"Saturday Night Live's" Bobby Moynihan is best known for his character Drunk Uncle, the guy at the table who rants about all that is wrong with society but can't quite articulate his complaints. He has already made the leap from "SNL" to movies, having appeared in "When in Rome" and "Certainty" while he continues as a cast member on NBC's legendary comedy show. The 36-year-old grew up in Eastchester, N.Y., and majored in theater at the University of Connecticut. Before joining "SNL," he earned his comedy chops with "Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre" for nearly a decade. He voiced a character in the movie "Monsters University" and currently is the voice of the lead character in the new FX animated comedy series "Chozen." It premieres next Monday.
When was the first time you realized you were funny?
[Laughing] I don't know if I did as much as I was a little bit of a rambunctious kid making people watch me do stuff a lot of the time. [ I was] jumping in the pool a lot and just wanting attention in general. But I don't know if I necessarily knew that comedy was what I would get into.
Were your parents encouraging?
Very much so. I did a lot of theater as a kid because I had a bunch of friends who did it. I was in a pretty small town. My mom and dad definitely pushed me to do that. I was an acting major in college, and they were cool with it.
That's nice. A lot of parents might say: Nice hobby but get a real job.
[Laughing] There may have been a little bit of that, but I had a job while I was doing it. Then when I started getting more acting work, I quit that job. I think they understood it was just me trying to do what made me happy.
That was the pizza job, right?
Yes [laughing], I worked at a Pizzeria Uno for many years.
Bobby, a lot of comedians seem to have a dark side. What about you?
[Big laugh] I don't have a dark side as far as there is like murder in my past, but yeah, I think I'm a pretty nice, easygoing guy. I've always just enjoyed trying to do comedy in general. [Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre] was the best part because we had so many people who did it with us. But a dark side? I don't really know how to answer that. I mean, yeah, we use it as an escape in some ways. I don't think I'm wallowing in my misery all the time [laughing].
Do you still get star-struck?
I get it sometimes. I just met J.J. Abrams the other night at one of the "SNL" after-parties. That was pretty amazing. He is such a talented person. "SNL" is one of those jobs where you are constantly reminded of how lucky you are and that you get to meet some of these people whose work you enjoy. Then you get to meet them, and they are just wonderful people. It turns out wonderfully, and you have a great conversation.
So there is a party after every "SNL" show?
Yeah, there is an after-party and then an after-after-party. Everyone is so pumped up after doing the show that a lot of them stay up, you know? [laughs] It's kind of a tradition as well.
Are you constantly buzzing with new ideas for skits? Especially when you first started?
I think it comes and goes. In the beginning, when I first started, it was like I've got to have an idea. I've got to have an idea and have something in every week. Now I am in my sixth season, and it's kind of more like what is going to make me have a fun, good week and still contribute to the show. Sometimes you have a bunch of ideas and sometimes you have nothing.
I have been on the show long enough now that I have some recurring things. In my first season, if I didn't have an idea that week, I wasn't in the show. Now, if I don't have a new idea I can always do a character I have done before or hope that the writers will put me in stuff. I get ideas at just weird times. In a lot of cabs I get ideas for some reason. [laughs]
Maybe because your mind is drifting when you are just sitting there.
Yeah, exactly! It is when you are not waiting for it or thinking about it that the ideas come to you.
What kind of adjustments, if any, do you have to make when you are doing a voice for an animated character?
It is kind of fun in a way, but it is also more challenging because you are just sitting there trying to act out everything yourself. I love doing it because I think you can take different chances than you would with someone staring at you. You are standing alone in a room and all you have to do is sound a certain way. I am doing a cartoon right now, "Chozen" and I've done a couple episodes, and now when I go to do it, it sounds right. It's like you've created a new character, so that part of it is fun and amazing.
Do you find you have to be more animated because it is just your voice?
I think it helps to, but I think I am pretty animated in general. It also depends on what the voice-over is. For "Chozen," it is very high energy [he plays a white rapper just out of prison]. I did a voice for "Monsters University" and it was a different kind of voice, slower and just a lot more laughing. But "Chozen" is very crazy.
Now that your career has taken off, have your expectations changed?
[laughs] I am just happy to keep working and keep doing what I enjoy doing right now. "SNL" was a lifetime dream. To get the chance to work there is rewarding enough for right now. It's just about doing it and getting better and keep working. I just want a house and a nice family.
So many "SNL" cast members go on to successful movie careers. Is that now a standard goal?
I think it is everyone's individual journey. It's not like you do "SNL" and then get handed movie roles. You work, you audition for stuff and try to get it. I think, a lot of people, it's the goal to be in movies or just to be working in general. But yeah, some of us get lucky and get some movie roles and it's nice.
What is it like when you are expecting laughs and you get nothing. How do you keep going without freezing on stage?
Oh, it's the worst! Now it's a different story. I guess that comes from doing Upright Citizens Brigade for so many years. You spend years bombing [laughing]. You have to get good at it. How many shows I've done at UCB or on tour with them at colleges where we just bombed miserably. You learn from it. That's the whole thing. It makes you stronger and makes you better.
It's always the same. I remember doing Madison Square Garden as Drunk Uncle and coming out in the fourth hour of a concert that featured the Rolling Stones and Billy Joel. I came on between Kanye West and Billy Joel, and the second I came out everyone just stood up to get beers and I was like, all right, that was pretty crazy.
You have to develop a thick skin.
Oh yeah, of course. I mean I think that is what "SNL" does. It gives you a thick skin. Working there turns you into a comedy man [laughs].
It can't be easy trying to make people laugh.
Sometimes you stand back on the show ["SNL"] and think, "Look what we are doing! This is insane. This is live." They are still doing it the same way they did in the '70s. It is pretty astonishing to be a part of.
How much does your physical build have to do with your comic persona?
Me being slightly chubby, I guess, I am no Brad Pitt [laughing]. I think I definitely know my role, and you play up to it. I just did Rob Ford [mayor of Toronto]. The second I saw the guy, I said I am just going to wear a tight collar, and I know exactly what I am going to do [laughing]. I am going to make myself look big. Yeah, I think if I gain 10 pounds I get more work. It's different for guys, I guess. [laughs]
Patricia Sheridan: email@example.com or 412-263-2613. Follow her on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/pasheridan.