What’s an Oscar-winning fish thespian to do when he’s lost his muse? Don a scarf and jacket and head in for a heart-to-heart pep talk with his agent, who’s trying to make all the right noises for potential A-list suitors (like Martin Scorsese) while he waits for his bell cow — um, we mean -fish — to get back on his fins.
In Saturday Night Live’s unaired digital short, Kyle Mooney’s listless fishman circles the drain of ennui in his post-Shape success days, telling his agent he’d rather chase butterflies as a budding photographic artist than go back to the industry that handed him an Academy Award only two months back for playing Guillermo del Toro’s leading sea beast (who's played in the actual film by Doug Jones).
Bad move there, fish man…bad move.
Things get bizarre, as Mooney’s aquatic pal (played by John Mulaney) slithers out of the deep to snatch the Scorsese role (Fishfellas — what else?), riding his stolen celebrity to a wave of fortune that could have been Mooney’s. Fast forward two years, and Fishfellas is a $10 billion success, while a washed-up Mooney swills a sad beer on the couch, watching his decidedly more business-minded pal take the stage to host — you guessed it — Saturday Night Live.
Think things aren’t meta enough at that point? Mulaney’s fish (the successful one) marries Adam Driver (none of this is made up), quipping in his SNL monologue that “I’m a swimmer; he’s a Driver — together we’re two-thirds of a triathlon!” just in time for a drunken Mooney to hurl that oh-so-resentful beer right at the TV screen.
Flash forward again: Eight years removed from his chance at a lasting career, things couldn’t look more desperate for The Shape of Water’s now-homeless onetime star (homeless? psst, the ocean’s that way, buddy)...until Mulaney and Driver, along with their fish-son, Crispy, stumble across his makeshift hovel under a fire escape and lift him from the depths of despair.
How? Well, it involves suiting up for a Fishfellas Broadway reboot and belting out show tunes while toting a Tommy gun, but by that point, the whole phenomenon of fish casting has apparently jumped the pop-culture shark. “You suck!” shouts a disgruntled patron as Mooney and Mulaney try to face up to their Broadway belly-flop.
As SNL shorts go, it’s a quieter, quirkier little slice of dark comedy than what we’re accustomed to, but hey — we aren’t criticizing. When one of our scaly (if pretentious) friends is down on his luck, piling on would feel uncomfortably close to shooting fish in a barrel — and knowing how The Shape of Water turned out for his enemies, we definitely don’t want to end up on the fish man’s bad side.