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SNL's 'Please Don't Destroy' hits Busch Student Center with uproariously funny comedy routines

Ben Marshall, John Higgins and Martin Herlihy are the members of "Please Don't Destroy," the hit new comedy troupe on "Saturday Night Live" that played its first live show since its SNL debut at Rutgers University.  – Photo by Please Don't Destroy / Instagram

In a YouTube skit titled “the first day of the rest of our lives,” comedy trio Ben Marshall, Martin Herlihy and John Higgins — known popularly as “Please Don’t Destroy” (PDD) —foreshadowed their first show at Rutgers that happened on Tuesday.

After revealing to their delusional high school buddy John that they will not be signing up for the Los Angeles Lakers with no training in the first two minutes of the sketch, Marshall exclaims, “We’re going to Rutgers!” Higgins replies, “In the fall? F*** you! Congrats!”

PDD’s free performance at the Busch Student Center’s multipurpose room was organized by the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA), which has brought the likes of comedians like Hasan Minhaj, Nick Kroll, Pete Davidson, Tiffany Haddish and Michelle Buteau to Rutgers in recent years through their usually ticketed “Knight of Comedy” series.

After getting to see Minhaj in my first semester at Rutgers in 2018, I'm glad that I got to see another super entertaining comedy show in my final semester.

You might know PDD as the three sad virgins from the hit "Saturday Night Live" song “Three Sad Virgins (ft. Taylor Swift),” which is a pretty fun example of lanky, dorky white boy humor led by cast member Davidson.

The group started their time as writers on SNL season 47 in fall 2021 but have been active content creators since their time as undergraduate students at New York University in 2017. In their first season on the show, they have produced multiple digital shorts, including one starring Oscar-winning actor Rami Malek. Their Rutgers performance on Tuesday night was their first live show since their run on SNL began.

The PDD boys have been immersed in how to execute good comedy from their early days, in part due to their strong familial connections to the entertainment industry and NBC.

Higgins’ father, Steve Higgins, was a writer and producer on SNL and is currently the announcer on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Herlihy’s father, Tim Herlihy, was also a writer and producer on SNL and has collaborated with actor Adam Sandler on notable projects like “The Wedding Singer.”

PDD and its relatively swift ascent to SNL success are no doubt a product of nepotistic privilege, and the trio is aware of this to a certain accent. In a Vulture profile by Rebecca Alter, PDD was compared to the legendary original trio of comedy at SNL, “The Lonely Island,” made up of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone.

In the interview with Vulture, Marshall acknowledged their proximity to a network of New York-based comedians and elite private education saying, “We went to NYU and are not drowning in debt. We’re very privileged to have access to what we’ve had access to.” Throughout their show, I found that this humility came across just as well as their humor. They seem like chill guys.

As usual for a RUPA event, the show was organized in an orderly and timely fashion by a friendly and dedicated team of undergraduate students. RUPA members scanned event passes and checked IDs, and doors opened promptly at 7:30 p.m.

At first glance, Marshall, Higgins and Herlihy reminded me of a dollar-store version of Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter, respectively. PDD ran onto the stage at 8 p.m. sharp, and Higgins flipped a bottle to see if their show would be the best show they ever did. The bottle’s landing failed, but at the end of the day, their “Piss-kaah-taway” (in Marshall’s words) show still went pretty well.

PDD specializes in sketch comedy, which they simplified to the audience as “little plays.” Throughout their hour-long show, I heard hearty guffaws, little giggles, chuckles and chortles — and the occasional howl of laughter at punchlines. Each member of the group brought a distinctive flair to their collective onstage energy.

Higgins was lively and a master of absurd accents (an astute audience member likened his angry voice to the squeak of Aziz Ansari). His character Angelo — the protagonist in a sketch about the first American boy to be born completely Italian — had the audience squealing.

Higgins often played the oddball character in his sketches, being singled out for being significantly shorter than his partners in comedy. In a sketch set during the Dust Bowl, Higgins plays a southern pa with anger issues who abuses his sons for forgetting to buy garlic aioli at the grocery store.

Marshall had a more sardonic tone and played roles that were just a tad snarky best. His highlights included playing a firefighter accusing Higgins of having office-shooter-like tendencies (guns were a significant motif in their set), and a chef with a Southern drawl at the prestigious New York establishment of Moe’s Southwest Grill (inspired by the ambiance of the Busch Student Center).

Marshall also played a beatboxer proposing to his music-loving partner after 25 years of reluctantly dating, which had the audience in stitches when he broke into his so-called “songs.”

Herlihy was the most underrated member of the team, probably having the least main stage time as a protagonist. His impression of Chef Gusteau from the Pixar film “Ratatouille” and portrayal of a porn-and-hentai-loving, principal-shooting substitute teacher were particularly noteworthy.

He most definitely carried the final sketch on his back, playing a neurotic barista screaming out for and threatening to kill an MIA customer named “Deeb” if they didn’t pick up their order. Behind the guise of his nerdy glasses and argyle sweater, this barista also happened to be best friends with Ye. Coming back to reality, the members of the group did clarify that they were “Team Pete” in light of Ye's recent online tirades against Davidson.

Funnily enough, some students even saw Herlihy alone outside the Busch Student Center after the show, as though he may have been waiting for the A bus.

PDD’s overall dynamic was chaotic, and the enthusiasm of a Rutgers audience only added to the chaos of their comedy. The trio engaged well with the audience as though they were among friends but struggled to manage certain distracting hecklers at times. Luckily, they were always quick to pull their act together and get derailed conversations back on track.

The group had plenty of entertaining tangents with some students who enjoyed improv and a pair of first-years in the front rows. During a live reiteration of their “New Personalities” sketch, they called on two students who did a good job interacting with the group and being playful in mocking Higgin's on-stage character.

A group of friends in the audience was celebrating a birthday, and PDD had a nice pause to wish the audience member a happy birthday. At one point, Marshall (who is a redhead if you couldn’t tell from the Ron Weasley comment) curtly silenced a voice repeatedly yelling “Ed Sheeran!” by imitating the aspiring comedian in the audience.

As audiences left the multipurpose room, the bus stop was buzzing with chatter about PDD — and what their next moves on SNL and the world of comedy, in general, will be. 

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