While my main goal in the city Wednesday was to visit the Seinfeld pop-up, I was hopefully that this particular activity wouldn’t consume my entire day. I was prepared to wait on line as long as needed, but I did have some other activities on my agenda that I was hoping to squeeze in: I wanted to finally visit the High Line (beautiful), have a lobster roll at Chelsea Market (always a good idea), sample a sushi burrito (delicious), bring back some cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar (worth walking 16 blocks for) and finally head over the 5th Avenue to check out the newly opened Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition. Amazingly, I was able to accomplish absolutely all of this AND catch an earlier train home. It was a Festivus miracle.
My relationship with Saturday Night Live has ebbed and flowed over the years; right now we’re in an ebb period where I rarely even watch the show (unless the guest is The Rock, Louis CK or Justin Timberlake), but in the 1990s and early 2000s SNL was definitely appointment TV for me. Now I’m more likely to watch a clip or two online rather than a whole episode, but I still have an affinity for the show in my heart – especially those casts from my high school and college years – and getting a ticket to see it performed live is a holy grail that I’ve been chasing for years. I’m always interested in behind the scenes info and though I think the quality of the show right now is not as high as it used to be, I am always blown away by the fact that this show is done from cradle to grave in one week every week. That’s mind blowing when you really think about it. So my interest was definitely piqued when this exhibition opened last month and while I wasn’t sure what I would actually get out of it, I was looking forward to learning more about the show and its process.
The exhibition is set up to walk you through a typical week in the life of SNL – from the writing to the pitches to costuming, set design and make-up to rehearsal, re-writes and the final show. Each day has a milestone that needs to be accomplished and while the exhibition provides a clearer template for how the show is created, it is also full of memorabilia and interviews from cast and crew to full flush out the development of an episode week to week, as well as some historical context of SNL in the larger world of comedy. Because it was a Wednesday in the middle of the day, the exhibition was pretty empty which meant that I could really take my time and read all of the placards and watch all the videos without feeling rushed. I found the whole thing really interesting and even though I’ve seen many of the clips that they show many, many times before, I would still stand there and laugh until they had cycled through. Apparently the eras of the show that I like the most are generally the most popular as most of the costuming and video clips used were from this time period, though there was of course some special attention paid to the early days of the show.
I was surprised at how much that I learned about SNL and I really got a kick out of seeing all the costumes – especially Wayne’s World, which was one of my all-time favorites. The exhibition does an excellent job of highlighting the people that aren’t in the spotlight – like the crew that designs and builds all the sets and the makeup and wardrobe people – but are essential to the show’s success week in and week out. As someone who fancies herself a writer, it was also nice to get the insight from current and former head writers about their process. The exhibition also walks you through what it’s like to sit in the control room during the show and ends with a (brief) simulated show where you get to see what is happening on the other stages during sketches (I had no idea that the seats on the floor are on a swivel). All in all, it was both an educational experience and a trip down memory lane of some of my favorite moments from the show. I’m glad that I was able to squeeze it in – anyone that’s a fan of SNL should try and check it out.
Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition is located at 417 5th Ave, New York, NY 10016.