PLUS: Which line made the 'SNL' studio 'vibrate' with laughter

By Jess Cagle
September 14, 2018 02:00 PM

Jimmy Fallon took part in plenty of unforgettable sketches during his years on Saturday Night Live — but one instant classic was almost deemed too “weird” to air.

Sitting down with PEOPLE editor-in-chief Jess Cagle for the latest episode of The Jess Cagle Interview, the Tonight Show host shares a few behind-the-scenes secrets from his SNL days. As it turns out, less was almost more for one fan-favorite sketch: Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken’s “More Cowbell” was nearly scrapped from the show.

“It played late,” Fallon, 43, explains. “Usually the weirder sketches play later on, and it almost didn’t make it to air.”

Luckily, the cowbell made the cut, and Ferrell and the rest of the cast “upped their game” for the on-air version.

“Will did this thing when he was playing the cowbell,” Fallon recalls. “He would play it and his shirt would come up a little bit and his gut would hang out… and that would make me laugh. On air he wore a smaller shirt.”

Fallon, who made a name for himself with his tendency to break during the funniest segments, couldn’t hold it together.

“That was my first season, and I was so out of my league with all these great comedians,” he explains. “I blew my line because I was laughing.”

The actor and comedian remembers getting scolded backstage: “They’re like, ‘No, it’s funny when you’re watching, but you can’t laugh when you’re in the sketch. You idiot. You’re acting.’ ”

Credit: Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

Fallon, of course, wasn’t always able to follow that advice — but sometimes he wasn’t the only one.

Recalling the hilarious 2004 sketch “Debbie Downer: Disney World,” which became infamous for breaking everyone in the cast, Fallon points out that he held back his laughter almost until the end, unlike costar Horatio Sanz.

“Horatio was losing it throughout the whole thing,” Fallon says. “He was dabbing the tears with the [Mickey] waffles trying to make me laugh.”

But it was the last line that really brought down the house, as Rachel Dratch deadpanned, “It’s official. I can’t have children.”

“Why would you say that at Disneyland with the family?” Fallon says with a laugh. “It’s just silly.”

“The whole place exploded” at the line, Fallon remembers, and the studio “vibrated.” He explains that SNL‘s studio is built on springs so the rumbling of the subway doesn’t disrupt the show.

“If it’s a really killer sketch the place shakes,” he says. “The place shook.”