Actor and comedian Jason Sudeikis brought a little bit of “Saturday Night” to Irvine Auditorium last night.
Best known as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, Sudeikis was this year’s SPEC Connaissance speaker.
As Wharton senior and SPEC Connaissance Co-director Crystal Lu said, the program “is committed to raising discourse across campus.” SPEC Connaissance brings two well-known speakers to Penn each year and co-sponsors several other speaking events on campus.
Sudeikis’ fame was established right at the start of the talk, when his interlocutor, professor of English Kathleen Van Cleve, pointed out that he has a Twitter page with more than 21,000 followers without having written any tweets.
Despite his stardom, though, Sudeikis remained humble throughout his talk. He spoke about his upbringing in Overland Park, Kansas — which, Sudeikis joked, has a population of four — and how he had talent only for comedy and basketball.
“Once I stopped playing basketball, I had no need for school, and it had no need for me,” he said.
The audience received his humility and frankness with appreciation. “I didn’t know about him as a person before this,” College and Wharton junior Sarah Engheta said. “But he seems genuinely funny and really down to Earth.”
After turning 21, Sudeikis moved to Chicago to join The Second City, a sketch comedy and improv group that he described as the “minor leagues to SNL.” Following in the footsteps of such comedic greats as Tina Fey and Alan Arkin, Jason toured across the world with the group, and within a few years he found himself writing, and eventually acting for Saturday Night Live.
“I came because I’ve always loved him on SNL, and think he’s really funny,” College freshman Andrew Robertson said.
To Sudeikis, being on SNL was a dream come true. “It was like that pretty girl who would never go out with you,” he said. But “when there’s something I like or love, I just go after it.”
Of course, Tina Fey supplied him with some encouraging words via email to lend him the support he needed for his audition: “Rock out with your c*ck out.”
After landing a writing job, Sudeikis remembered writing one of his first sketches when Justin Timberlake was hosting for the first time. Only a few years later, he performed a skit with Timberlake — “Maine Justice” — in which Sudeikis played a judge and Timberlake a bailiff.
Sudeikis went on to describe the chaotic, fast-paced lifestyle of an SNL cast member. He said that jokes are constantly cut out and put back into each week’s script right up to the final performance. In “Maine Justice,” for example, Sudeikis recalled how a page of dialogue hadn’t made it into the stack of cue cards used for the skit. A split-second panic passed between the actors, a moment that “felt like hours,” he added.
But now that Sudeikis has branched out into acting in feature films, including a role in “Horrible Bosses,” he seemed unsure of his future at SNL.
He described the show as a “young man [or] woman’s game,” and that he won’t be there forever. In the future, though, he plans to continue “going with the flow,” saying that he is also open to writing more or taking a role on another TV show.
As the night came to a close, Sudeikis garnered the most applause and cheers in response to a question from the audience. Asked to break out his signature dance moves from the sketch “What’s Up With That?,” Sudeikis happily complied, ending the night with a “running man” dance — just like on TV.