Tuesday, November 04, 2008

SNL 11/1/08

Saturday Night Live was my church. While all the other families were worshipping their respective gods, my family sat around the TV Sunday mornings watching the comic stylings of Terry Sweeney, A. Whitney Brown, and Gary Kroeger, to name a few non-famous players. I would tape the show, switching over to Headbanger's Ball on commercial breaks, and then watch it again with the rest of the family over donuts the next morning.

Obviously, the show has had down-periods, but I've always stuck with it if no no other reason than the fact that I'm always up late, and I'd almost rather watch a bad live show than a good taped one.

I don't watch "religiously" any more, but I've always wanted to see a taping in person. It's not as easy to get into as the nightly shows. You might remember my posts about Colbert, Conan, Dave, and The Daily Show. For those, you ask for tickets, and they give you some. For SNL, you have to send in an e-mail in the month of August. If they choose you at random, you get tickets to a live taping, or a dress rehearsal, which they do a few hours beforehand. Usually I think of this around the first week of September. This year, I remembered in time, told a bunch of people to send e-mails, and my lucky mom won. Of course, part of her "prize" was that I would be her companion. We got a dress rehearsal--last show before the election. We were psyched.

Took the train in. Got to 30 Rock in time to be pretty far up on the line. We knew McCain would be on, but we thought maybe he'd have a stand-in for our dress rehearsal. Nope. Secret service was there, ready to work security on top of the regular NBC guards. When we got up to the ninth floor after the detection of metal, we stood on a new line. We were right by the women's room, and got to watch as each woman coming out had her bag re-searched by a "uniformed division" member of secret service, since the bathrooms were "out of their territory." Uniformed division? Might as well call them the "un-secret" division. The guy was missing women left and right, as none of them were expecting it. Funny thing is, even a secret service person, as long as he's all alone and completely outnumbered, is treated like a rent-a-cop. "Hey, asshole, you missed another one!"

No, I didn't ask the secret service guy for an application, nor did I tell him my name was Henry Krinkle of Hopper Ave. You know, like a rabbit? Hip....hop...

So we get into the studio, are about to be seated in the last row on backless cushions against the back wall, and my mom tells the page she needs a chairback. He puts us down in the front row. Sweet! Same deal as any show, you've got cameras and sets all over blocking sight lines, so there are advantages to being in the front and back, but I liked our spot. Cast member Jason Sudeikis came out and said hi and warmed us up. Then he turned it over to Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig. They didn't say anything--just broke into Blondie's "One Way or Another," with Fred on guitar backed by the SNL band, and Kristen doing a spot-on Debbie Harry. (Just the voice, she wasn't dressed as Blondie or anything.)

Then 80-something year old Don Pardo spoke for a while. I read that he still flies in from Arizona every week to do the announcing.

It was a little surreal to be in the studio, seeing the permanent sets right in front of me. When I say "front row," I mean the balcony--but that's where the bulk of the audience is. You see the floor seats during the monologue on TV, but there are very few of those. I think those are "special" people. But we were only maybe 50 feet from the front edge of the "stage," though that's only used for the house band, and then, to the left, the musical guests. The skits are done on the floor, configured every way possible. Sets are moved around quickly between segments, and the stars are whisked in and out of their spots. Ben Affleck was the host, and he almost couldn't keep up with the woman in charge of speeding him through the moving sets.

It was a pretty good show. I'm an Olbermann fan, but I thought Affleck's version of him was hilarious. McCain was okay, but a little stiff, which makes no sense, since he's always talking in front of people. I saw the final product, and it was cool to see what got left out and which jokes were cut from Weekend Update, and to see some mess-ups, like Affleck losing his gold tooth mid-sketch and telling us so. Did you see the High School Musical parody with adult students at night school? Affleck's character was in a wheelchair during dress rehearsal. They decided against it for the live show. He also did a James Carville impersonation that I think was completely cut. They seemed to speed everything up during the live broadcast, almost as if they purposely had extra things in each sketch in dress, ready to make cuts and fit it all into 1.5 hours.

I didn't take pics--not allowed. So that's it. Next August, don't forget to send your e-mail.


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Location: Rhode Island, United States