Saturday Night Live: The Experience!

Posted on May 21, 2018 at 9:50 am

Tina Fey hosted the season finale of “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which means many months until the next opportunity to see their take on the news. If that seems like a very long time to wait, you can visit the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago to see the SNL Experience, a wildly entertaining interactive exhibit that takes visitors through a week of creating an episode and the 41-year history of the show as well.

The exhibit, which covers two floors of the museum, includes iconic props and sets from the show’s history, taped interviews, and clips.  It is a lot of fun to see items that bring back memories of classic SNL moments but it is fascinating to peek behind the scenes (literally) and see interviews with the writers, costume designers, and set designers who start with a blank page every week and somehow put together 90 minutes of material.  Highly recommended!

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Cool Stuff Television

Why Kenan Thompson is SNL’s MVP

Posted on May 2, 2017 at 8:00 am

At Huffington Post, Maxwell Strachan writes about Kenan Thompson, about to set the record for the longest-term performer on “Saturday Night Live.” He makes a good case for the reason Thompson is so good: he’s not just supremely talented and the ultimate professional, he also a team player, always focused on what is best for the sketch, the cast, and the show rather than what is best for him. And he explains how Thompson’s quiet consideration and modesty has made it easy to underestimate his contribution.  I’m glad to see him get this long-overdue recognition.

What makes Thompson special is not best utilized in movies, or on a pre-recorded sitcom, or behind a desk ― but right there, live on air at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night.

“If you were designing the person perfect for SNL, most of the components would look like Kenan,” Lorne Michaels told me in a phone interview earlier this year.

Thompson makes everything at SNL better. The writers can rely on him to bring them back a laugh. The cast members know that he’ll set them up for their own moment. And the crew members know that they’ll have someone who will act as an on-stage director, controlling the tempo of the sketch and the people around him.

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Eugene Lee: Production Designer for SNL

Posted on January 10, 2017 at 4:01 pm

Eugene Lee has designed sets for “Saturday Night Live’ since the very beginning in 1975. He spoke to the UK’s Creative Review about creating the look of the sketches and how technology and expectations have changed in 41 years.

Lee says the SNL team has just four days to prepare the show and construct sets. Every Wednesday, he takes the train from Rhode Island (where he lives) to New York (where the show is broadcast) and spends the afternoon reading through scripts submitted by writers. Once the producers have decided which scripts they’d like to use, Lee and his team will work with the writers and actors to devise each set.

“We go and talk to the writers and actors and try to work out what they see in the set,” he explains. “If the script says there’s a restaurant, we’ll say, ‘what kind of restaurant? Is it high class? Is it elegant? Does it have red chequered tablecloths?’…. SNL is best when there’s great writing – if a sketch doesn’t have that, then it’s a fail – so we listen to the writers and they tell us what they think.

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Behind the Scenes Television Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Tracy Morgan to Host SNL

Posted on August 17, 2015 at 8:29 pm

It was great to hear that Tracy Morgan, who has been recovering from a serious automobile accident in June of 2014, will host the first “Saturday Night Live” episode of the 2015-2016 season. It will be a homecoming for the comic actor, who appeared on “Saturday Night Live” from 1996-2003. Other hosts for the upcoming fall episodes include Amy Schumer and Miley Cyrus.

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Tom Shales on SNL and Lorne Michaels

Posted on February 20, 2015 at 8:00 am

Of all the tributes and critiques of “Saturday Night Live” as it starts its fifth decade, none is more astute than Tom Shales’ for Daily Beast.  Shales is the co-author of Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests. In this column he talks about producer Lorne Michaels, and his original idea that the show should be for the generation who grew up on television. It was media-aware and subversive from the beginning.

In the earliest days of Saturday Night Live it didn’t occur to Michaels, who of course created the show, that they would establish characters and bring them back for repeat sketches, with the conspicuous exception of The Bees, with the “Not Ready for Prime-Time Players” dressed in fat padded bee costumes that had been lying around.

Michaels said later he brought the bees back because the only note he got from network executives after the first show was: “Lose the bees.” So it was that SNL began, defying authority and ever-evolving as a showcase for the best and sometimes bravest American humor. It’s Comedy Mountain.

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