A Week at Saturday Night Live
Hello! We just finished doing our 18th show of the season, hosted by Scarlett Johansson, and I wanted to give you an idea of what the week was like leading up to the live show.
Monday: The cast and writers of the show come in and start pitching sketch ideas for Lorne Michaels and our host. We gather in an office and take turns telling everyone our ideas. The office isn't very big so we are all crowded together, which I like because it's kind of dramatic. As an example, a pitch from me would sound like: "Hi Scarlett. So I have this idea where you play a Long Island-y girl who is helping me sell Marble Columns." And then everyone gives me a standing ovation. For twenty minutes. That last part doesn't happen but I enjoyed writing that just now.
Tuesday: This is writing night. It's really two days of writing since we (the cast and writers) come in during the day and write through the next morning. Seriously. I used to think I could come in early and get done in time to get some sleep. But it never happens.
You end up writing something with a writer, then you get another idea and write that with someone else. Then you go back and re-write the other piece. Before you know it, it's 8 in the morning. I eat many mini chocolate bars during the course of the night. Please keep that a secret as I don't want anyone to know how much chocolate I eat.
Wednesday: This is the table read. The cast, producers and host sit at a huge table and read the sketches aloud for the writers and crew. It's kind of like a radio play. It's amazing because you get to see everyone doing new impressions and characters up close. I love it. Much of it is like an experiment. Does this work? Is this an interesting character? Should I never attempt to do a Gene Simmons impression again? From there, Lorne, the producers and the host then decide what sketches are to move forward into actually being produced.
Thursday: Rehearsal day. We do a few of the sketches for camera blocking, but also it's the day when the musical guest comes in to do a sound check. This week it was Bjork and a bunch of the cast came in early to listen. She sounded so great and her band was incredible. They were mostly Icelandic with an all female brass section. It's also a day when the writers re-write the sketches, noting what worked and what didn't work in the read through. But who cares about all that, Bjork is in the house!
Friday: More rehearsing. Sometimes there are some sketches added if anything noteworthy happens in the news. Jim Downey, a writer who started at SNL in the early years of the show, wrote the cold open this week. He is an absolutely brilliant writer and is responsible for so many unforgettable pieces over the years. That's his voice on the "Moustache Rides" commercial he wrote last week. Tell your co-workers that fact when you go to work tomorrow and see what they say.
Saturday: Show day. At noon we run through everything with costumes and wigs, and then at 8 it's the dress rehearsal. That's performed in front of a live audience. There was one sketch this week that had a few technical problems during the dress rehearsal. In "Kuato", we were supposed to be puking all over the set. When the time came, Amy Poehler and I put our hands to our mouths to cue the puke special effects. These long hoses hooked up to pumps are what make the green vomit come spewing out. But it didn't work, nothing came out. It worked fine for the live show, but the smell of the stuff was awful. I think it was made of lentils and water or something. Yuck! We had to do these long cutaways to allow Andy and Scarlett to settle in to the couch with their huge dummy rigs. They had parts of a couch attached to them so they could just run in and get set. That's why there are those long takes of Maya saying "I'm sure you'll like him once you get to know him" (or whatever her line was. You know what I mean, right?)
A lot changes between the dress rehearsal and the actual show. Sketches become shorter because of time constraints. It can get kind of dramatic, with writers and producers running up and telling me that something I'm about to do is cut way down. It happened with the "Internet Celebs" sketch. Three "Little Superstar" dancing segments became one (and I had so many dance moves I was going to bust out!).
I love doing the "good nights", you know, when we all hug and wave goodbye at the end. I don't know what it is. I just remember when I used to watch the show and I would look to see what the cast members were doing and saying. Basically we are talking about money up there.
How much we are making, what we stand to make in the future, what our net worth is, etc. No, just kidding. We are gossiping. Spreading some very serious rumors. No. For real, we all have to take a foreign language class as an NBC requirement so we are all practicing our Italian. Ciao!