Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

SNL alums Robert Downey Jr. and Jimmy Fallon share their worst never-aired sketches

Robert Downey Jr., Jimmy Fallon
Photo: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC

You remember that Robert Downey Jr. was a full cast member on Saturday Night Live, right? Alongside other luminaries like his Weird Science co-star Anthony Michael Hall, Joan Cusack, Randy Quaid, and Damon Wayans? Danitra Vance? Terry Sweeney? Anyone? Well, he was, back in 1985, the first year Lorne Michaels returned from self-imposed exile to take the helm of the show he created, and decided that youth was the thing. Downey was 20, and heavily into his Flock Of Seagulls hair, while Hall was only 17, which seems like a recipe for disaster in retrospect. Downey told fellow Saturday Night Live veteran Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday’s Tonight Show that he and Hall, who shared the office formerly occupied by Belushi and Aykroyd (warning sign number two), demanded bunk beds with NFL sheets, which they got with the implied provision that the two budding teen stars get down to work and write some groundbreaking, youth-courting sketch comedy gold.

Enter Suitcase Boy. Or, rather, never, ever enter, Suitcase Boy, as Downey explained that the one sketch he wrote that ever came remotely close to making it to air was unceremoniously shit-canned after dress. Luckily, backstage stills are forever, so Fallon presented viewers with Suitcase Boy’s NBC premiere, in the form of the 20-year-old Downey, sweat-plastered floppy hair sticking out from the oversized suitcase his body was stuffed in. Downey said the idea was that he’d come out like that (“sweating mortar shells”) and speak non-sequiturs and, well, that would be Suitcase Boy. Fallon, not to be outdone in the lame conceptual prop comedy sketch department, then attempted to one-up (one-down?) his guest by showing a clip of the dress rehearsal sketch of Plate Boy and Cup Boy, and if you’re getting a Krusty The Clown Big Ear Family sketch vibe, you’re not alone there. Watching that one, where Fallon and fellow giggle-puss Horatio Sanz (alongside host Alec Baldwin) play pizza joint employees who just can’t handle those darned plates and cups, respectively, Downey graciously admitted that two hacky, undercooked premises beats one, pronouncing Fallon’s two boys lamer than his sweaty one.

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Downey—as Fallon noted, the only SNL alum to ever be nominated for a lead acting Oscar (Chaplin, duh)—seems to have weathered the Suitcase Boy situation just fine. (Look, Doctor Doolittle has sunk more than one former SNL luminary in the past.) That even though Downey noted that, at the time, he was often cited as the worst cast member of “arguably the worst season” in the show’s history. (Both are debatable—sort of.) Hinting that he’d possibly be interested in visiting Studio 8H sometime, presumably to host, Downey would presumably do a lot better this time around.

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About the author

Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.