It takes a lot to pull off a brand new, live 90 minutes of television every week.
When you work for “Saturday Night Live,” your work schedule tends to be kind of crazy.
The “Saturday Night Live” schedule has been in place for 40 years, and while a weekly live sketch show can be hit-or-miss, this routine has produced some comedy gold.
A new “Saturday Night Live” Exhibition, fittingly in New York City, celebrates the hard work that goes into creating the live comedy institution. It includes costumes, photos, and even recreations of sets made by the same people who designed the originals.
The exhibit is broken up day by day, to give a precise feeling of what exactly happens each day throughout the six-day “SNL” work week.
Using artifacts from the exhibit, here is a breakdown of a week at “Saturday Night Live.”
On Monday, writers and cast members meet to pitch jokes and toss around story ideas.
Writers and cast members meet to begin pitching jokes and sketch ideas. Meanwhile, SNL creator and producer Lorne Michaels, the writers and cast meet with hosts and figure out their abilities. Michaels and the show’s head writers then decide which of these ideas are best, and which play to the host’s strengths.
Tuesday is a writing day.
Writers will usually pull all-nighters to get sketches done. When the show first began, writing sessions were notoriously mixed with heavy drug use. Today, that is not a factor.
Wednesday is when everybody gathers around to read through sketches.
Every Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m., everyone from the host to writers to cast members to production assistants gather in the writer’s room to read the week’s possible sketches. Actors read through parts while “[music director Eli] Brueggeman sits at a keyboard in the corner to accompany the sketches with music,” according to the exhibit.
According to the museum, the meeting doesn’t end until every single sketch is read. Typically, the meeting is “roughly” three hours long.
On Thursday, sets start getting built.
At 6 a.m., construction of the sets for the week’s show begins in Stiegelbauer shop in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Back in Manhattan, cast and crew prepare for rehearsals. Meanwhile, costumes, wigs, and make-up are designed and created as pre-taped segments, such as commercial parodies and digital shorts, go into production.
Friday is marked by rehearsals and rewrites.
It’s just one day before the live show, and things are frantic and chaotic at Studio 8H, just as it should be. Sketches are rehearsed and rewritten over and over again. Cue cards are prepared. Scripts are reviewed by the network censors.
The sets are finally shipped over from Brooklyn. They can be no taller than 9 feet in order to fit into the freight elevators at 30 Rock.
Saturday is the day of the big show, but the work isn’t over just yet.
This is the day of the show, and yet there is still a lot to do. Last minute adjustments to sets, lighting, costumes, and wigs are made. Even on the day of the show, changes continue to get made to the script.
At 8:00 p.m., a crowd sits to watch a dress rehearsal for the show. This gives time for any last minute changes to be made, and any sketches that don’t get laughs will get cut before the final show at 11:30 p.m.
After the show ends, there is a big after party that lasts through the night.
According to a sign in the museum, back in the 1970s, “[John] Belushi and [Dan] Aykroyd threw an even more exclusive after-after-party for the favoured few in a downtown dive bar on Hudson and Dominick streets they took over and renamed the Blues Bar. Musicians jammed. Belushi and Aykroyd joined them on stage. Keith Richards was said to have tended bar. And no one went home until late the next morning.”
Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition is now on display at Premier Exhibitions in Manhattan at 417 5th Avenue between 37th & 38th.
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