This week I had the extreme privilege of being invited to the writer’s room of SNL with Paul Rudd and Paul McCartney. I had been before, but not an ‘event’ episode like one of the funniest actors and a Beatle on the same episode. Say what you will about the show, but being there was fantastic (as it should be).
One of the things that few realize is that while there is a lot of talent and star power on the stage being filmed, there is an equal number behind the scenes just hanging out. Don’t believe me? There were so many people there that I passed by Edward Norton three times and didn’t even realize it (my girlfriend alerted me to this after the fact. I was remiss I didn't get a chance to ask him to punch me in the face). I walked through a doorway with Jon Hamm and nearly passed out from being around so much handsome. When we first got off the elevator we knew we got off on the wrong floor (we got off on the 8th where they film, the writer’s room is on the 9th) because Lorne Michaels was walking down the hall and we passed Paul McCartney’s dressing room. Whoops.
It was an amazing night with great performances, many laughs, and an incredibly random sighting of Val Kilmer (who has really nice hair by the way. Seriously, no split ends at all).
Anyway, onto the skits:
One of the cool things about being in the writer’s room is learning what got cut between the dress rehearsal and the taping. Apparently they cut a minute from the cold opening which included a 9/11 joke that got booed. Thankfully the final result was mercifully short to make room for McCartney’s extra performances.
The 'Kissing Family' sketch has been nearly done to death, but I really appreciated them going for it hardcore early on with Bill Hader feeling up Paul Rudd.
'What’s That Name' was the most delightful skit from this week. Great set up, execution, and jokes and perhaps the only funny appearance from Kristen Wiig this week.
The Mastercard sketch was brilliant if only for Bill Hader’s near pitch perfect impression of Julian Assange. “Ever seen the fourth season of Hanging With Mr. Cooper? You’re about to!”
Why Paul McCartney decided to a bunch of Wings songs is beyond me. Perhaps because it was so close to the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. But either way, experiencing a living Beatle’s performance was amazing. And then after ‘Get Back’ during the credits he continued with ‘Back in the USSR’ and ‘I Saw Her Standing There.’ Everyone in the audience, the cast, crew, all the celebrities just hanging out, we were all on the floor dancing, singing, and shouting. Mind = blown.
Stefon is becoming one of my favorite characters. I wouldn’t like to see a movie based on him (he’s perfect the way he is), but it wouldn’t be that bad.
Weekend Update had some unusually consistent jokes this week topped off with Paul McCartney acting like Camilla. Best joke? I won’t ruin it but it happens at 2:10.
Here’s an interesting behind the scenes fact. Sometimes we complain about how the sketches seem to end awkwardly but this is a peril with live television. Such a thing happened with this very funny skit when it didn’t cut on cue. Nevertheless it was great to see Jay Pharoah inhabit a character and not a impression. This kid is someone to watch out for, his control over his voice is outstanding. If SNL continues to use him wisely (which I’m sure they will) they will reap many benefits.
Abby Elliott is one of my favorite players of recent years because she’s really funny. And maybe she just happens to be a little bit beautiful, but that’s purely a coincedence.
NBC hasn’t released it, but the Willkommen sketch was funny if only because it was the only real chance to see Jason Sudeikis this week.
And one final insight that I learned from this little excursion was that if you want to know what the backstage looks like at SNL, just watch 30 Rock. They manage to almost nail it on the head. The only difference is that’s its a little more roomier and a little bit cleaner (but that's like complaining about how the people on TV are too "pretty").