Taran Killam has one of the most fascinating careers you’ll find in Hollywood. The 40-year-old Culver City, Calif. native has been acting since he was a child (his first movie role was in a scene ultimately cut from Naked Gun 33 1/3 — and no, he didn’t work with O.J. Simpson). He’s most well known for his six-year stint on Saturday Night Live from 2010-2016, and remains one of the most underrated alum from that era. And while the bulk of his work has been in comedy, he’s proven a true utility man, too. He popped up in the Oscar-winning drama 12 Years a Slave as kidnapper Abram Hamilton, and played King George III for six months in the Broadway smash Hamilton.
Now he’s staking a claim as the Jon Stewart (or Trevor Noah) of football.
Killam’s Prime Video sports variety show The NFL Pile On is like The Daily Show for gridiron fans, though other comparisons abound.
“A hundred percent,” Killam says of the Daily Show comparison in a new interview with Yahoo Entertainment. "Everybody takes their own like favorite comedy half-hour show. So it's either Talk Soup for football or The Daily Show for football or Last Week Tonight for football. And to be completely honest, we’re still sort of finding our structure and playing things. But our mission statement, whether you're able to find us on Prime — and we're buried pretty deep, Kevin — or you're just seeing a clip on your Instagram feed is [to present] something visually that's gonna stand out and doesn't look like anything else. So we're still playing around and trying to find our shapes so that eventually down the line someone can pitch, ‘You know, ‘It’s The Pile On meets chess.’”
What Killam and crew have experimented with thus far has been a wide array of monologues, sketches, impressions, roundtables (including with Yahoo Sports commentator, ex-player and comedian Jared Quay Campbell) and comedy bits that have proven the show is entertaining, funny and just the right amount of weird. In one inspired guest spot, Ricky Williams turns up to offer advice for the Saints — and only recommends different kinds of edibles. In another inspired segment, kids adorably voice over a Mic’ed Up spoof. (Due to Amazon’s lucrative partnership with the NFL, Killam and company have free rein on official league footage, a rare and enviable nest egg for the show.)
I promise we’re the only football-based-comedy-show that opens with a Sondheim parody. https://t.co/oM4Z3ToWAX
— Taran Killam (@TaranKillam) November 2, 2022
To paraphrase Killam, a die-hard Los Angeles Rams fan who makes no secret of his allegiance on the show, it’s our favorite NFL joke-telling, pre-game show on Wednesdays ever on Prime Video.
“That's bold of you to say,” Killam laughs. “I mean, we're having so much fun. I mean, in terms of comedy, weird is where I love to live. And fortunately I was on the radar of [Chris Pizzi and Jason Weber], the guys who came up with this show, as someone who was enthusiastic about football, and also had a comedy background. So I kind of keep counting my lucky stars that this show does exist. And we're probably having more fun than we deserve to making it.”
Elsewhere in our interview, Killam weighed in a variety of hot football topics:
Who is the best commentator in the game? “I'll go old and I'll go new… Cris Collinsworth, I could listen to that guy talk about anything and sometimes I am listening to him talk about anything [laughs]. Like, his tangents are pretty great, but I don't know, there's just something comforting about the timbre of his voice, and him being a former player. I just really respect [his voice]. And newer, I think Mark Sanchez is pretty good. If he chooses to be, he'll be around for a long time because he's spry, he's fast, he's quick, but he's also got charisma and he keeps it lively, he keeps it active. He's not just regurgitating stats. So yeah, Cris and Mark.
Who’s the best pundit? I'm a Peter Schrager guy. You can have your [Kyle Brandt], but I'm Team Schrager. I just love that Schrager loves everybody and everybody loves him, you know what I mean? I love Sarah Spain, too. You know who else is fun to listen to? We have beat reporter who covers the Rams for The Athletic, Jourdan Rodrigue. She is fantastic. She is so funny. She's thorough, she's sharp, she gets the good information, but she's also hilarious. So she's probably my number one favorite. But that goes back to being biased about the Rams.
#TheNFLPileOn host Taran Killam weighs in on the Josh Allen vs. Patrick Mahomes debate.
"Right now it's Allen by a hair, but I do love Mahomes, too."@TaranKillam @JoshAllenQB #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/pUvTZ7YuRT
— Kevin Polowy (@djkevlar) November 3, 2022
Where do you stand on the Josh Allen-Patrick Mahomes debate? Should that even be a debate, who’s better? Or should we just appreciate both of them? Listen, as someone who performed in Hamilton on Broadway, I’ll say the world is wide enough for both Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. These guys are great and I really am having so much fun watching Josh Allen just because of his enthusiasm, you know what I mean? There's something about Mahomes where [he] kind of goes into some sort of like Zen thing, like deadeye Zen mode where he's just focused on one spot on the field, but his arms are aware of the reality all around him. But Allen’s playing with a passion that's really, really fun to watch. He’s enjoying the ride. So right now it's Allen by a hair, but I do love Mahomes, too.
Are Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers done for? I mean, washed up? No, because they're participating in the games, you know what I mean? Are they the same caliber as some of these young players who are coming in? I don't think so. But it's not the first half of the season, it's the second half of the season that gets you into the playoffs. So those are the two guys who've maybe done it best out of anybody ever. So I'm not gonna quite write them off yet. Would we be shocked if it turned out that they're doing one of the hardest physical jobs in the world at a sub-quality to their height because they're both in or approaching their forties? Sure, that's OK. They deserve to be a little dulled down, you know?
What happened to Russell Wilson? Altitude poisoning? [laughs] Yeah, it's crazy. And listen, from an NFC West guy, I don’t understand it, the implosion. Like "Russ is gonna show 'em all now and Seattle is doomed." That being so off the mark. Seattle is number one in our division. I don't understand it. And I can't believe that it will stand. Again though, wear and tear though, you know what I mean? And Russell was one of the best scramblers the league's ever seen.
Who’s winning the Super Bowl? The Bills. And they'll beat the Rams because this will be a season of symmetry.
New episodes of The NFL Pile On with Taran Killam air every Wednesday on Prime Video.