On January 19, 1991, Rob Schneider’s Saturday Night Live character Richard “The Richmeister” Laymer made his first appearance on the show. Dressed in crisp business attire, Schneider disappeared into the role of an annoying officemate who can’t help but comment every time a coworker decides to make a copy—and has no idea how annoying he is while doing so.
“The Steve-Man and the Sandster, makin’ copies!” he exclaims to characters played by Julia Sweeney and the late Phil Hartman, while to a fellow employee portrayed by Mike Myers, he says, “The Tomster, makin’ copies! Mr. Tom! Tommy!” Schneider’s enthusiasm only grows more obvious—his irritating nature that much more palpable—before his debut culminates with an appearance by musical guest Sting. “Sting! Dr. Stinglehoffer! Makin’ copies! The McStingster! Stingatolla! Sting! Stinga linga ding dong… dong.” To punctuate the ending, he stretches out the final line with relish: “Stiiiiiing!”
The Richmeister was an immediate sensation, and appeared consistently in the coming seasons—alongside copy machine fixer-upper Kevin Bacon, for example, and in competition with a fellow annoying coworker played by Jeff Daniels, who sang employee names. According to a 1991 Chicago Tribune article about the Richmeister phenomenon, the character emerged due to an inside joke between Schneider and Adam Sandler: The former’s SNL office was then located in “a semi-open spot” and when Sandler came by, “Schneider would break into this routine: ‘Adam, the Adam-meister. Going to get some water.’”
The part ended up being Schneider’s breakout role. In fact, he wasn’t even a regular SNL cast member at that point—he was still a writer/performer—and his experience to date had involved stand-up comedy, guest spots on Coach and 227, and playing a “Voyeur Martian” in the 1989 film Martians Go Home. Schneider more than anyone was surprised by the Richmeister’s popularity, as he told the Tribune: “I saw it as annoying. I didn’t know he’d be so likable.” But because the Richmeister was oddly likable despite his quirks, even serious figures were cool with being christened with nicknames, as evidenced by this 1991 US magazine profile of then-Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora.
In fact, despite the character’s limited range, his legacy lives on today. Although a 2014 State Farm ad campaign featuring the Richmeister was cancelled after Schneider’s vehement, real-life anti-vaccine views, you can still buy T-shirts emblazoned with his visage and the phrase “Makin’ Copies” in the official NBC store. So why does the character endure? At the time, the Richmeister added levity to the then-buttoned-up pop cultural portrayals of office life, presaging classics such as Mike Judge’s 1999 movie Office Space and, later, sitcoms such as The Office and 30 Rock. In hindsight, it’s clear that the character remains so relatable because the trope of “annoying coworker” never grows stale, just assumes new and different forms.
Watch a few sketches featuring the Richmeister below: