09 March 2009

Live From New York, It's...the longest and most detailed post in this blog's history.

A typical rise and shine on Saturdays falls between 10:30am and noon for me, no matter when I went to bed the night before. Any more past that and I feel guilty, any less and I feel shortchanged on my weekend freedom to sleep in as late as I want.

This Saturday was different. I happily shot out of bed at 8:30am, showered and stepped out into the glorious 60-something degree weather. It was the first Spring-like weekend day of 2009. I had plans to meet a group of friends in Chinatown around 12:30 for dim sum. It would be my first dim sum experience, and I would eat chicken feet (after trying duck feet, which we thought were chicken feet at first, but then realized they were webbed. Surprisingly, I liked the duck feet better). I took the subway to Broadway-Lafayette, with my mind set on taking a leisurely morning downtown stroll before arriving at Jing Fong Restaurant to meet up. I window-shopped in Soho, stopped for cappuccino in Little Italy, and waded through the massive crowds on Canal Street without aggravation for once. But the extra spring in my step wasn’t because of the weather, my fistful of caffeine, nor my pending new culinary adventure…

Today my friends, was the day I was going to Saturday Night Live. (LIVE.)

After 10 long years of annually entering my name into the SNL ticket lottery (as long as I’ve been eligible to enter), a year and a half of pestering every NBC Page and producer I’ve encountered during my many work visits to the Today Show greenroom, and an attempt at pulling strings with the Broadway Video publicist who got a co-worker and I “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News “ tickets (henceforth canceled), I won. The lottery. The Saturday Night Live ticket lottery.

Would I rather win the real lottery or the SNL ticket lottery? That’s a tough question. Millions of real dollars or a priceless commodity? You would think from my visceral reaction upon finding out the news that I had won, via e-mail one late Thursday at work, that it’d be the latter. I think my co-workers would back me up on that one. But when I win the real lottery I’ll let you know…via satellite from my gilded penthouse in Paris while wearing a gown made of money…muah ha ha ha.

Anyway, the winning of the SNL tix was the single most exciting moment of utter surprise and joy that I have ever experienced in my life thus far. Which I am sure seems trivial to most of you (especially the "you's" that are married and/or have children, where a television show is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things), but that show has had such a major impact on my life. I can chart my pre-teen years to mid-twenties by who’s anchored Weekend Update. I found out Princess Diana had died when a breaking news report interrupted an episode while on vacation at my Aunt’s beach house in North Carolina. I can have entire conversations with people consisting solely of quotes from SNL sketches. Hell, I have entire relationships based on quoting SNL (yeah, I am talking to you, Will).

Of course I brought Sarah D. as my guest. If it’s a Saturday Night and there’s a new episode of SNL premiering, you can most likely find me at the Dell’s apartment with a spread of pita and hummus and a case of beer. She’s my comedy sidekick: The Amy to my Tina, the porcupine to my Brian Fellow, the Mark Payne to my peppa.

Our tickets were for the dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal is just a longer version of the televised show. In the hour between dress rehearsal and live air, the producers end up cutting the sketches and jokes that got the least laughs during dress rehearsal.

This week 4 sketches, a commercial parody and several jokes hit the cutting room floor. They also rearranged the order of a few sketches. In that light, I preferred the dress rehearsal, since we got over 2 hours of showtime and got to see sketches that no one else will ever see!

The rundown of the evening went like this:

5:45pm--Leslie and Sarah arrived at 30 Rock to queue up in line, an hour before the cutoff time for arrival. We were right by Le Maison du Chocolat, so Sarah got an espresso and I got 2 mini macaroons to snack on.

6:30pm--An SNL staffer announced that the person whose name is on the guest list should from a separate line in front of her to pick up your pair of tickets, but that your “plus one” should remain in the already-formed line to save your spot. I fetched tickets, Sarah spot-saved. When it was my turn to talk to the lady with the ticket list, the ticket/list lady took my I.D. and asked me, as she did with all of the ticket holders in front of me, if I was excited for the show. I tried to say “yes”, but I think it came out as more of a giggle-squeal hybrid. Then, she asked if my guest was also here. I found that question odd, since I didn’t hear her ask that of anyone else before me. But, I went with it, said “yes” and she asked me to point my guest out. I motioned to Sarah and said “the girl in the green sweater.” Ticket lady instructed me to begin forming another line along the opposite wall. I think she sensed the panic in my face and reassuringly whispered. “It’s OK, we select a few people to sit on the studio floor, and you’re going to be on the floor.”

Not that I ever questioned inviting Sarah as my guest, but I am so glad that she was able to be there with me, if only for the fact that she’s the only person who could understand what I was feeling at this moment…because she was feeling it too. And sweet mother of god, we must have looked like a pair of hyperventilating fools. We waited in this line for a while, and pair by pair, other lucky floor-seat-recipients queued up behind us. A total of 15 “couples” to fill the 30 coveted swivel chairs. And that’s when I noticed a pattern. They were picking the most attractive people. I was in the attractive person line! I was first in the attractive person line!! All of those hours spent toiling at the gym have been worth it!

7:30pm--An NBC Page began taking us one-by-one through security and put me, Sarah and two other pairs onto an elevator destined for the 8th Floor. The doors opened to reveal the backstage area of studio 8H—the black-and-white-checked floors, the walls lined with signed photos of all the past hosts, a jet ski wedged into a rock (this was, of course, part of the lighthouse sketch, for anyone who watched). The Pages lined us up backstage, where we stood for an unknown amount of time…unknown mostly because I was so high on life at this point the space-time continuum ceased to exist for this portion of my life. But, let’s say it was about 20 minutes.

The experience is, however, cemented in my brain forever. It began like this:

Darrell Hammond slowly shuffles (and I do mean shuffles) by us wearing a navy blue sweat pants-and-shirt ensemble and Yankees cap; appears to be staring into space.

Leslie: "I am using so much self-restraint right now to appear calm that my energy has no where to go except as tears welling up in my eyes and shaky hands."

Sarah: "Yeah, I’m shaking. I need one of those things they give to people when they have seizures. To put in their mouth. You know? I need a seizure-biter."

Leslie: "Yes. A seizure biter. That says everything about what I am feeling right now."

At about that time, Sudekis comes gallivanting down the hall in hi-tops, black dress socks, a short-sleeve button down and shiny KU basketball shorts. His hair is moussed and out of control. Will Forte rounds the corner wearing a nice pair of jeans, a button down shirt, sipping on coffee and reading a script. Oh and he’s wearing his Jon Bovi 80's-hair-band wig and a ridiculous moustache. He waves and says "hi" like nothing is weird about this situation.

Darrell Hammond shuffles by again. I think he is doing laps. I think he might have also had a lobotomy.

Bill Hader walks by a few times. He high fives people in line and congratulates us on the best seats in the house. After watching him interact with the SNL staff backstage, he seems to be the nicest cast member. Kristin Wiig is shoveling something into her mouth out of a styrofoam takeout box. She is tiny.

Darrell Hammond shuffles by, but decides not to go for another lap. He sits down at the wig station and continues staring.

We can see one of the studio monitors from where we’re standing. Seth Myers, Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake are doing a run-through of Weekend Update. When they’re done, the crew wheels the Weekend Update desk into backstage area where we’re standing.

8:00pm: The Pages send the line into the studio. On the way in, I touched the Weekend Update desk. Score! Since Sarah and I were first in line, we got first pick of the seats. We were front row, center and close enough to get clobbered with props as the stagehands move them on and off the stage…which we did (get clobbered, that is). Most notably, I was hit in the knees with the Weekend Update desk. I have bruises. Glory bruises.

Before the show started, a bit after 8, Don Pardo introduced Jason Sudekis, who then introduced a special opening act: Kristin Wiig (on vocals) and Fred Armisen (on guitar) covering Blondie’s “One Way Or Another.”

After that, my favorite cast member, Will Forte began the cold open, as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. 3 feet away from me, he yelled those magical words “LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT!”

As Sarah said, one of her top 3 dreams came true that night, and she doesn't even know what the other 2 are.

If you’ve read this far, chances are you’re an SNL fan, so you’ve seen the televised show (Host Dwayne Johnson, Musical Guest Ray LaMontagne). So, I’ll try to keep my commentary on what made air to a minimum, and focus on the sketches that were cut from the televised show.

DRESS REHEARSAL 3/7/09:

Dwayne Johnson Monologue -- That guy’s muscles are out of control. Also, SNL does not use teleprompters, they use old-fashioned poster board and sharpies.

Commercial parody (CUT FROM TELEVISED BROADCAST)-- Sudekis stars in a commercial for a website where you can sell everything from your worthless stocks to illegal drugs. It ended up getting cut this week, but I have a feeling it will pop up in a future show.

Hawaiian Tiki Bar -- This got moved to a later spot in the televised show; good move.

“The Rock” Obama -- Samberg as Rahm Emanuel…totally brill. This ended up being the first skit after the monologue in the televised show.

McGruber-McGyver sketches -- The three McGruber episodes were sprinkled throughout the dress rehearsal in different spots.

Activia Commercial Shoot -- We’ve seen this sketch before, we get it, Kristin Wiig poops the couch. Although in the televised sketch, Sudekis plays the director. In the dress rehearsal sketch, Dwayne Johnson played the director. It was funnier with Dwayne.

Tiny Horse TV (CUT FROM TELEVISED BROADCAST) -- I probably would have labeled this the “TCM sketch,” as it featured Darrell Hammond the host of a “hidden gem”-type movie program on Turner Classic Movies. But the labels on the back of the props said “Tiny Horse TV,” and Sarah loved that. Hammond was seated right in front of me. Before the cameras started rolling, the button popped off his suit pants, and he seemed to be pretty flummoxed. He looked at his pants, then looked at me and said “My button broke!” And kind of gave me that “Bill Clinton” smirk he does so well. I started laughing. Then he said “My button broke” …to me…every few seconds…until the sketch started. I laughed every time. It was a far cry from his backstage shuffling. When the sketch started, we find out that his movie pic for the week is a film about an oversized jockey (Dwayne Johnson in a belly shirt) and a miniature horse (real pony in-studio!) This sketch was pretty funny; too bad it got cut.

Game Time with Dave and Greg -- Hader is an awesome alien. This was actually funnier on TV.

Ray LaMontagne -- “You Are The Best Thing”

Weekend Update-- I saw the Justin Timberlake/Jessica Biel Cameo coming, but I DID NOT see Samberg-as-Cathy coming. ACK! He wasn’t wearing that wig during the run-through. Also, my absolute favorite part of the show was the Jon Bovi (Bon Jovi Opposite Band) interview during Weekend Update. Not only because making up “opposite” lyrics is totally something my friends and I would do…but we definitely do do the “WHAT?! WHAT? WHAAAAAAAT?!” Check it out here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/61232/saturday-night-live-update-jon-bovi

Steady John and Itchy (CUT FROM TELEVISED BROADCAST) -- Dwayne and Fred Armisen play sidekicks; Dwayne as steady John is the straight-talkin’ tough cowboy, Armisen as itchy is his semi-retarded cowboy best friend. Lame. Cut for good reason.

Tarzan, Esquire (CUT FROM TELEVISED BROADCAST) -- Dwayne plays Tarzan. Apparently Jane told him to “get a real job,” so he becomes a criminal defense attorney for chimpanzees. Cut…and for good reason.

Celebrity Apprentice: Darrell Hammond as The Donald shoots promos with Tom Green (Fred Armisen), Joan Rivers (Michaela Watkins), and Dennis Rodman (Dwayne).

Lighthouse -- This one was edited for time in the televised broadcast, and I think it was funnier in dress rehearsal. But a pretty solid sketch, for being the last in the TV lineup.

Ray LaMontagne -- “Trouble”

Early-90’s Jingle-Writers (CUT FROM TELEVISED BROADCAST) -- Kristin Wiig and Dwayne Johnson don AMAZING early-90’s wigs for this sketch where she plays an anorexic jingle-writer and he plays her composer-partner. They are going through the songwriting process for a pantyhose commercial. This was one of those short, weird sketches that I found hilarious, but I don’t think the normal Nielsen family would appreciate.

Thank You -- The host, musical guest and cast gather and do the usual hugs-during-rolling-credits thing. I overheard Jessica Biel say to Bill Hader: “This part is kind of weird, huh?” To which Bill replied “Yeah, but you just gotta do it.”

Sarah can correct me if I’m wrong on the order, but I think the above “set list” is accurate.

After the show I got a bottle of champagne, Thai take-out and headed home to my couch to watch it live. To attempt to describe the experience: Unforgettable, amazing, once-in a lifetime. It’s a good thing, too. Otherwise, I always would have remembered March 7, 2009 as the day I ate duck feet.

6 comments:

Sarah said...

NICE!! Finally an NYC write-up!

CL said...

OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




This post made my morning!!! (And I don't even watch SNL because I'm a loser. I admit it!)



-Chessa

Rachel said...

you know, last time i watched snl which was maybe 2 weeks ago i said the same thing Jessica said. I was like i know its their thing, but its weird!

glad you had fun :)

Sarah said...

P.S. What? WHAT? what?

Crisstionary said...

I want to be you. Let's "Freaky Friday" one day; I'll go glam and hip with awesome things flying out of my ass and you can have four bonkers Criss Kids and write term papers.

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