Zach Galifianakis went on to build an extremely successful career, starring in comedies like The Hangover trilogy, Due Date, and The Campaign, as well as television shows like Bored to Death and Baskets. However, the comedian had a bit of a rough start to his career, including a failed, two-week stint as a writer on Saturday Night Live.
In a new interview on the podcast Literally! With Rob Lowe, Galifianakis revealed some details about some failed sketches he pitched for Britney Spears' episode on May 13, 2000. Spears was promoting her iconic second album Oops... I Did It Again, and according to Galifianakis she "showed her belly button a lot," so he pitched a sketch where Will Ferrell would play a security guard who would shrink down to protect Spears' navel. It was not well received.
"I feel like a tumbleweed went right across the writers' room table, and a cricket riding it," Galifianakis quipped. Galifianakis also pitched a skit idea to Spears herself, and it was received a similarly unenthusiastic response. "You're being interviewed by Entertainment Tonight," Galifianakis explained. "There's no jokes. And during the middle of the interview, you just start bleeding from the mouth."
"She looks at me, and then she looks at the ground, and then I looked at the ground, and she looks back up at me, I look at her, and she goes, 'Yeah, that's funny,'" he told Lowe. Unsurprisingly, the sketch did not make it to air. Galifianakis may not have thrived in the writers' room, but he returned to SNL three times -- in 2010, 2011, and 2013 -- as a host.
This isn't the first time that Galifianakis spoke about his brief tenure at the sketch comedy show. The job began with a misunderstanding, as Galifianakis thought that he would be a cast member when he accepted the job. "I didn't get it. I thought I got it, but I got to New York and I realized quickly that I was writing," he said on Off Camera with Sam Jones in 2019. "I remember it was so silent. I remember hearing the A.C. as it shut down in the middle of the sketch," he said about this pitch of the belly button bouncer skit. He also remembered that head writer Tina Fey kindly patted his shoulder after the flop. "It didn't feel sarcastic," he said. "It could've been, but in my mind, it was her going, 'It's okay.'"