Kyle Mooney credits his friendship with fellow “Saturday Night Live” ensemble member Beck Bennett as being “the real reason I know a thing about Chicago. Yes, thanks to Beck, I know all about some of the best deep dish [pizza] spots here,” said the actor and comedian while in town to promote his film “Brigsby Bear” (opening Friday).
Before their big break with “SNL,” Mooney and Bennett formed the sketch comedy troupe Good Neighbor, and Mooney explained, “I came to Chicago a number of times with Beck for all kinds of reasons. I’ve had the tour of Beck’s childhood and teen hot spots on the North Shore and, of course, we explored all the great food spots.”
As he rattled off the names of Lou Malnati’s, Pequod’s, Giordano’s, Pizzeria Uno and Due and other famed pizzerias, Mooney stopped for a moment and reflected, “I’ll bet you Chicagoans really get sick of hearing outsiders like me go on and on about deep dish pizza. I’ll bet a lot of Chicagoans don’t even like it, right? It’s kind of like just for the tourists,” he added, with perfect insight into this reporter’s view on the subject.
Bennett has a small role in “Brigsby Bear,” a movie Mooney co-wrote and stars in — directed by another “Good Neighbor” cohort, Dave McCary, who also serves as a segment director on SNL.
In the film, Mooney plays James Pope, who has spent his entire life in an abandoned, underground bunker watching a kids TV show centered on the character of Brigsby Bear. In his 20s he has a rude awakening to the realities of the outside world — and goes on a mission to make a movie about his beloved Brigsby.
“It’s always hard to exactly explain where ideas come from. I love ’80s and ’90s kids TV shows. I also have a massive VHS collection, so I guess that played a role in coming up with the idea,” noted Mooney, whose “Brigsby” character has old “Brigsby Bear” shows recorded on VHS tapes he frequently revisits.
“I also wanted to do like a low-budget corny TV show within a much bigger world. I tried to explore it and tell a weird unique story.”
Thanks to Mooney’s high-profile role in the entertainment business, he was able to snare some major stars to play roles in his film, including Claire Danes, Greg Kinnear, Andy Samberg and Matt Walsh. “Star Wars” icon Mark Hamill is cast as Ted, who with his wife, April (Jane Adams), raise Mooney’s character in the bunker.
With the original Luke Skywalker around, “it was funny being on set,” Mooney said. “Believe it or not, it took me quite a while to muster up the courage to ask him, ‘What was it like to be in those movies you were in?’ It was incredible having him on board.”
As he approaches his fifth season on “SNL,” Mooney pointed out that, “as it’s been since I joined SNL in the beginning, every week is a constant reset — a chance to try something new every week.”
With a sly grin — and obvious reference to the wild national political scene — Mooney added, “Of course, it does help when sometimes things happen in the world at large that are perfect for us to riff on.”