Recap/Review of a Saturday Night Live Rehearsal

Yesterday, a friend and I made a trip to (the real) 30 Rock in NYC to sit in on the 2-hour dress rehearsal for the NBC mainstay, Saturday Night Live. Episode #666 of the 35-season series was hosted by Blake Lively (CW's Gossip Girl) with musical guest Rihanna.

Arriving in Manhattan in the afternoon, we were greeted by pouring cold rain and sidewalks so full, we had to dodge many an umbrella spike. When we finally reached Rockefeller Center, I was shocked at how small the Christmas tree looked in person. Television cameras really have a way of making everything seem so much larger. As the rain turned to snow though, the tree aglow in an abundant number of multi-color lights looked perfect.

Onto the dress rehearsal. Each Saturday, the cast and crew do a complete run-through of the show from 8-10 pm. Yes, an extra 30 minutes. Before the live show starts at 11:29 pm, a full half hour has to be cut. So what made the cut and what didn't? Stay tuned!

When you enter the studio, you're reminded again that everything looks bigger on TV. The studio is quite tight -- and it's interesting to see how the stage is sectioned-off into different compartments allocated to certain sketches. A large crew is endlessly moving scenery and setting things up in between skits -- you'd be amazed how fast they turn things around during those short commercial breaks! Some skits end up being outside your view -- and some scenes like the commercials and digital shorts are shot ahead of time. So monitors appear before you to allow you to see all the action -- giving you the exact feel of watching the show on your home TV.

About ten or 15 minutes before the rehearsal start time, legendary announcer Don Pardo came out to greet the audience and introduce us to the band, the band leader and castmate Jason Sudeikis. Sure, Pardo may have gotten some names mixed up along the way -- but all is forgiven. He'll turn 92 in February -- and he's still quite spry! Sudeikis did a great job warming up the crowd with his humor -- and even brought up fellow castmate Will Forte to sing a duet of the Doobie Brothers' hit, "Takin' it to the Streets."

And then it was onto the show -- sketches/segments included "Obama and the Salahis" (the White House party crashers), "Host Monologue with Adult Muppets," "Carter 'n Sons" (repeat commercial), "Vagisil Superstars of Bowling Tournament 1989," "The Situation Room" (Breaking news on Tiger Woods incident),"Shy Ronnie" (Digital Short), "Gossip Girl: Staten Island," "10th Annual Kickspit Underground Rock Festival," "Virginaca Hastings at Barney's," "Weekend Update," "UPS" (two commercials), "Late Night with Chris Hansen," and "NASA Recruitment Office."

Cut for time before the live show were 3 skits, 2 segments from "Weekend Update" and one more UPS commercial. The cut sketches included:

  • an "Action News Promo" where Sudeikis and Lively appeared as anchors, and Fred Armisen was a bumbling traffic reporter
  • a "Norwegian Country Diner" segment where Lively played a counter waitress
  • a "Paparazzi Brothers" family Christmas scene -- where the photography gets a bit out of hand thanks to the aggressive brothers played by Bill Heder and Fred Armisen
The diner skit deserved to be cut -- it was my least favorite. I enjoyed the other segments, but once again -- it's all about cutting things to the exact timing needed for a live show.

"Weekend Update" went through several revisions before the live show. Two sets of guests were cut. Jenny Slate and Sudeikis played a married couple affected by recent gay marriage legislation. It was a funny segment -- and I was surprised it didn't make the cut. I was less surprised by the omission of an Andy Samberg character -- an ecstatic NJ Nets fan thrilled that the team finally won a game --and later revealed as an actual team member. Some other jokes and images within "Weekend Update" were slightly re-worked.

There were some minor edits made to some other skits as well. An ending image in the "Situation Room" changed from a tiger to a bear. Why? And a skirt reference in the "Virginaca Hastings at Barney's" was altered from Juicy Couture to Prada. The most glaring of the minor script edits was the last name used for the character Michelle, one of the bowlers in the "Vagisil" skit. Her last name changed from "Harvey-Oswald" to "Rayburn-Gene." Again, why? Is an old-time dead game show host's name funnier than that of a long-dead presidential killer?

Overall, the show had plenty of laughs -- with the "10th Annual Kickspit Underground Rock Festival" segment being my favorite. Watch here. Figures it was pre-taped! So you saw it exactly as I saw it. There were so many funny references in that short piece, that I had tears rolling down my face. Would I have laughed as hard if I was just watching this episode at home? Probably not. Sure the show has been mediocre at best this year. But this weekend's episode seemed above average for the season.

So how was Lively? Honestly, I knew so little about her before the show. I never saw a "Traveling Pants" movie, nor a "Gossip Girl" episode. She definitely was appealing, but not naturally funny -- and she wasn't really challenged by the material either. My attention was still focused on the regulars -- and I have a new-found respect for all the hard work they put in to pull off the show week after week.

  • Rihanna performed "Russian Roulette" and "Hard" (with previously unannounced surprise guest Young Jeezy) She also appeared in the digital short with Samberg. Check back tomorrow as I review her performances in the weekly MusicMonday post!
  • NBC is being criticized in some circles for airing the "Situtation Room" skit -- because it poked fun at possible domestic abuse at the hands of Tiger Woods' wife. Was the skit in bad taste with domestic abuse victim Rihanna in the house? Maybe. But it was still funny. And since when do we want SNL to be politically correct? You can view the skit here.
  • Other clips: view "Obama and the Salahis" here, "NASA Recruitment Office" here, and more here.
  • So how do you get free tickets to a live SNL show or dress rehearsal? It's not easy. I have been applying for years to gain a pair of tickets via the show's random lottery system. Each August, you can send NBC one email with your full name, address and telephone number to For years, I never heard back. But just a few weeks ago, I got word that I was randomly picked for this rehearsal. So make a note on your 2010 calendar -- to send that email next August.

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