.
“He leaned in so hard,” Samberg said. “And the last line from him was ‘We’re gonna have a three-way with the Declaration of Independence!’ Flames shot out of his head. It was so fucking good!”
In addition to the “SNL” reminiscing, the pair talked about Meyers’ ongoing role as the host of “Late Night,” breaking down a few of the recurring segments on the show. Eventually, the conversation turned to the ever-popular “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” and how that comes together on a regular basis.
“[Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel] write jokes and they also collect jokes from the rest of the staff. I think there’s something that feels naughty to write jokes that can only be saved by the charm of these two really talented performers,” Meyers said.
Samberg asked about the vetting process for those particular jokes, if some of them ever get too real in the writers’ room.
“More often than not, there’ll be one where I’m like, ‘Amber, no!’ And she’s like, ‘That’s my favorite one!’ And I’ll say, ‘Let me tell you something on behalf of white people. There are things that we’re not ready to hear. I invite you to say everything you want to say, but this will make people break in half,'” Meyers said. “But she makes that choice. It’s always up to her. There’s never been one where I’m like, ‘You absolutely can’t say that.’ Because if she wants to weather it, we’re always like, ‘God bless. Go for it.'”
“Late Night” is off for the week, something that, for him, actually makes following the ever-churning news cycle a little more challenging.
“Reading the news, for me, is a lot harder when you don’t have a show. I actually find it very cathartic to get to write Closer Looks and then perform them for an audience. So I feel like it’s actually soothing and healing to follow it, knowing you get to make jokes about it. When we don’t have a show, I feel like I’m muttering in the street,” Meyers said.