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Sketch comedy and improvisation in saturday night live

Brian Boone brianbooone Over the course of more than 40 years and 800 episodes, Saturday Night Live has been among the most prestigious and influential comedy shows in the history of American TV. Remarkably, the show still airs as it happens.

  • Instead, Jim Henson and his cohorts created a whole slew of new, monstrous, adult-oriented creatures for a segment called " The Land of Gorch;
  • And due to Writers Guild rules , the sketches couldn't be written by Muppets writers—leaving SNL writers to do it, and they resented the puppets for taking up valuable airtime;
  • It spawned a ton of movies Many of the most popular SNL characters have been spun off into feature films, but very few of them have been successful;
  • The show aired weeknights at 11;
  • Then producers and the head writers determine which sketches are good enough;
  • Cheers star George Wendt delivered the opening monologue and appeared in sketches, while Coppola sat in a director's chair and interrupted the show every few minutes to critique performances.

Perhaps more remarkably, it's still just as vital as it was when it revolutionized pop culture in the '70s. Here are some stories you may not know about SNL. The show aired weeknights at 11: The network decided to try out a late night variety show geared to a young, hip audience. To run it, executives tapped 30-year-old Canadian comedy writer Lorne Michaels, best known for his work on an Emmy-winning Lily Tomlin special.

  1. It had a different name During the first season, the show wasn't called Saturday Night Live because the title was already in use.
  2. Every proposed sketch is included, so it usually takes at least three hours. The sketch order is set and presented to a live audience at 8 p.
  3. But when that show was canceled, NBC snapped up the title, replacing the bland original. The obscure comedians were instead dubbed the "Not Ready for Primetime Players.
  4. The host and a cast member also shoot the short commercials to promote the episode. Here are some stories you may not know about SNL.

It took Michaels a year to work out the format and find a cast of seven sketch comedians, but in October 1975, the show was ready to go.

It had a different name During the first season, the show wasn't called Saturday Night Live because the title was already in use. But when that show was canceled, NBC snapped up the title, replacing the bland original: The obscure comedians were instead dubbed the "Not Ready for Primetime Players. It used to have Muppets Nowadays, the show is pretty much all comedy with a couple musical performances thrown in.

But in the early years, SNL was a true variety show. The Muppets were frequent guests on the late night circuit in the mid-'70s, so it only made sense to include them.

But we're not talking about Kermit, Fozzie, and Miss Piggy here. Instead, Jim Henson and his cohorts created a whole slew of new, monstrous, adult-oriented creatures for a segment called " The Land of Gorch. Considered not as fresh as SNL's manic sketch comedy, the segment ground each show to a halt.

What’s the difference between sketch comedy and improv?

And due to Writers Guild rulesthe sketches couldn't be written by Muppets writers—leaving SNL writers to do it, and they resented the puppets for taking up valuable airtime. The Muppets were gone after the first season. They go to Michaels' office, where they talk to writers and cast members about their comedic strengths, impressions they can do, and other suggestions.

Writers then pitch their ideas. As a holdover from the show's cocaine-fueled days in the '70s, writers spend all day and night writing their sketches. The host and a cast member also shoot the short commercials to promote the episode. They're edited and put on the air within hours of being shot.

The table read is at 4 p. Every proposed sketch is included, so it usually takes at least three hours. Then producers and the head writers determine which sketches are good enough. At 30 Rock, the crew firms up plans for costumes, wigs, and makeup.

Any pre-taped video bits are recorded. The sketch order is set and presented to a live audience at 8 p. Any last minute changes or sketches that are cut happen by 11: The audition process SNL Talent scouts seek seasoned stand-up comedians or improv performers who might be a good fit for the show. If they like what they see, they invite the performers to an audition on the SNL stage. Hopefuls have 10 minutes to do stand-up or present at least two original characters and celebrity impressions.

Some big names didn't make the cut Getty Images Getting on SNL has been a career goal for thousands of comedians and actors, but only a few make the cast each year. That makes for a long list of performers who auditioned, didn't make it, then went on to achieve fame and fortune anyway.

It's tough to get screen time Getty Images With more than a dozen performers and at least that many writers in direct competition with each other to fill just about an hour of sketch time, somebody is going to get left out. Back then, only one of his sketches made it to air: David later recycled the bit for an episode of Seinfeld. Some hosts are better than others It's obvious which guests SNL likes the most, because they're the ones who keep coming back.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are hosts who will likely never return because they were difficult to work with, obnoxious, or both.

