Just For Laughs Chicago: George Wendt Leads Big Cast in ‘Da Bears’

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CHICAGO – Da Super Fans were out in force on a spectacular Saturday night at the Park West in Chicago, as the TBS Network’s “Just for Laughs” Festival presented “Da Bears Movie Dat Wasn’t.” George Wendt, Joe Mantegna, Horatio Sanz and Da Coach, Mike Ditka, provided the hilarity.

Da Bears Movie Dat Wasn’t was an early 1990s screenplay by Rob Smigel (”TV Funhouse,” “Triumph the Insult Comic Dog”) and Bob Odenkirk (”Mr Show”). It was an extension of the popular Super Fans SNL sketch (the greatest fans of the Chicago Bears), known for the famous catch phrase, “Da Bears!”

Cast of ‘Da Bears Movie Dat Wasn’t’: (left to right) Ryan Dempster, Larry Miller, George Wendt, Mike Ditka, Robert Smigel, Joe Mantegna, Horatio Sanz, Richard Roeper and Rick Telander. Park West Chicago, June 19th, 2010
Cast of ‘Da Bears Movie Dat Wasn’t’: (left to right) Ryan Dempster, David Koechner, George Wendt, Mike Ditka, Robert Smigel, Joe Mantegna, Horatio Sanz, Richard Roeper and Rick Telander. Park West Chicago, June 19th, 2010
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

In a previous interview with HollywoodChicago Smigel explained, “Bob and I thought, since there were other ‘Saturday Night Live’ movies being conceived, that the Super Fans – silly as they are – would work because they are based on real people.”

The TBS Network’s “Just for Laughs Chicago” got an all-star cast to read and act out the never-produced script as part of the festival. George Wendt led the coterie, which included Smigel, Odenkirk, Mike Ditka, Joe Mantegna, Horatio Sanz, Richard Roeper, Comedian David Koechner, Chicago Cubs Pitcher Ryan Dempster and Chicago Sun-Times Sports Columnist Rick Telander.

HollywoodChicago was backstage at this unique event and scored some interviews with the some cast members of Da Bears Movie Dat Wasn’t.

Star George Wendt, “Cheers” and Super Fan Bob Swerski

George “Norm!” Wendt is Chicago born and bred, in addition to being a 1975 alumnus of Second City. Best known as the notable barfly in Cheers, he has portrayed Bob Swerski on “Saturday Night Live” since 1991.

HollywoodChicago.com: How does your Chicago roots help you to characterize the Super Fans?

George Wendt: With the Super Fans here, I just have to conjure up a couple family members of mine and other than that, just all the Second City fun.

HC: Here’s what I’ve wanted to ask since the 1980s – have you ever had to buy a drink since then?

GW: [Laughs] Yeah, I do buy drinks, but I do get more than my share of free ones.

Star Joe Mantegna, “Criminal Minds” and Super Fan Bill Swerski

The brilliant and mindfully gritty actor Joe Mantegna has had a long and prosperous career, both in period of films with fellow Chicagoan David Mamet, and his prolific TV and movie work. Currently, he can be seen as FBI Special Agent David Rossi in CBS-TV’s Criminal Minds.

HC: Which of your David Mamet movies that you made and performed is closest to your real character?

Joe Mantegna: I would say the character in ‘Things Change’ [Jerry].

HC: Is that where you honored your roots the most?

JM: Partly that and partly the fact he was a guy with a good heart caught in a funny situation, and wound up following that heart and it all turned out okay.

Star Horatio Sanz of “Saturday Night Live”

Horatio Sanz can best be described at the ‘The Happy Guy’ during his tenure at Saturday Night Live (1998-2006), with his capacity for great character parts and his unforgettable tendency to laugh during sketches, rendering them funnier.

NOTE: Horatio Sanz saved my life. The curtain had been drawn on the Park West stage, making it look like a wall. I stepped back from the Sanz interview to let someone by on the busy stage, and it was Sanz’s “watch out” warning that prevented a tumble into the orchestra pit. Cheers, Horatio.

HC: The greatest laugh you ever had at Saturday Night Live, was it on stage or behind the scenes?

Horatio Sanz: I think it would be on stage. Debbie Downer was the sketch and it was really funny, I think I almost passed out through no oxygen in my brain from that one. But there were certainly fun times back stage as well.

Star Richard Roeper, “Richard Roeper & the Movies”

Richard Roeper can fairly be called “Mr. Chicago” at this point, as his south suburban roots and work ethic evolved into an association with Roger Ebert and his own movie review career (click here), his daily general interest column in the Chicago Sun-Times, his radio show on local station WLS-AM with Roe Conn and his representative fandom of the Chicago White Sox.

HC: I wanted to ask you, have you ever had an ‘Alvy Singer’ moment, like in the film ‘Annie Hall’ where someone comes up to you and asks who you are, and then once you tell them, they scream your name and point like in the movie?

Richard Roeper: Not quite to that level, but there is still hope in the future. [laughs] Is this it?

HC: The Chicago White Sox are on a tear, how do they stay on a tear?

RR: They stay on a tear the way they got on the tear, with starting pitching. They’ve had nothing but quality starts lately. If the pitching holds up, they could make a run for it.

Star Rick Telander, Sports Columnist of the Chicago Sun-Times

Rick Telander is one of the finest sports columnists in Chicago, or anywhere. After his days in college football didn’t morph into a professional career, Telander began writing in New York City, resulting in his first book, “Heaven is a Playground.” After a stint as a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, he brought his talents to Chicago with the “Sportswriters on TV,” and since 1995 has been the main sports guru at the Chicago Sun-Times.

HC: What memories come to mind in regard to all the sports you have covered over the years?

Rick Telander: I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m not the kid anymore, yet not old enough to be crabby, I’m crabby enough as it is. [laughs] But I remember enough. I remember Walter Payton, I remember the 1985 Bears, I remember Ditka playing. In my football playing days I remember the 1969 Chicago Cubs. When I can talk about that, what it was like to sit in the bleachers, having watched them and had my heart broken. I think that’s is a good thing.

The TBS Network Sponsored Just for Laughs Chicago.
Click here for video highlights and show episodes.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2010 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

Aaron's picture

Larry Miller? No.

The person you identify as Larry Miller is actually comedian David Koechner.

PatrickMcD's picture


Thanks, it’s been corrected.

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