Imagine seeing one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters and hearing your name mentioned — something that will never happen to most of us, but did happen to comedian Chris Kattan recently, after he went to see Jordan Peele‘s Nope. “I remember sitting in the theater thinking, ‘Oh my god, that is nuts, that is so crazy,'” he tells Consequence. “I couldn’t believe it.”
The Oscar-winning director’s newest film is a horror sci-fi tale, but it’s packed with real-life references mixed in with fiction. Perhaps the hallmark example of this comes when former child star Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun) is asked about a horrific on-set incident in which a chimp starring on the fictional sitcom Gordy’s Home attacked the show’s cast and crew. Rather than recount the event from his own (traumatized) perspective, he instead recaps a (fictional) 1998 Saturday Night Live sketch inspired by it.
As the year of the sketch was 1998, Peele’s attention to detail means that as Jupe describes the sketch, he mentions not just Party of Five‘s Scott Wolf as the host (which Wolf did actually do on March 7th, 1998) but active SNL cast members from that period, calling out, in particular, Chris Kattan as the cast member who played the violent chimp.
If you were wondering, “Did Jordan Peele tell people in advance about being mentioned?” the answer is no — at least in Kattan’s case. Kattan says that he first found out about his Nope name-drop from an article in the Los Angeles Times, “a specific article about the character Gordy being linked to a character I did on Saturday Night Live.”
But the article didn’t go into detail about what specifically the movie said about him: “All I knew was that there was some mention of my name in the film and that was pretty much it,” he says. So he actually went to Twitter, where he says he found comments consisting of quotes from the film: “Some people were saying ‘Chris Kattan crushed it,’ ‘Chris Goddamn Kattan,’ different variations of what was said.”
So he didn’t have the full context for the reference until actually seeing the film, though he says that he wasn’t concerned about it potentially being an unfavorable mention. “I figured that someone would have told me that it was negative,” he says.
The concept of Kattan playing a Gordy-inspired chimp isn’t at all a stretch for SNL fans to imagine because of his long-running character Mr. Peepers, a Missing Link-type known for devouring apples and dry-humping. “Well, they didn’t say it directly but yes, I assumed that that’s what they were referring to,” Kattan says of the connection to Mr. Peepers, who he played in 12 different appearances on SNL. “Obviously, it was very flattering — I couldn’t be more honored.”
Even before Nope, Kattan was a huge fan of Peele’s. “I think he’s a tremendous director and writer of his films — I even loved him back when he had his show Key and Peele, which I thought was a hilarious show.” He also really enjoyed Peele’s two-season revival of The Twilight Zone for CBS All Access/Paramount+: “I think it’s a great show, I love it.”
Kattan is currently touring as a stand-up while developing other projects. “There are a few other things that are coming up that I’m excited about. After COVID, things are finally picking up and it’s easier to be able to work amongst other people, but I do enjoy the process of writing in order to come up with something that I enjoy doing,” he says. He also updates his YouTube channel, Hey Kattan!, on a weekly basis with new clips and sketches.
While the whole concept of the Nope scene is grounded in reality, Kattan couldn’t say if the “Gordy’s Home” sketch, riffing on a real incident where people were hurt and killed, would have been something that an actual Saturday Night Live writing staff would explore. “I don’t know if they would do that. It’s very hard to predict if the writers would suggest doing something like that or not,” he says. “I would probably ask that myself: As a writer, do you think that’s a good idea? I don’t know if it is a good idea.”
In the context of the film, though, which explores the nature of spectacle and its costs, the scene makes total sense. And Kattan is thrilled by it. “Having Jordan Peele mention me in this level of a film — this level of production and being a huge blockbuster of the summer, I thought that that was so wild. It really took me by surprise.”
Nope is in theaters now.