‘SNL’ Troupe Please Don’t Destroy on Their ‘Extremely Fun’ First Tour and the Nepo-Elephant in the Room

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Comedy troupe Please Don’t Destroy seemed to come right when we needed them.

The bite-sized TikTok videos from 20-something New Yorkers Martin Herlihy, John Higgins and Ben Marshall were fixtures on many a timeline through the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s easy to see why. The three NYU alum’s easy camaraderie and absurdist riffing captured, at times, not just the travails of roommate living but also how it felt being cooped up indoors with little to pass the time but self-built entertainment.

Now, their comedy and collaboration have seen them working for “Saturday Night Live” — and through a second historic event: the ongoing Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strikes against the Hollywood studios. Their first national tour incidentally rolled out with 25 dates across the States this summer, covering Philadelphia to Dallas.

While the tour was planned well ahead of the May 2 onset of the WGA strike — Herlihy recalled actually planning to announce their first stop that very day — Higgins told TheWrap that they “feel lucky that we had it already in the books because it’s been so rewarding” at a time when they’d otherwise be out of work.

They have a final pair of dates at The Wiltern in Los Angeles on Thursday, followed by a Sept. 29 show at Manhattan’s Town Hall. The whole touring process has brought them back to their roots, in a sense, considering they began performing live together in Manhattan bar basements back in 2017.

But it was their social media foothold in 2020 that had them soon looking to larger platforms — and that’s when “Saturday Night Live” came knocking. They were hired as writers in 2021 and today produce digital shorts for the storied sketch series, often collaborating with that week’s host, whether it be Taylor Swift or Woody Harrelson or Lizzo.

Please Don’t Destroy’s meteoric rise over the last several years, however, has also coincided with an uptick in public readiness to uncover so-called “nepo babies” — widely a label meant to diminish an entertainer’s successes in Hollywood if they were born into industry connections. Any quick Google search shows the Please Don’t Destroy guys — specifically Herlihy and Higgins — fall under that umbrella. Their fathers were once “Saturday Night Live” head writer and producer Tim Herlihy and writer, announcer and producer Steve Higgins, respectively.

“The thing is, we get it,” Higgins told TheWrap, addressing the online notoriety. “We’re so lucky to have those connections.” He added that he understands the troupe has had a “huge leg up in the industry” while also acknowledging “how hard we work on stuff.”

“So I feel really lucky, get the conversation and we just keep going,” he said.

Herlihy echoed the sentiment, saying, “I hope the work is good enough and what we’re doing is fresh enough that there’s a place for it. But, you know, obviously we acknowledge that beyond even connections or whatever, we have crazy privilege of being three straight white guys from NYU.”

Marshall chimed in: “I also can say from firsthand experience that these dudes work crazy hard and hold themselves to a super high standard and don’t take it lightly.”

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Beyond “SNL,” it seems Please Don’t Destroy will only continue to rise. All eyes are on the Hollywood strikes, so it’s pens down at the moment. But their feature film debut, “Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain” — directed by Paul Briganti, produced by Judd Apatow and narrated by John Goodman — will premiere on Peacock this November. And, of course, they’re eyeing a return to the “SNL” writers’ room when negotiations allow.

Read on (or watch the video above) to hear more about how Please Don’t Destroy got their start, what life on the road taught them and why Paul Rudd made a particularly memorable “Saturday Night Live” host.

Learn more about their upcoming shows here.

Going into this Los Angeles show at the Wiltern, you’re coming off a pretty expansive summer tour, which kicked off just weeks after the WGA strike started. How has that live experience been going these last few months?
Ben Marshall:
Tour was great. It was our first-ever tour. First time doing theaters. It was so much fun. It was crazy to see how many people care. It’s hard to feel like you’re not just doing it in a vacuum when you’re not seeing people’s faces, so it was really cool, really exciting. And we started out as live performers, so it was fun to get back to doing stuff in front of an audience since we hadn’t done it in a while. But now that we’ve been back in New York for, like, a week and a half, I barely remember the tour. Do you guys?

John Higgins: I don’t remember it at all.

Marshall: That feels like it was 10 years ago.

Higgins: It was so cool, though. We used to do this show before doing videos or anything. We did this show at Von. And we’ve said this before, but it’s true: There would be 12 folding chairs in this basement of this bar, and most of the time for our shows, they would be half full. So to do this tour in 1,000-seat theaters was truly crazy every single night.

Does it feel like you’ve been getting back to your roots a little bit? You mention that you started as a live act, so I imagine that feels like a different energy, or a different skill set, than what you’re bringing to the videos that we know you guys for.
Higgins: Yeah, definitely.

