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Betty White is basically a national treasure, and when she says she’s not going to do something, people tend to listen. SNL writer Mike O’Brien learned that the hard way, however, when Betty White was the host on the show back in 2010 – O’Brien’s first year writing for Saturday Night Live in fact – and she rejected a unicorn-based sketch for a pretty amusing reason.
But first, let’s set the stage at 30 Rock. Basically, Mike O’Brien had what he felt was a pretty rock solid pitch for Betty White’s big SNL episode. The sketch would have had Betty White playing a unicorn veterinarian, but ultimately never made it to the air for a pretty funny reason, as Mike O’Brien recently recounted to late night host Seth Meyers. After going well in rehearsal, it was White’s manager who broke the news.
I got just kind of blindsided by this. I got called into her dressing room. It had gone well on Wednesday and I assumed she liked that it was getting laughs and people were nice about it. I got called into her dressing room on Friday or Saturday and her manager who is much older than her started just saying angrily and slapping the coffee table saying, ‘We said no animals!’ I was just flabbergasted.
Mike O’Brien previously talked on Late Night with Seth Meyers about what this sketch was supposed to entail. It would have starred Betty White as a unicorn veterinarian who was caught on a bad day, having to tell a group of little girls that some unicorns were going to have to be euthanized thanks to eye infections.
Apparently, Betty White was not having the unicorn euthanization sketch, which is unfortunate because Seth Meyers, Jason Sudeikis and Mike O’Brien all recounted that it just killed in rehearsals. O’Brien was a little bummed. He’s said in the past the first season was difficult for him and that the unicorn sketch was one of the more obviously funny pieces he’d written all year. Yet, during the 2020 Late Night with Seth Meyers exchange, he admitted that trying to reason with Betty White’s manager was impossible.
We didn’t even have an actual horse playing a unicorn even. It was always a very obvious fake stuffed animal. So, I was confused by that. And then I tried to talk to him about how unicorns aren’t actual animals and how there is kind of a fun in that Betty White is the most unlikely of people to be this cold unicorn euthanizer.
Although she didn’t say yes to the seemingly hilarious unicorn sketch, Betty White did have a few memorable sketches as part of her SNL episode, including a “Scared Straight” sketch with Kenan Thompson and another about a censor taker. So, the episode still went pretty well, even though no stuffed unicorns were harmed in the making of the episode. Not bad, considering Betty White was nervous to do the episode to begin with.
Later, this sketch briefly lived on through Will Ferrell and Jason Sudeikis in a bit that Mike O’Brien says went “medium” in rehearsal. Now, Second Chance Theater has taken it on with Sudeikis and O’Brien tackling the sketch. You can see the bit below and try to imagine it with Betty White in the role. Maybe if you squint a little.
These days the Saturday Night Live alums are no longer on the show, though Jason Sudeikis had been popping on to play Joe Biden last season. After exiting, Mike O’Brien went on to create A.P. Bio for NBC. Of course, Seth Meyers is still doing his thing on late night. You can catch new episodes of The Late Show with Seth Meyers on weeknights at 12:35 a.m. ET, only on NBC.