Paul Feig is a big fan of Melissa McCarthy and not just because she helped turn his comedy "Bridesmaids" into a global blockbuster. No, the "Freaks and Geeks" creator recognizes something in McCarthy he's seen before. The joy of when untapped talent is unleashed. Such as Steve Carell.
"It’s these people who have been trying for a long time and working for a long time and laying the groundwork. And when this opportunity hits, they’re ready for it and they appreciate it and they take advantage of it. And she’s doing that in the smartest possible way," Feig says during an extended interview last month. "Like when I was at 'SNL' I kept getting choked up because just it’s also the joy of like somebody who has wanted something for so long and who’s earned it getting that shot."
Following "Bridesmaids" monster success and McCarthy's surprise Emmy win for best actress in a comedy series, there was hope the "Mike & Molly" star would create some sparks reuniting with onscreen co-star Kristen Wiig. McCarthy's entire show turned out to be one massive fireworks display of comedy.
"When I was in that audience at 'SNL,' she was destroying," Feig says. "It was like you get chills because you go like this is something that was meant to be and fortunately the Gods of show business and the Gods of comedy aligned. I’d say the flash point moment for me was, you know, that Hidden Valley Ranch sketch which she'd done at the Groundlings for years. And always, one of the big gags was with that big bottle, picking it up and squirting it into her mouth like kind of emptying the whole thing in this kind of stream that she does. She just drags it and it’s always worked in the dress rehearsal. On air she picked it up, squeezed it and it explodes in her face. [That] never happened before and it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s also ‘cause I knew it was a mistake, but when she went with it you couldn’t have -- a team of scientists couldn’t have made that explode and hit more perfectly than it did. Now that’s where you [think] the comedy Gods have smiled down on a worthy person who they’ve been waiting, waiting in the wings to launch on the world and now it’s almost been like ordained."
Feig says the genesis of McCarthy appearing on "SNL" began when they were shooting "Bridesmaids." One of his oldest friends is "SNL" producer and writer Steve Higgins. The filmmaker let Higgins know back then they McCarthy would be a great host down the road. Flash forward to over a year later and McCarthy finds herself reuniting with Wiig in what turned out to be one of the best individual "Saturday Night Live" shows in years. Sitting in the audience during the dress rehearsal, however, Feig found himself a little worried.
"What they do is they’ll get enough stuff where if the host in dress rehearsal isn’t great or isn’t hitting it they have all this other stuff they can use," Feig reveals. "And so when I was in the dress rehearsal there’s a lot of stuff up front that didn’t have Melissa in it and I was going like, 'Oh, shoot. Is this going to be one of those episodes where the guest host [disappears].' Then her sketches started coming and they were just destroying and I remember thinking like if I ran the show I know how I would structure it."
Feig continues, "And when I sat in the live audience they did exactly that. I mean, the fact that they would take that Lawrence Welk sketch and make it the opening before the credits thing is genius, but that was when they knew it [was gonna be a good show]. I had talked to Steve about it and he said, 'You know what? When you get somebody like her, it’s the greatest thing for us because -- you don’t have to do anything and they kind of sit back and let it happen.' But that rarely happens. I mean, so many people who you think are going to be hilarious are not. Or, they care too much or they get too reverent or they're just nervous. But again, this goes back to like somebody who’s trained and trained and been waiting in the wings. Like you could tell she was just like, 'Let me at it, let me [expletive] at it. And then her in that opening with her and Kristen was so joyous."
McCarthy seems like a natural to become a recurring host along the lines of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Feig says from what he's heard they do hope she returns. Feig says, "I talked to Kristen afterward and she had so much fun. She goes, 'I wish I could do this every week.'"
And while many are still hoping McCarthy can land an Oscar nomination in the best supporting actress category, Feig is already thinking about next year's Emmys.
"If Melissa doesn’t win the Emmy for that guest appearance? I would put all my money on that," Feig says. "You know, Baldwin the week before killed it. But she topped him, I think."
Look for more from Feig on his awards hopes for "Bridesmaids" and the possibility of a sequel later this week on HitFix.
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