In December of 2008
, actor John Malkovich hosted an episode of SNL that's remembered only by Hulu addicts and fellow thespian James Franco
, who was there to document the making-of. After decades of secrecy, executive producer Lorne Michaels had finally green-lit a behind-the-scenes film of his precious show's process.
"Saturday Night" goes up at the Tribeca Film Festival
this weekend, but we already did all the work and watched it for you so you can stay home and finish your "Call of Duty" marathon.
Keep reading to find out how SNL puts a 90-minute show together in just five days ... and whether it ends up being funny or not.
Monday: I'm All Right
In Jay Mohr's sad and surprising memoir "Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches of SNL," the former featured player (aka "extra") dished on the draining week-long process, which begins when everyone gets together in the meeting room with the host and then tries out their pitches. Mohr, who was often without an idea, would point to Rob Schneider, who always had one, when his own turn came. "I'm working on Rob's idea with him," he would say unconvincingly. Will Forte admits the process is BS in one of the of the interview scenes in "Saturday Night."
Tuesday: Party Time, Excellent
It's not until Tuesday morning that everyone returns to the 17th floor of 30 Rock to bang out an entire show in one takeout-and-alcohol-fueled 24-hour span. Franco shows Forte trying out weak jokes about everyone from Liza Minnelli to Judy Blume, while Bill Hader riffs on inanimate objects in the room in an attempt to spur gag ideas in one of his unidentified writing partners. The team then has to pull an all-nighter to finish their drafts in time for Wednesday's read-through ...
Wednesday Morning, Barely (A)live
On Wednesday, head writer Seth Meyers listens to all 30-50 scripts, which takes half the day. He then brings them to the week's host, in this case John Malkovich, who approves a sketch in which he tells an alternate version of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas
Thursday: Writing/Ruining by Committee
Meyers and his team assemble the rough framework of the show, cutting away the scripts that are unpopular, and rewriting them -- out loud -- with the entire writing staff present. Former SNL writer and future "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David wrote a script every week in the 1984–85 season, yet he was only able to get one skit on the air. The future comedy legend, as the tale goes, saw that his scripts hadn't made the cut and disappeared for a weekend, effectively quitting the show. His return and subsequent official dismissal on Monday was later the basis for the "Seinfeld" episode "The Revenge
Friday: The Last Time the Show Might Actually Be Funny
Each writer spends most of the day Friday rehearsing his or her skit on Stage 8H. Here is where the whole thing falls apart, though: Writers are seen casting their friends, like SNL newcomer Bobby Moynihan, while snubbing the equally talented Casey Wilson, who was subsequently fired from the program entirely after stumbling over her lines during a table read
. (In fact, everyone except Chevy Chase seems to have been fired -- and he foolishly quit after only one highly successful season. We were shocked to learn that Chris Farley and Adam Sandler, two of the biggest stars of the 1990s cast, were both axed by order of NBC.)
Saturday: Sure It's Live, but It's Rehearsed to the Point of Unfunny First
Each show's shoot date begins with a dress rehearsal for Lorne Michaels and the rest of the management team. After a second dress rehearsal for an invited audience, whatever is left becomes "Jizz in My Pants," which first appeared in the Malkovich episode. Watching great writing go up in flames was what finally pushed Jay Mohr to decline to return for a third season, a move that greatly impressed Lorne Michaels, who tried to talk him out of it. But Mohr had had enough of the "sadistic ... grumpy assholes ... out of [their] f**king mind[s]," as he describes the writing team led Al Franken and Roseanne, respectively. Plus, Michaels yelled at Mohr for laughing at Farley's antics
during a rehearsal -- as if he could have stopped himself.
Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down
The L.A. Weekly review of the upcoming "Saturday Night
" summarizes the problem perfectly: "'Saturday Night' stands as a document of a dinosaur, chugging along in oblivion, unaware and or/uncaring that the world is changing and it'll have to adapt to survive."
Somebody get Andy Samberg off that sinking ship before it's too late.