“Hits & Misses” author and former “Saturday Night Live” staff writer Simon Rich walks us through a week of writing for the iconic show.
SNL, has been functioning. I believe in pretty much exactly the same way since 1975.
On Monday, you meet the hosts more and calls on you one at a time – and you say a few ideas – you actually have to write those ideas. You’re mainly just trying to make everybody laugh sort of a colossal waste of time creatively, but a nice diplomatic thing to sort of say to The host, like don’t worry, we’re all pretty funny. You’re gon na be okay and not humiliate yourself, and then you write pretty much until Wednesday morning, right all day, Tuesday and all night Tuesday and at Wednesday there’s a big table read where the cast and the host read all the pieces out loud.
Sometimes the list would be like 50 sketches. It takes like four or five hours. This read-through the producer is Lauren and The host and the head writers.
They go back into a room and they pick like the 10 or 12 best ones, the ones that made everybody laugh the most it’s pretty meritocratic. I mean if something. If something works, it’s in definitely all the time, and it doesn’t matter if it was written by a first-year writer whose main people are forgetting.
The sketch goes into the pile and Thursday you rewrite these sketches as a group trying to punch them up and improve them and Friday and Saturday you’re, rehearsing and building sets and building props and designing costumes and then at 8 p. m. on Saturday.
There’s a full dress rehearsal, it’s two hours, long lauren watches the sketches and a little monitor you sit next to him. He tells you his notes. The great thing about working for Lauren is that it gives you full creative freedom.
He lets you try whatever you want. There aren’t heavy notes, but when there is a note you trust it because it’s backed by You know decades and decades of mastery of comedy. Then you go into, they go into another little room and they cut another half an hour out of the show based on which sketches perform the worst in front of the audience.
So it’s it can be really stressful because you really work hard on your sketches. But there’s multiple times at which they could just be cut completely out of the show like in sports. You know if you break out use, have to kind of try to Forget it, because next week you have another show to do a lot of people assume that SNL is like a really competitive, socially toxic environment, that it was like backstabbing and rivalries and feuds.
It’s really not true, and in my experience it was one of the most friendly groups. I’ve ever seen. People were incredibly generous to one of the other, helping each other out all the time for zero credit people like Seth, Meyers and Colin Jost to or you Know, senior writers were extremely generous with their time explaining to me stuff, which in hindsight was unbelievably basic.
Like I would do things sometimes in my in my sketches, where, like a character, would be like alright here we are at the dentist’s office. You know because I was like we need to some exposition about where they are and they were like. You know you could just like show a dentist office.
Oh wow, that’s really amazing, and I saw that Everywhere. I went every year when the new writers came in because mostly people have never written for television before stand-up comedians or people who have written funny articles for magazines or he hires like playwrights or people who’ve done like some web videos. He almost never hires somebody whose written for another actual actual television show.
So you have all these novices coming in the more experienced writers are so nice and they they really, They really teach them, and so I I’m super grateful for the experience because it was fun, but also I learned almost everything I know at that. Show .