‘SNL’ Star Heidi Gardner Picks Her Favorite Sketches of the Year — Including ‘Beavis & Butt-Head’ (Duh)

Heidi Gardner knew that “Saturday Night Live” Beavis and Butt-Head sketch was taking off after a chat with a lifelong friend.

“My friend Michelle, I’ve known her since second grade,” Gardner told IndieWire during a recent interview. “It was really cute after ‘Beavis and Butt-Head,’ she was like, ‘I loved seeing you laugh in that sketch because I know that laugh.’ And [I said], ‘Yeah, that’s because we’ve laughed like that for so many years.’ That’s what is special to me about [the sketch]. Mikey [Day] feels like a friend I’ve had since I was a kid. To get to show the world, ‘Yeah, I think this person is so funny,’ I welcome it.”

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The viral sketch, which found guest host Ryan Gosling and Day as random background players who look suspiciously like the ‘90s animated comedy duo, became a standout moment on Season 49 of “SNL,” both for their ridiculous look as well as cast member Gardner absolutely losing it once she catches a glimpse of the two.

“It feels like it was just this huge release in a lot of ways for people,” Gardner said of the massive response. “You’re not watching ‘SNL’ in 2024 expecting to see Beavis and Butt-Head. So I think that was a fun generational thing for people to feel nostalgia. … And then the fact that we all got the giggles, people have told me, ‘Oh, seeing you laugh that hard gave me permission to laugh that hard and just really be like, This is so stupid.’”

The sketch originally hit the table read back in 2018. “I remember thinking it was really funny,” Gardner said, noting she originally played an audience member. When it was brought back, she thought it was cool she’d portray the moderator this time around, but didn’t think deeply beyond that: “I just thought, serve the piece in that way, as a straight man. Beavis and Butt-Head, those are the funny parts.”

Mission not quite accomplished: Gardner’s over-the-top giggle fit was the first time the pro had really broken over her years on the program, which added another goofy layer for those enjoying at home. “I think sometimes, what I was robbing myself of for years [by] not laughing [was] just occasionally taking comedy too seriously, or being a comedy snob, or just being like, ‘Oh, I’ve seen that before.’ It’s easier to be light about this stuff and laugh,” she said.

Viewers agreed, and the hilarious sketch — 15 million views and counting — was a fun button on a year that found the performer settling in following the departure of many famous faces prior to the season premiere (Gardner joined the program in 2017).

That loosening up meant she also was able to further explore her knack for physical comedy, perfectly executed in just a few of the sketches Gardner touched on in our chat. In “Bank Robbery,” she’s a lady who is just a little too into being the damsel in distress and is happy to play-act a raunchy robbery gone wrong. “That was just one of those magic sketches where everyone’s having a good time,” Gardner recalled of getting wild opposite an “animated” and “cheeky” Josh Brolin.

Likewise, in “Secretaries” opposite Kristen Wiig, Gardner is a ditzy secretary while executing a series of increasingly ridiculous body challenges (licking Jon Hamm’s tie, falling through a wall, etc.). “You find some things in rehearsal, like sizzling the sandwich between our butts,” Gardner said of the escalating wackiness. “And then there’s some stuff on the fly. It also has to do, obviously to her credit, with how playful Kristen is.”

Despite the fun, it was a relatively new experience for Gardner to clock those specific physical comedy gifts.

“Honestly, it was really [in the] last season,” she explained. “At the beginning of this season, when I did the Busy Co-Worker Doing Seemingly Nothing, I was like, ‘Oh, I think I can handle a lot of things at once.’ That feels like what physical comedy is. In that piece, it was juggling a lot things coming at me. I just realized doing that, I like having the time and space to not only deliver the line, but also deliver the lines with my body.”

Gardner is just happy that she’s been able to enjoy the experience these days in a way that, as a nervous new cast member, simply wasn’t possible.

“I always watch the seniors before me and they got to take a lot of shots, basically,” she said. “Just having busy, full shows was something [that] just sounds so creatively fulfilling. I want to be running across the floor and changing quickly. To get that opportunity now, I feel a lot of gratitude. … [This is] the thing I want to be doing the most, which is playing characters and putting on wigs. I get to do that at the place that really made it a thing.”

She is, of course, aware that next season will be the legendary show’s 50th. “I’ll need to have a camera on me at all times,” she joked. “I want to savor that moment and be so present. The Kristen Wiig show this year, when she [joined] the Five Timers Club and there were so many alumni and other Five Timers on the stage. I was like, ‘Is this a preview of the 50th?'”

Until then, the actress will be spending the summer in her beloved Kansas City (“even if people are coming for Taylor and Travis, cool. I welcome the tourism!”) and relishing the downtime. “My producer Steve always tells me, especially on the hiatuses, live your life. That’s what is gonna make you a better performer,” she said. “Why you got on this show is because you’ve lived a life and then you came here and brought us what you’ve learned from that life through comedy and character.”

After all, Gardner really didn’t get started in improv and sketch until her twenties at the famed Groundlings. “I’m a Leo. I always thought of Leos as lions and I know a lot of women in my life that are obvious Leos,” Gardner said. “And I’m like, ‘I love being a Leo, but I’m just not a lion. That’s not who I am.’ And I remember the first time on stage where I felt like I took up the stage. I was like, ‘I’m a lion now; this is starting to make sense.'”

“Saturday Night Live” concluded Season 49 on May 18 on NBC.

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