It is a long-standing tradition on Saturday Night Live to allow the last sketch of the evening, the one that airs just before the goodbye waves, to be bizarre and conceptual and even off-putting in a way that the rest of the show isn’t. In his SNL reviews, Dennis Perkins files these under the heading “What the hell is that thing?”—The Ten-To-Oneland Report. A perfect example of a “Ten-To-Oneland” sketch, perhaps a textbook case, is “Potato Chip,” a Jason Sudeikis-Will Forte scene originally written for a November 2009 episode with Taylor Swift. It was cut after dress rehearsal but finally aired during a Blake Lively episode the very next month.
The premise is extremely simple: During a job interview at NASA, interviewer Forte leaves astronaut candidate Sudeikis alone for a few minutes with explicit instructions not to touch the potato chips on Forte’s desk. Sudeikis immediately eats one of the chips, and when Forte returns, he is apoplectic with rage. What distinguishes the sketch are the intensity of the performances, the stubborn oddity of the characters, the theatrical staging, and a propensity for gross-out humor. For anyone wondering how this strange sketch ever aired on national television, Uproxx’s Mike Ryan has assembled an oral history of “Potato Chip,” complete with testimony from Sudeikis, Forte, co-writer John Solomon, and former SNL head writer Seth Meyers.
The origins of “Potato Chip” are surprisingly complex, drawing on such diverse sources as Cool Hand Luke, the plays of Tennessee Williams, Colonel Sanders, and Forte’s fascination with NASA. Most of the credit for the scene, the interviewees agree, belongs to Forte, who championed “Potato Chip” during SNL table reads with his 100-percent committed performance. That was enough to win over Meyers, who gave the sketch the go-ahead twice. Even today, he considers himself a ”Potato Chip” fan. Sudeikis brought a few of his own ideas to the scene, including the hemorrhoid donut his character would carry and a final, dramatic shot in which his character stares longingly at Forte and Lively through a window. According to Solomon, Forte didn’t care whether or not the audience laughed at the sketch or not. He just wanted a strong reaction. Since “Potato Chip” climaxes with Sudeikis vomiting into Forte’s hand, it’s safe to say he got one.