Some innovators try to devise a gadget that changes the world. Others hope to solve a global social ill. Sarah Sherman is eager to bring fake vomit on “Saturday Night Live” into the modern age.
The comic has gained notice on the long-running NBC late-night series for bizarre humor that blends gross-out jokes with a taste for the absurd. She’s been working with colleagues for months on new technology that would make the act of pretending to throw up onstage a lot easier — and more comfortable. For years, “SNL” cast members have relied on a tube tucked alongside their arm and usually inside a jacket sleeve that spews out liquid approximating vomit or blood. At just the right moment, the actor holds an arm close to the mouth, and the “vomit rig” does the rest. Dan Aykroyd used such a get-up in 1978 when playing Julia Child, who cut her hand open, and Jay Mohr did much the same in 1994 while playing a nauseated rookie cop.
Sherman and her cohorts have fresh ideas in 2023. “It’s an advanced vomit rig that’s handsfree, kind of like Bluetooth style,” says the comedian, now in her third season. She and fellow cast member Mikey Day wrote a sketch that would make use of it, but it was cut after a dress rehearsal. “Just know that we have some of the most brilliant minds in special effects working around the clock to develop live gags,” she says. “I’m trying every day to make great things.”
Below, Sherman discusses how she brings her distinctive humor to “SNL” and reveals behindthe-scenes details about signature sketches.
Variety: Where does your sense of humor come from?
Sarah Sherman: I just like outrageous things. I come from a loud, Jewish, outrageous family. I grew up liking, you know, crazy cartoons, and I love Joan Rivers and “The Nanny” and Garbage Pail Kids and “Ren & Stimpy” and stuff like that. I grew up liking crazy shit, and then I came up doing comedy in Chicago in more of a performance art community. I learned from all these crazy performance artists around me how to blend visual art and performance style.
Variety: One of the sketches you are best known for on “SNL” is one in which you are covered in strange talking meatballs. What was involved in making that?
Sarah Sherman: Dan Bulla, who I write with on the show regularly, has seen my stuff outside of the show and said, “I have an idea for you. What if you’re a girl covered in singing meatballs?” “No problem! Absolutely!” Some people were like, “That sketch is so you,” and I’m like, “Here’s the magic of the show. It was actually not my idea!”… It was a blend of special effects and physical puppetry. The meatball heads were cast members putting their heads inside of a meatball puppet made by Monkey Boys Prods., who do all the puppets for the show. It had real puppet arms and legs, and then the VFX team worked around the clock blending physical puppets with special effects, and putting little shadows underneath the meatball arms and legs.
Variety: You seem to have a lot of fun pushing Colin Jost around on Weekend Update. How does that work?
Sarah Sherman: Oh, my God, the only reason I’m able to do that is because we are friends, and he can take it. He’s so supportive. The show is amazing, of course, but it’s hard finding something that works. Your first season can be a challenge. So when I was like, “Hey, mind if I come on Weekend Update and emotionally terrorize you?,” he’s like, “Yeah, no problem.” Who could ask for better support than that?
Things you didn’t know about Sarah Sherman:
Hometown: Great Neck, N.Y. –
Favorite “SNL” sketch: “Massive Head Wound Harry,” a 1991 offering that features Dana Carvey as a partygoer with a horrific cranial injury. –
Comics who make her laugh: Tim Robinson, Eric André, Tim Heidecker. “These guys are masters at being freaks.”
A fan in Fran Drescher? Sherman recently did an “SNL” impression of the SAG-AFTRA president. “I saw her post about it on Instagram, which felt like a chef’s kiss — Fran’s stamp of approval.”