Columbia College Chicago kicked off the 2013-14 season of its Conversations in the Arts series with featured speaker and alumnus Horatio Sanz (’92) on October 23. Students, alumni, donors and friends of the college listened as Sanz regaled them with stories of his days at Chicago’s famed Second City comedy school and his eight years as a cast member on Saturday Night Live.
Born in Santiago, Chile and raised in Chicago, Sanz became SNL’s first Latino cast member in 1998. As a kid, he loved SNL. “I slept in my living room,” he said. “Everyone would fall asleep and I’d stay up watching television.”
It was this fascination with and love for comedy that drove him to Second City, Columbia, and the comedy group Upright Citizens Brigade. Sanz laughed as he told the story of the time he pushed a UCB bit to the brink, actually getting arrested because he thought it would make the sketch funnier.
When Sanz made it to SNL as a Not Ready for Primetime Player in 1998, he developed a number of characters and impressions. His favorite impression, he said, was Aaron Neville, while his favorite original character was Vasquez. He developed a close friendship with fellow cast member Jimmy Fallon, but talked about struggles with complacency after years on the show. “I rested on my laurels a lot,” he said. “You don’t have to prove yourself. People are writing for you.”
After SNL, Sanz said that his life got “out of control.” He was drinking 4-5 nights a week and he was lost. But he’s since quit drinking, lost more than 100 pounds, and says he now “has a life.”
Sanz would go on to co-star with fellow SNLer Chris Parnell in Comedy Central’s series Big Lake, he’s made traditional and digital short films, and he’s had memorable roles in numerous feature films, including Step Brothers, Boat Trip, The Dictator, Wreck-It-Ralph, and Bachelorette. Sanz’s next film, A Better You, directed by his Upright Citizens Brigade colleague Matt Walsh, is due out in the summer of 2014.
Sanz also performed a live improv bit with moderator Jimmy Carrane, which was recorded and will go into an episode of Carrane’s podcast on FeralAudio.com. Earlier in the day, Sanz traveled to Second City, where he met with the Comedy Studies class taught by Anne Libera, who talked briefly the Comedy Studies program, and what she teaches. Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim, President and CEO of Columbia College, gave the night’s welcome address, in which he talked about the success of the Conversations in the Arts series and his excitement for the new Comedy Studies program.
The night concluded with a lively Q&A session, followed by a reception for President’s Club donors and friends of Columbia. Sanz’s goal now is “to do what I did”—to return to his comedy roots and continue making people laugh.
Photos: Jonathan Mathias