  1. Remarkably, the show still airs as it happens.
  2. At 30 Rock, the crew firms up plans for costumes, wigs, and makeup. Since the beginning, pre-taped segments like fake commercials or the animated TV Funhouse anthology preceded the digital shorts on today's SNL.
  3. Remarkably, the show still airs as it happens.
  4. As a holdover from the show's cocaine-fueled days in the '70s, writers spend all day and night writing their sketches. But not every host and musical guest follows that rule, and many were subsequently banned.
  5. It had a different name During the first season, the show wasn't called Saturday Night Live because the title was already in use.

In a 1992 episode, host Nicolas Cage confides to Michaels that he fears he'll be the worst host in the show's history. But according to Michaels, the worst was probably early TV star Milton Berlewho guested in 1979 and disrupted the show with mugging, ad-libbing of old and tired jokes, and arranged beforehand to have the studio audience give him a standing ovation at the end.

Tina Fey, however, didn't beat around the bush when she told Howard Stern who she thought was the worst: Some people aren't welcome back While many of the show's performers come from an improv comedy background, it's forbidden to improvise on SNL. The show has to be planned down to the second to account for each sketch, musical performance, and commercial break. But not every host and musical guest follows that rule, and many were subsequently banned.

In 2003, Adrien Brody did an impromptu, borderline racist bit with a Jamaican accent while introducing reggae singer Sean Paul.

In 1996, Rage Against the Machine asked for two upside-down American flags to be hung on the stage. When producers said no, the band hung them up anyway. Stagehands tore them down just seconds before they were supposed to perform, and their second song was canceled.

And let's not forget Sinead O'Connor's infamous sketch comedy and improvisation in saturday night live incident in 1992. Some sketches don't make the reruns Just because an SNL episode airs, it doesn't mean it stays that way forever. Producers often tinker with shows for reruns, often replacing a sketch that went poorly with a superior version recorded during dress rehearsal.

That means some "lost" sketches only survive on DVD and streaming versions. One of them, "Butt County Dance Party," aired in 1976. In the sketch, a small-town sheriff Dan Akroyd hosts a TV dance show, and "winners" get to have their name run through a teletype machine to check for outstanding warrants.

But when the machine malfunctioned, Akroyd tried to improvise and told everyone to keep dancing, although there was no music. NBC cut to random stock footage of car crashes, then pulled the sketch from reruns.

In another instance from 1985, NBC president Brandon Tartikoff appeared in a sketch to collect urine samples from cast members for drug testing, but it was later deemed to be in poor taste. In the reruns, it's swapped out for an extra musical performance by Simple Minds.

Acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola was the host, and the through-line of the episode was that Coppola was "directing" the show. The credits were stylized like those of an art film and the music was provided by that night's musical guest, avant garde composer Philip Glass. Cheers star George Wendt delivered the opening monologue and appeared in sketches, while Coppola sat in a director's chair and interrupted the show every few minutes to critique performances.

He also appeared in vignettes with Michaels and cast member Terry Sweeney to discuss innovative ways to save the show—which NBC was thinking of canceling. It spawned a ton of movies Many of the most popular SNL characters have been spun off into feature films, but very few of them have been successful. The Blues Brothers is a comedy classic, and so is Wayne's World. A Night at the Roxbury offered a look at the backstory and home life of those guys in the club who bobbed their heads Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan.

Coneheads was made almost 20 years after the sketch was popular. Short films have always been a big part of the show Getty Images Not every single aspect of the show is recorded live.

Since the beginning, pre-taped segments like fake commercials or the animated TV Funhouse anthology preceded the digital shorts on today's SNL. In the '70s, comedian and filmmaker Albert Brooks rejected Michaels' offer to make him the show's permanent host and instead offered to create sketch comedy and improvisation in saturday night live films.

Mockumentary master Christopher Guest also contributed short features as a cast member in the '80s.

The untold truth of Saturday Night Live

In the wake of a blistering New York cover story titled "Saturday Night Dead," and as ratings rapidly fell, Michaels fired nearly everyone including Adam Sandler and Chris Farley except for David Spade and a few others. Simpson—MacDonald had repeatedly said Simpson was guilty, and Ebersol happened to be one of Simpson's friends. More recently, standouts Taran Killam and Jay Pharaoh were both let go after six years on the show.