SNL Layers

I just finished watching this week’s 2014 Christmas edition of Saturday Night Live. It’s odd to feel cheated that hardly any celebrities showed up this year. The only cameos were three former SNL Characters – so far anyway.

The demographically perfect boy band One Direction is actually growing on me. They were not bad, as I expected, given that I’m over 40. It’s supposed to annoy me. I’m nearly grandpa age.

The sketch that made me stop the playback and blog, as the one set in the past, with three “dames” in a bar who seem quite bat-shit crazy. The conclusion actually had a way to explain it for a quality ending, at least to me. It made me smile. I won’t are it’s rare that I enjoy an SNL sketch through to the end, but it’s not unheard of. 

However, the part that most impressed me, was how hard the sketch must have been. This entire show has really had a lot of hard song and dance numbers. It always amazes me how well these talented people are able to pull a song and dance routine in 4 days, and still pull it off with precision.  In my head, from my history with community theatre, the first few weeks are still horrible… but I suppose 3 days is easier than 1 day every week for three weeks – in some ways.


The part that impressed me, was a swinging song sung by two of the women, and Ammie Adams. Although not dancing, the lyrics were jibber jabber read from cue cards and yet they sang all three together without error.  I want to believe it was a live take, because it’s Saturday Night Live, but back stage shows have implied some times they play the dress rehearsal versions.

In any case – they did it – twice. Well. It made me smile on two levels. Giving respect to the dedication and practice, or the amazing talent of people doing things I tell myself I could never do.

That kind of live comedy show with minimal rehearsal is an amazing skill. Saturday Night Live is a success because it’s done live. I hope that never changes.  All other sketch shows are comedy. Saturday Night Live is theatre.

It was always my dream. I never wanted Second City. I wanted to be on, or write for Saturday Night Live.

Since I can remember, I’ve liked scripts. I think it stemmed from my two first editions of the Holy Grail first draft and movie script, and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I first read as the original radio show scripts.

With undiagnosed attention deficit disorder, I grew a fondness to sketch comedy rather than long form scripts. I wrote sketches. As a kid, I watched every single sketch comedy and variety shows on TV, and in the 70s, there were a lot.  Everyone had a variety show, and I watched them all, from Any Wiliams to Jim Stafford to Shields and Yarnell to Avery and Shriver and even the singers and Bobby Vinton too…

Saturday Night Live wasn’t just sketch comedy. It was theatre like my Mom did, up on a stage with fake sets and an audience. Plus, it was restricted to late night, so you had to be older that me to stay up late and see it.  I missed season 1 live, but starting with season 2, I don’t know that I ever missed an episode. Our early VCR was Beta, so I sometimes missed the the last 30 minutes, because they only recorded one our.  I fast forwarded past 70% of the musical acts I think. I love music, but live music on TV doesn’t’t hold my A.D.D interest past the first few bars when I see the set furnishing.

Number one on my buckers list has been Saturday Night Live for 30 years. I literally have dreams of being there, and have every year since I was 15. Usually something horrible happens… I had nightmares about giant lobsters that night.

I may have given up more than half the things I used to watch on TV. I’m watching less, and my PVR was filling, but I always like to watch Saturday Night Live each week I can, usually on Sunday.  Live-ish. I have never given up on them, and their Doctor Who-like cast changes. I’ve never complained about one cast over another.  I love the concept.

It’s similar to South Park, in turnaround. Each is about this week’s funny… and yet, they stand up in time.. at least a few a season make the highlight DVD for future generations.

Thank you Saturday Night Live,m for being a part of my life story, and tonight’s Blog.







Scripted improv

(A silly play about live improve, for 5 players.  Two players come out onto a blank stage in casual wear. Any background is acceptable.)

A: Hello Cleveland!  We are Robin and Chris and we are the opaque players. At this time Wed like to take a few suggestions from the audience, so that we can come up with some unscripted improv sketch comedy for you all tonight.

B: yeah yeah yeah… It’s kind of like live action Mad Lib’s.

A: What? What the heck is Mad Libs?

madlibsB: you know, Mad Libs. That party game.

 A: Why would you need to say that? Everybody knows how improve works. Nobody knows what Mad Libs is. If you’re going to use an analogy it shouldn’t be more obscure than what’s it’s being used to describe. That’s just stupid.

