Mohr is Less

A funny thing happened when Ityped M-O-H-R into the mouse-on-a-treadmill-powered Weekly search engine: up popped a veritable Jay Mohr bash fest courtesy of the poison pen of one Rebecca Ellen Mary Schoenkopf Griley Reilly.

In a surprisingly voluminous canon of references to Mohr, she—and Commie Clubbed! Girl really is just one person, folks—referred to the actor/comedian/Last Comic Standing host and producer as “dorky,” “a mean-spirited little man,” “a smug, prissy white boy” and “a flat-faced weasel who tells incredibly offensive jokes.” The only compliment was backhanded: Mohr can't be evil because “his face is too soft and fetus-like.” The thought of him made our normally pacifistic columnist downright violent: “I may just have to fulfill a latent psychopathic fantasy and maim Jay Mohr.” And then there was the lowest blow of all: “If former Governor Pete Wilson were a standup comic, he would be Jay Mohr.”


Since I respect the Girl so much, I've had to question my own taste because Mohr's always cracked me up onstage, on Saturday Night Live, on Jim Rome's sports talk-radio show and, most especially, as deliciously amoral action-movie producer Peter Dragon on the late, great, much-too-brief Fox sitcom Action! Mohr's Christopher Walken is better than Christopher Walken's.

I was so spooked that I had to sneak around the office to read Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches at Saturday Night Live, Mohr's expos of his rocky stint on NBC's late-night comedy institution. The book recalls some touching behind-the-scenes moments with Chris Farley, Adam Sandler and Phil Hartman, plus disturbing encounters with Rob Schneider, Ellen Cleghorne and guest host Marisa Tomei. Two incidents involve shit: the one Farley took out an NBC window on a bet and the trail of same Norm Macdonald left on the streets of New York after contracting food poisoning. Then there was the Ben-Hur sketch rehearsal in which Farley whipped out his dick and began jacking off until Charlton Heston commanded like Moses, “Knock that off!”

Funny? You betcha. But by the end of Gasping for Airtime, Mohr managed to accomplish something Schoenkopfgriley never could: he made me hate Jay Mohr.

I'd always thought, given Mohr's later success, that he'd been wasted on SNL, much the way Funniest Man Alive Chris Rock had been. While Mohr doesn't come off as exactly bitter, his take on his first season on the show reads so whiny that I found myself siding with the producers, writers and fellow cast members who'd obviously written him off shortly after his arrival at 30 Rock. Boo-hoo, poor little funny man gets his big break on Lorne Michaels' laugh factory but can't beat “the system” to get on the air.

Still, I maintained just enough respect for present-day Mohr to soldier on with his thin little book, which only started becoming enjoyable as he moved into the second—and, unbeknownst to him at the time, final—season. But then, out of nowhere, he drops a bombshell: after having described for pages the way cast members have to produce solid ideas at SNL's weekly skit-writing meetings, he eventually found himself so backed into a corner that he did the unforgivable: he stole from another comic.

In the first chapters, the New Jersey native had established that he had been a young but seasoned standup on the New York City club circuit, which is where he first got seen and signed by SNL talent scouts. So a couple of years later, when he could no longer bluff his way through a writing meeting, he simply recited a screaming Irish bartender routine by Rick Shapiro—a bit that all Big Apple comedians apparently knew by heart.

Standups Dave Attell and Sarah Silverman were also on the SNL writing staff at the time, so it was amazing the skit Mohr passed off as his own made it all the way to the air without anyone catching on. It's more amazing that several weeks later, after Shapiro and his lawyer played Michaels videotape from a comedy club of the exact same bit, Mohr looked the legendary producer in the eye and denied he'd stolen it.

As reported in Gasping, SNL rightly paid off Shapiro, and now, several years and career turns later, Mohr rightly condemns himself as scum. Fine. But what could he possibly write or say after that to make you the least bit sympathetic toward him and his “wasted” talent. As a famous sage once put it, “Jay Mohr is a flat-faced weasel.”


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