If there was one true breakout sketch from the first of half of this season of Saturday Night Live, it was “Close Encounter,” from the Ryan Gosling episode. Sure, it was great when Larry David granted everyone’s wish by playing Bernie Sanders, but that was nothing compared to Kate McKinnon talking about getting her knockers gently batted around—especially when the telling gets everyone else in the sketch, most notably, Ryan Gosling, to break.
In advance of the show’s return tomorrow (with Adam Driver as host), Vulture revisited the giggle-fest with the sketch’s writers, Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell. Over email, they walked us through how the sketch played throughout the week and when they knew everyone was going to break. Note: They answered the questions together, like two aliens who share a consciousness.
Was this the first week this sketch was pitched?
What was the original idea as pitched? Did it evolve?
The idea stayed pretty much the same throughout the week: Three people were abducted by aliens. Two had a transcendent, beautiful experience. Kate got shafted.
Why did you think Kate was right for the part she played?
Kate has an innate ability to make weirdos wonderfully accessible. She felt like a real person up there, which made the weirdness of her experience on this UFO with a group of dumb aliens seem more real. She found an awesome nuance in not playing it angry or too annoyed, but weirdly accepting and kind of disappointed, yet pretty much unfazed. It’s hard to explain the method to Kate’s delightful madness.
How was the reaction at the table read?
It went well, which made us super happy. It was pretty late in the read-through, so we didn’t know how it would go. Kate had the character fully formed and was already having fun with it.
When did you start getting a sense that Ryan Gosling might break?
During the first blocking rehearsal on Thursday. He always seemed to lose it after Kate described being tossed onto the roof of Long John Silver’s. He had the line, “Man, you got screwed,” after that part, but it always seemed to take a while for him to get it out. But we loved it because he seemed to always be having fun up there.
Was he laughing in the days leading up to it?
Yeah. He’s an adorable giggler, right?
Were the cast members laughing in the days leading up to it, too?
Yeah. Kate was like an assassin, taking them out one by one. She’d get Bobby to laugh, then spread her legs wider and wider until Aidy lost it. It was really fun watching Kate just completely control the scene and have fun up there.
What was dress like?
Dress was very similar to air. We trimmed a line or two before air, but Kate had a good rhythm with the structure, and we didn’t want to throw anything off. The audience liked it, and the cast broke a little.
So the sketch starts. When did you first get a sense that the actors might be in trouble?
Ryan’s smile would get bigger and bigger. Also, you can in see in Aidy and Bobby’s eyes that they’re holding back laughter. Kate would do stuff off-camera, like ash on herself, to have fun with those guys.
What were you thinking when Ryan was starting to smile?
We were charmed. When Gosling smiles, the world smiles with him.
What was it like when everyone was obviously laughing?
It was fun because you could tell the cast was having fun with each other. This cast is pretty good about keeping it together, so seeing them lose it felt like a special thing.
How was Lorne reacting during it?
Lorne gave us a million high-fives. Just kidding! Lorne seemed happy.
How did each cast member react after?
They walked off still laughing, which was cool. As Bobby exits at the very end of the sketch, you can see him shaking his head, like, “Well, we made it through that.” We gave Kate a giant hug after. We have a huge crush on her.
In retrospect, what do you think it was about the sketch that gave everyone the giggles?
Simple: Aliens gently batting around knockers is a GUARANTEED WIN. But truthfully, it was Kate’s fantastic performance that broke the cast. We really liked what we wrote, but her character, delivery, and Kate magic made it something special.