Marshall: It’s a more immediate feedback, obviously. Making videos is so much fun, but it’s kind of a delayed response of seeing how people will react to certain things. To do it live and be able to get that instant feedback is extremely fun. And also just for us, it’s honestly kind of a big pillar of our friendship. That’s how we really got to know each other is by just doing a million shows together. So it really did feel like going back to college or right after college, when we were just first starting to figure out what we liked to do and how to make each other laugh. Ninety percent of our show is just trying to make each other laugh onstage.

You all met while you were at NYU, and you were fans of each other’s work in the beginning there. But how did you discover that you had creative chemistry that led to you being collaborators?
Higgins: Ben brought us together, because Ben knew Mart from doing stand-up and he knew me from doing – we were on this sketch group together. And you guys started this stand-up show that was kind of, like, sketchy, and you guys needed a third person. It was called Please Don’t Destroy My Farm. And Ben played an evil businessman and Martin played a poor farmer.

Martin Herlihy: We needed someone to dress up like a cow and not speak the entire show and then do a monologue at the end and then kill themselves. And we thought of John for that. And then it was a while where that was the show where John did not speak and then shot himself at the very end. And then eventually –

Higgins: I put my foot down and demanded to speak. And it was a big debate. As our first step as collaborators, we decided that I could talk and we could start doing sketches. And it kind of just flowed from there. The stand-up was so, like, high concept. And really, at the heart of it, it was clear that we wanted to do sketches. So then after we dropped the stand-up show, we just started doing sketches.

Marshall: And the whole time we were doing that, we were also just hanging out and becoming friends.

Higgins: Every day.

Herlihy: And we were just learning about comedy and developing a taste together at the same time doing the same shows.

What was the learning curve to kind of distilling that live show energy into doing the short-form videos that really kicked off during the pandemic?
Herlihy: John mentioned that show at Von, we would doing that every week, and we would do, like, six new sketches a week on that show. So we had a lot of creative energy. Then all of a sudden, that show stopped happening because of COVID. And I think we just wanted to do something else, and the videos felt like more of an outlet than anything.

Marshall: We made some longer, five-minute-ish videos when we first started performing, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that we started doing like, one-minute, shot on an iPhone, quick-premise-with-a-bunch-of-jokes type of videos. And that was very much borne out of the resources that we had on hand while we were stuck in our homes.

What was the point that you really realized that this was hitting and Please Don’t Destroy actually had an audience that was paying attention?
Marshall: For me, it was a little bit like, right coming out of the pandemic. That was like the starkest difference. When we went back to performing live, we were able to, like, sell out two shows in one night at Union Hall, which is also a tiny venue in Brooklyn. But for us, that was the dream. So yeah, it was like, “Oh my God, people kind of care.” And then we made that vaccine video – one of our videos during the pandemic was this vaccine thing. People started yelling “Doombreaka!” at me on the street, so that felt weird.

But you knew that it was connecting in one way or another.
Marshall: Definitely. The more people yelling at me on the street, the better.

Higgins: And “Doombreaka!” is arguably better than “sad virgin!”

Marshall: Yeah, that happens a lot, too.

Higgins: Most people on the street, they don’t know. And they just see a random guy yelling at me, “Sad virgin!”

Then national TV is a whole other ballgame. What has the culture shock of that growth been?
Marshall: All of us grew up just, like, huge “SNL” fans. So honestly checking in at 30 Rock and taking the elevator and looking at the floor and seeing the peacock logo – that kind of thing still feels a little magical. But honestly, once we were there working, you don’t have time to think about anything. It’s just kind of, like, go go go. So we were really thrown into the fire. I think our second week on the show, we had a video on. And then from there, it was just off to the races. But it’s still crazy. I still pinch myself that we’re working there.

Have you had a memorable encounter with one of the hosts in your time there that maybe clicked into place, like, “Oh, we’re operating at a different level now”?
Marshall: It’s always really cool when a host wants to work with us if they’ve seen our stuff.

Herlihy: Paul Rudd was really cool. It was that sort of deal — he came in wanting to do something, and we wrote something for him. And then everyone got COVID and that show got canceled, but we did it a couple months later, anyway. Him in “Wet Hot American Summer” is one of funniest performances ever for me. And yeah, it was cool to see someone who was such a pro and so nice and also talking to us as peers was just like, “Whoa!” Pitching ideas and stuff.

Higgins: I think the craziest feeling for me was definitely because it was so early on was Taylor Swift, pitching her the idea of “Three Sad Virgins” was the most insane thing. It’s like a dream that I would have. She was amazing.

The post ‘SNL’ Troupe Please Don’t Destroy on Their ‘Extremely Fun’ First Tour and the Nepo-Elephant in the Room appeared first on TheWrap.