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The Untold Truth Of Beck Bennett

Few people seem as naturally made for the screen as Beck Bennett. With a classically handsome profile belying his impeccable sense of comedic timing, Bennett is the kind of actor whose every mannerism brings something to his performances, and a single scrunched-up face can be enough to put an audience in stitches. That raw talent has propelled Bennett from obscure internet sketches during the early days of YouTube to the prestigious stage of "Saturday Night Live."

Over his eight years on "SNL," we've watched Beck Bennett impersonate celebrities from Jeb Bush to Jake Tapper. Now that chapter is at a close, as Bennett recently announced his departure from the 86-time Emmy Award-winning late-night sketch comedy show in which he was a longtime staple. With a life's worth of career achievements under his belt, from time spent learning his craft in one of America's most renowned improv stages to the comedic crucible of live sketch television, here's a deep dive into the untold truth of Beck Bennett.

Beck Bennett started acting at a young age

Born in 1984 in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Illinois, Beck Bennett was raised on the stage. His many performances at the Children's Theater of Winnetka were a prelude to greater things. While attending New Trier High School, Bennett joined the theater department and took the lead role of Jean Valjean in its youth production of "Les Miserables."

While in high school, Bennett enlisted himself in the Second City improv school (via The Daily Beast). Second City is renowned within the world of comedy for producing some of the industry's greatest legends, from Bill Murray to Stephen Colbert. While he briefly played on his school's football team, he abandoned sports to do comedy and acting full-time.

Bennett pursued a B.F.A. in acting at the University of Southern California, where he joined the campus improv group Commedus Interruptus. There, he met his future "SNL" castmate Kyle Mooney, who ran the virally successful one-man YouTube sketch channel "kyle."

Beck Bennett's big break was through YouTube sketch comedy

While attending USC for his acting degree, Bennett quickly formed a close friendship with Kyle Mooney, who also went on to join the cast of "SNL" players. Together with Nick Rutherford and Dave McCary, the latter of whom would also join "SNL" as a director, they formed a sketch group named Good Neighbor following their graduation and started posting their comedic skits to YouTube in 2007, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The acting troupe is probably best known for their video "this is how we trip," which parodies the goofy antics of high schoolers experimenting with over-the-counter drugs. The clip has gotten just shy of 5 million views on YouTube as of this writing. With a strong sense for absurdist comedy showcased in other skits such as "toast," the Good Neighbor channel eventually garnered the attention of "SNL," making Bennett and Mooney among the first few "SNL" actors to have made their start on the internet rather than on the traditional comedy circuit.

Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy was based on Beck Bennett's performance

"Anchorman," the 2004 Will Ferrell comedy about one local newscaster's rise and subsequent fall, has become one of the most beloved comedy films in history. Directed by Adam McKay, it has more quotable lines and memorable moments than you could fit in a leather-bound book on a rich mahogany shelf. But as it turns out, Will Ferrell's iconic performance in "Anchorman" owes a great debt to none other than Beck Bennett.

When "Anchorman" was in the process of casting Veronica Corningstone, the female lead role that eventually went to Christina Applegate, a friend of Bennett's called him to do line readings for the part of Ron Burgundy. Bennett claims Ferrell saw his take on the arrogant anchor and used it for his own performance. "He based it off my Ron Burgundy," Bennett told The Daily Beast in 2013. "I did a Ron Burgundy. Will Ferrell heard about it. I mean his Ron Burgundy is better now, but he based it on my Ron Burgundy.

Bennett jokingly added, "I haven't gotten a thank-you card yet."

He was in all those viral AT&T commercials

You may remember a series of omnipresent AT&T commercials starring groups of children being interviewed by a rather serious-looking man in a suit. Bennett, whose internet sketch comedy as a member of the Good Neighbor troupe had begun to draw attention, was cast for the promotional campaign after previous sketches in which he interacted with children caught the eye of an AT&T marketing executive (via The New York Times). The campaign he starred in was the perfect blend of cute and funny, and it quickly reached viral success.

The commercial campaign predated Bennett's storied run on "SNL," so it's a tad funny in retrospect to see that The New York Times commented, "Mr. Beck [sic] seems poised to join a lengthy list of actors who became synonymous with the brand their advertise." While the ads are instantly memorable and heart-meltingly adorable all these years later, Bennett is far more likely to be identified as the guy who played Mike Pence on national television than as a hawker of pricey cellphone plans.

He had to give acting notes to Donald Trump

Beck Bennett eventually achieved every comedy actor's dream breakout gig when he was hired for "SNL" alongside fellow Good Neighbors members Kyle Mooney and Dave McCary, the latter of whom was brought aboard as a director. During his run from 2013 to 2021, Bennett demonstrated an impressive acting range. He has played both Russian President Vladimir Putin and former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence with an equal measure of satirical ferocity, bringing goofy physicality to his performances.

The toughest thing Bennett had to do during his "SNL" tenure involved former US president Donald Trump. Speaking with Larry King, Bennett opened up about Trump's week at "SNL" back in 2015. Speaking about the president's later airing of grievances with the show, Bennett said, "For him to be that upset by a sketch comedy show shows how childish he is and shows how volatile he is." When pressed by King about Trump's own performance on SNL, Bennett sighed and said, "Honestly, he did fine. He did alright."

Trump's memory and inability to take criticism caused problems. "He had trouble reading cue cards, keeping up with the pace of things," Bennett recalled. "He would get a note and he would say, 'No, I was doing that. Let's do it again.'" At times, Trump took credit for ideas that were not his own. "Somebody would give him a note and he'd say, 'No, I think we should do that.' Say that exact same thing as if it was his idea."

Now, Bennett has announced his departure from the acclaimed sketch show, and casting announcements show new additions. What he does next is anyone's guess, but having proven himself in the crucible of live television week after week, fans will watch his career with great interest.