The Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Symposium invited Mikey Day as the second speaker of their 2022 “The Road Ahead” series on Oct. 19. Day is a writer and cast member of the late-night variety show, Saturday Night Live (SNL). His talk focused on the ins and outs of his career as an actor and his experiences working on SNL.
Day began with his opinion on why people like political comedy. He said that he believes people find satisfaction in making fun of politicians that are hostile toward criticism or take themselves too seriously.
Day has performed caricatures of various political figures since he became an SNL cast member in 2016. He explained that playing a comedic politician was about finding one aspect to grab onto, like funny hair for example, and then exaggerating that aspect for the audience.
“The more bombastic and crazy politicians that are almost like cartoons are the easiest,” he said.
Day described how some of the most enjoyable characters for him included Donald Trump’s son and dumb, confused men. He didn’t need to worry about cues and camera shots for these roles.
With acting, Day has managed to stay creative and focused because of the high-energy nature of live performances. The fun factor helps him stay in the flow. The thought of being on the show also motivates Day to continue to create new material. In regards to burnout, Day recalled how busy things got on SNL.
“We usually do [SNL] in three or four-week runs, and then we have a week or two off, so by the end you start to feel the burnout,” he said. “It's kind of like a marathon. Your brain, especially having done it for so many years, just kind of clicks into place, and you're like ‘I can’t burn out because if I burn out I won't be writing stuff.’”
Before he became a cast member, Day began as an SNL writer in 2013. He expressed feeling that writing weird and wacky scripts was foundational to his success.
“You write your way onto the show by putting yourself on stuff, writing material that you want to do, so I would say it's very instrumental,“ he said. “It's important in a lot of aspects in this industry — being able to write and craft your own stuff so you're not beholden to other people's material just kind of waiting around for something that you're right for.”
As a writer, Day saw many of his sketches rejected, with some not making it past the reading and others not making it past the dress rehearsal. Day explained that he learned to move on to the next project with each failed sketch, and provided some examples of rejected ideas: Eric Trump in a parody of Home Alone, Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson dressed as Tommy Pickles from The Rugrats and Professor Snape from Harry Potter teaching Spanish in an American suburb.
Day graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a degree in Theater and said that he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. He highlighted the benefits he found in attending UCLA, including making friends and meeting people with industry connections.
“When you’re with your peers doing something that you all mutually want to pursue, I think that’s beneficial,” he said.
Freshman Lauren Oster, an SNL fan explained what she learned from Day’s talk in an interview with The News-Letter.
“A big takeaway was his discussion of how important it is to find passion in what you do and to not let setbacks delay you from progressing in your personal professional life,” she said.
Oster also thought that Day made for an engaging panelist by bringing humor into what he was discussing.
In an interview with The News-Letter, freshman Raghav Agrawal echoed Oster’s point on Day emphasizing passion in the workplace.
“His general comedic timing and the intricacy with which he answered questions was incredible,“ he said. “His entire demeanor was refreshing, and he made some really good points about doing what one is passionate about!”
In an interview with The News-Letter, junior Joshua Deck, co-programming chair of the MSE Symposium, expressed that MSE Symposium invited Day to add variety and engagement in between political figures such as Obergefell and their upcoming speaker, Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Deck expressed that Day embodied “The Road Ahead” series since current events play a large role in his work. Deck added that he hoped students could use the event as a comedic, light-hearted break.
“It's a very stressful time for all of us,” he said. “We're right in the middle of midterms and papers, so we have these couple days off and what better way to kick that off than with a very funny comedian to help out.”