Why Tom Lennon was in excruciation pain while filming A Futile and Stupid Gesture

Tom Lennon as Michael O’ Donoghue in A Futile And Stupid Gesture

Fans of the glory days of National Lampoon and Saturday Night Live can relive the landmark ‘70s comedies in Netflix’s new movie A Futile and Stupid Gesture. Tom Lennon plays Michael O’Donoghue, a National Lampoon writer who was one of the original SNL cast members.

Lennon performed the famous Wolverines sketch, in which John Belushi (John Gamberling) is learning English from a teacher (O’Donoghue) bizarrely obsessed with Wolverines. The sketch ends with the teacher having a heart attack.

“The Wolverine sketch is really, really good,” Lennon said. “It’s got a great ending. The stupid thing, because I was trying to do it note for note, but I flipped over the chair and it was so stupid.”

The actor is now kicking himself, figuratively, for throwing himself so heavily into O’Donoghue’s sketch.

“When he has the huge heart attack, I flip right in the chair and I broke my rib on the way down on the first take,” Lennon said. “That was pretty much I think my first day on the movie, so most of the movie I had just throbbing pain. It was perfect. So I just had more cigarettes in my mouth and throbbing pain in my whole body.”

Tom Lennon as Michael O’ Donoghue in A Futile And Stupid Gesture

In real life, O’Donoghue suffered from constant pain for which there was no relief. Lennon used his pain for the performance.

“He’d had terrible migraines his entire life which I also think is a secret part of the story,” Lennon said. “He was in terrible pain most of the time. Then of course he died of an aneurism.”

Lennon got to re-enact many of O’Donoghue’s memorable moments. One, invented for the film, did not make the cut.

“They list all the things that are inaccurate in the thing, which is really fun,” Lennon said. “If you slow down, they’re all real. Then there was a cut where it cut to Michael O’Donoghue and I say, ‘Everything about me is completely accurate.’ That didn’t make the final.”

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is now available to stream on Netflix.

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