These days, Saturday Night Live is in the habit of putting “Cut for Time” sketches up online after the show airs, allowing folks to see some of the sketches that were performed during the dress rehearsal on Saturday night but got cut before the live show aired. But back in the early days of the internet, these “deleted” sketches weren’t so easily available, nor did they pop up online with any frequency. There’s one, however, that did make its way to people, and it reached something of a legendary status: Old Prospector.
This sketch originally aired in the fall of 2001, mere weeks after 9/11, and featured Will Ferrell as an Old Prospector tasked with aiding the U.S. Armed Forces in their war in Afghanistan and hunt for Osama bin Laden. It’s a silly premise, but Ferrell unsurprisingly steals the entire thing, so much so that the cast can barely keep it together as he clearly begins ad-libbing and adding Old Prospector nuttiness to the whole shebang.
I can’t remember exactly how this first became available, but I seem to remember it being a part of one of those compilation DVDs SNL would put out, presumably the Will Ferrell one. Yes, in the days before Netflix and YouTube, the best way to watch SNL sketches was to buy compilation DVDs that featured a bevy of skits featuring your favorite performers. I miss them so.
Seth Meyers tweeted about the arrival of Old Prospector on YouTube, saying this:
“This was my third week at SNL. It was a month after 9/11 and the week someone sent anthrax to NBC. Everyone was scared and losing their minds. But for these six minutes I didn’t think of anything but how fucking lucky I was to be in this sketch.”