B: That’s mean. Don’t call me stupid. In improving, there are no wrong lines.

A: That’s stupid too. Improv is frequently bad. Horrid! Some people are just bad at it. They play a game of Mad Libs and suddenly they think that they’re Colin Mochrie all of a sudden. Hell, I’ve seen Colin Mochrie do bad improve.

B: Nobody knows who that is.

A: Well, I bet more people in the audience know my reference than yours. They did actually decide to come to a comedy improv show after all. If they’re Canadian, they probably know him. Canada only have 27 celebrities.

B: I disagree. Mad Libs is a best selling party game.

A: First off, I don’t think we needed a simile to begin with. We came out and basically said what we are here to do. We take suggestions and turn them into skits, live without scripts or rehearsals.

B: Right — like mad Libs.

A: Shut up

B: Just curious. Who here has heard of Mad Libs, show of hands?
     And who has held if Colin Mochrie? Show of hands.

(neither actor gives reaction either way)

A: So – Moving on. We’d like a suggestion for a place ok I heard the back studio of a movie lot where there filming a buddy cop movie. (no timing break)

B: And I’d like a suggestion for an occupation? (pause) ok… I heard Amateur Taxidermist.

A: Ok now I need a colour… Kelly Green… Good one!

B: And an opening line?

A: (Pointing to audience) “But I can’t afford a taxi my mother needs a new kidney.”
Ok that’s good.

B: I now present you with our play; “good cop, cancer cop”.  The set is the backdrop behind a movie studio. Kelly and Francis are buddy cops.

A: Action

(A third man comes out from behind the curtain)

C: … but I can’t afford a taxi. My mother needs a new kidney.

B: ok fine. Here ya go. (He gives the man some cash, and C walks off)

A: What was that about?

B: Nothing. Nevermind. Now, about this case…

A: yeah yeah yeah… The Kelly green killer. We almost had her but –

D: (person stands up from audience.) Stop! Just stop.

A: you can’t do that!

B: remember. There are no wrong lines in improv.

A&d: shut up

A: There are rules. Improv rules. I’m pretty sure it’s a show, not a free for all. It’s not audience participation. You can’t join in from the audience.

B: I bet you’d let Colin Mochrie join in, if he was in the audience.

A: Honestly. You drive me crazy. I don’t know why I ever married to you.

B: Ha! for immigration you keep telling me.

(moment if silence) a&b: (awkward look, then, with fanfare and flourush) Improv!

A: …anyway, the audience cut participate. Sorry sir.

D: …and… cut!  (A&B look confused)

B: What just happened?

D:  I am Jules. The director of this cop movie. I yelled cut. Go back to the beginning. This time, do it with funny accents.

A: You see, there is bad improv.

D: ok. From the top.

B: But we can’t. It’s improv. We don’t have a script.

D: Are you telling me you don’t remember what you did 2 minutes ago. I believe your opening line was; nothing, Nevermind.

C: (comes out again, but dressed in a costume. He says his line in a funny accent)   … but I can’t afford a taxi. My mother needs a new kidney.

D: cut. No, no, no… Do it again, but like it’s a romantic comedy. Action.

B: You’re missing the point, improv isn’t supposed to be repeatable. It’s like a magic trick. You only perform it once.

A: Still a horrible analogy, but closer.

B: shut up.

A: Oooooh

B: We can’t do it over and over and just change the accents or styles.

A: Colin Mochrie does it all the time. It’s the directors bit.

E: (a loud voice from the back of theatre)  Cut! I think you’re losing the audience. It’s to confusing. They don’t believe any of it. The suggestions were so stupid it’s obvious to anyone they were prearranged. You’re out here acting from scripts. It’s not working.

D: we could try it in funny accents…

C: shut up, in same funny accent.

A: ooooh

A: who the hell are you?

B: maybe it’s Colin Mochrie, come from the audience to reprise his finest role.

trexD: Actually I think his T-Rex is his finest role.

E: I am the director of this show.

B: (makes a mind blown gesture with hands.)

D: What wall are we breaking now?

E: Get off the stage.

C: what?

E: get off the stage… The show is about to start.

B: ok fine. Be that way.

(Everyone returns to seats in the audience)

A: Sorry about that everyone.  I don’t know who these people are. The real show will begin in a moment.

Announcer announces the actual show. Sponsored by Mad Libs. The improv home game for people who are not creative.