After joining the cast of "Saturday Night Live" in 2008, Bobby Moynihan became in indispensable go-to member of the late-night sketch show's ensemble, and the comedic force behind a roster of bizarre and memorable characters including the uninhibited, opinionated, and intoxicated Drunk Uncle, kitty cat-obsessed astronaut Kirby, Michael Che's high school pal turned Weekend Update rival Riblet.
Away from "SNL," Moynihan's been building a burgeoning sideline voicing animated characters, and his most recent triumph was providing the always-on-edge-but-none-too-bright pug Mel in "The Secret Life of Pets." With the film now available on home video, Moynihan sounds off to Moviefone about his love for his newfound career, as well as being at the center of the current pop cultural conversation on "SNL."
You had a front-and-center view recently of what was clearly one of the big pop-culture water cooler moments in the wake of the election, when Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton played Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" on the piano. What was it like to take part in that particular episode and to see the audience responding, especially to the opening sketch, but also in general?
Yeah, in my nine years [at "SNL"], I don't know if I've had a show like that or felt that way during a show. It just felt like we were doing our jobs to make people laugh and it felt good. It also was, as a fan of Dave Chappelle and A Tribe Called Quest, it was pretty legendary to just sit there and be part of it. I feel very lucky today.
For you, what is the fun of having the "SNL" platform to take on political and social commentary? What do you enjoy about that aspect of the job?
I enjoy every aspect of this job. I always have. I was a pretty big "SNL" fan before I got the show. So now that I'm on it, I'm just glad I get to be a part of it, and if we can do something to help people, make people laugh or take their minds off of stuff, I guess that's the best part.
We haven't seen Drunk Uncle for a while, and a return in the Trump era would seem appropriate. Do you have some plans for him?
I never know. I love that character and I don't ever want to burn it out too quickly. Yeah, I don't know. Maybe hopefully someday ... That character was always fun to do. A lot of people are very nice about it.
I've seen you here visiting in Los Angeles and taking in presentations like Paley Center's "LOST" reunion, where you've gone as a fan in the audience. Tell me about the fun for you to still be a fan -- even while you're in the thick of the entertainment industry.
Yeah, I'm a fan of a lot of things. I've always been a giant "Lost" fan. I enjoy Damon Lindelof's work a great deal. I think Carlton [Cuse] and them are good guys. I like the universes I can get lost in for a little while. Yeah, some of my best memories from "SNL," one of the things that this job affords you is to be able to jump into worlds that you love.
I wrote that "Hobbit Office" sketch, and to be able to do part of the British "Office" with Martin Freeman -- it's stuff like that where you just write it and you hope. You're a fan of the show and you can write these specifics, and then when you're in it, in costumes with these people who are involved, it's a great deal of fun. I enjoy it a lot.
Me and Mikey Day and Taran Killam wrote that "Undercover Boss" with Kylo Ren, and just playing in that world was super fun. Especially when people who are involved with the actual productions are excited to be involved in it too. It's playtime. It makes me a kid again.
You encounter people who are iconic and people who are of the moment, and I have a little bit of that in my job, and I always have to resist turning into Chris Farley from "The Chris Farley Show" sketches. How about you?
Yeah, that's me every day.
Do you go through that and have to figure out, "OK, here's where I can fan-out, here's where I'm a pro, and here's where I just sit and observe and be Forrest Gump in this scenario?"
Yeah, I'd like to think I've gotten better at it, but I still fanboy out pretty hard on some things, but I'm getting better. I'm becoming an adult.
I have to ask you about the explosion of popularity of the David S. Pumpkins sketch with Tom Hanks. Did you guys think that that was going to have that kind of crazy viral experience, almost becoming a Halloween icon overnight?
No, I don't go into writing going like, "This is going to be a big thing over Halloween." It definitely wasn't that. More, "What dumb thing can we do with Tom Hanks?", and he seemed a pretty silly, fun guy. I think part of the reason that people loved it is because it was Tom Hanks doing a very silly thing, and me and Mikey Day have written together a lot, so we just wanted a new cast member to do something where we got to do something together. Why we chose dancing skeletons, I'll never know, but I think we wrote it at 5 a.m., so yeah.
People were stoked about "The Secret Life of Pets" from the trailer alone, and then, of course, the movie did so well with audiences. What was cool about observing the reaction?
I guess it's more realizing, just seeing how much people really care for their pets. Seeing the pet community kind of come together, people who have dogs absolutely love their dogs. I feel like having a dog is like having a kid. I think there's a special emotional attachment that really kind of got everybody ... The movie did such a good job at showing that curious side of what adventures they would go on if they were left alone.
Did you look at dogs at all to get a little inspiration?
Yeah, the animation that they showed me was enough to see who this guy was, but yes, I went to dog parks for 30 years and watched them and studied them ... No, I kind of just went for it!
Are you a dog guy or a pet guy at all?
Not really. I never had a dog. I've had some fish and a parakeet throughout my life, but that was about it. I had goldfish that I won, like, my first day in college, and I think they lived for almost nine years, which is almost unheard of. I had fish for a very long time, but they are pretty low-maintenance pets. That was as much as I could handle at the time.
Are you much of an aficionado of animation? Is that an art form that you've paid close attention to?
Yes, I've always loved it. When I was a kid, I wanted to draw comic books, and I grew up on Hanna-Barbera, and "G.I. Joe" and all those '80s and '90s classic cartoons, so I've always been a fan, but to get to work on it now, I really enjoy it.
I had so much fun doing that production, and I'm so happy that people really enjoy it. I truly hope they do a sequel. I hope. I haven't heard anything, but I hope they do. I would love to play that silly dog again.
What are your immediate career goals? What are the things that you're pushing forward while you're still enjoying your time on "SNL"?
I'm always thinking about the future, but right now it's just kind of focusing on "SNL," and I just enjoy working. I just want to work and do good work. Yeah, I've been lucky to do a lot of animation lately. I've been enjoying that. Other than that, just trying to get through the day.