Outside of launching some stellar careers over nearly five decades on NBC, Saturday Night Live is best known for its legend-status characters and sketches. Amongst all the popular sketches from Season 46, Bowen Yang’s "iceberg that sank the Titanic" Weekend Update bit is one that went super viral. Many memorable SNL moments have amazing stories behind them, and it turns out this one fits that description as well, as Yang revealed his most iconic SNL sketch so far almost didn’t even happen.
During a session for Variety’s Actors on Actors, award-winning actress Jean Smart revealed to the SNL star that his Titanic iceberg sketch was her favorite. Smart called the comedic bit “off the wall and hilarious” while mentioning that Yang was “so deeply sincere” in his performance. This prompted Yang to spill some behind-the-scenes information about that Weekend Update moment. He thanked the actress for her compliment and said:
I wrote that with one of our head writers, Anna Drezen, who I’ve known since college. She texted me in February and said, ‘Maybe for the April 10th show, because the Titanic sinking anniversary is around that time, you come on "Weekend Update" as the iceberg that sank the Titanic and you’re just really annoyed that people still associate you with that.’
The SNL star revealed to the Designing Women alum that Drezen’s idea reminded him of their pre-professional comedy days. Bowen Yang admitted that he didn’t even quite get the sketch when it was first pitched to him. He eventually broke down how the popular sketch almost didn’t make it to air. Yang said to Jean Smart:
We vomited out this draft in a few hours. We read it at the table; it did pretty well, and then usually they let you know, Thursday night, Friday morning if your Update piece is gonna go to the show. By Friday afternoon, we hadn’t heard anything, so I texted Anna, ‘RIP iceberg.’ Friday night at midnight, I got a text from Colin Jost saying, ‘I think we’re gonna try this iceberg thing.’
Bowen Yang told Jean Smart that after the last-minute confirmation from "Weekend Update" anchor Colin Jost, he and Drezen spent over an hour texting various departments to coordinate all parts of the iceberg sketch. Yang explained:
‘OK, so he’s gonna have this song at the end that he sings and then, just ’cause he’s there to promote his album, and I think we want, like, a headpiece that’s made out of Styrofoam, white clown makeup, gloves, a blazer with stones on it.’
Not the most complicated costume, but then nothing would have come together if it was. Bowen Yang talked about him and Anna Drezen rewriting the popular sketch repeatedly all Saturday to make the jokes better. He admitted to the Hacks star that the two kept laughing while rewriting it, but he and Drezen were still unsure if the iceberg sketch would make it to air.
…we were like, there was no way this was gonna make it onto TV. There was no way. It got picked for air and we’re like, let’s just let go and let God … How did we stick the landing on that? It was just a lovely surprise that it even happened.
It’s hard to believe the Titanic iceberg sketch almost didn’t happen, considering how well it was received. All of Bowen Yang’s wit and over-the-top humor sold the sketch and made it such a hit. (This isn’t the first time Yang revealed an awesome SNL behind-the-scenes story, either.) Having such a big moment like this cemented his place on the late-night sketch’s cast, so here's hoping the future is just as bright for as the Titanic's searchlight was. Or maybe brighter, even.