Some of the Saturday Night Live gang used a brief break from putting together this week's show to present the first live screening of 2008 online series "The Line" in front of a packed audience at the UCB Theatre followed by a lively Q&A. If you need to catch up before reading onward, start with the first episode on YouTube.
Seth Meyers directed, and Bill Hader and Simon Rich wrote this series about sci-fi fanatics waiting in line for days outside a cinema for the latest release of their favorite franchise.
"We had always hoped that if everything went well, this would premiere at 9:30 on a Wednesday underneath a supermarket," Meyers quipped before the screening, adding that Rich had observed this would be the first time their viewers couldn't easily click over to watch porn instead. After the screening, several other members from the cast, including Jason Sudeikis, Bobby Moynihan, Thomas Middleditch, Will Hines and Jon Lutz also joined them onstage. Hader said the concept came from his own life experience: "I told Simon I waited in line for 22 hours to see The Phantom Menace." And yes, he realizes how that appears now. Also, during that experience: "I watched my friend's girlfriend break up with him on line." Real life took a funnier turn than the series, here, though, because in a big reveal, everyone on the Star Wars line found out that girlfriend was a stripper!
Other notes of interest:
* Sony paid for the project (though hardly anyone in the audience recognized Sony's Crackle online video brand), and the Writers Guild had said they could pursue an online series during last year's strike.
* They thought Butterfinger also was going to finance the series, which is why in one episode, you see the fans beat up an employee (Lutz) for the Butterfingers he was delivering to the cinema. The candymakers didn't come through, though they also suggested in one email that the guys in line act out their favorite movie scenes using the candy bars.
* Filming took four days during very hot conditions last summer in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, on the sidewalk in front of the Cobble Hill Theatre. "A lot of holding for baby carriages," Meyers said. And just about every afternoon, a school alarm would go off during filming. "It was one of those crazy alarms where you could only hear it where we were standing." He said they cast mostly people they knew. "We did luck out because we had the SNL infrastructure to help us out."
* Chris Gethard showed up late, arriving from the Knicks game. Also arriving late at the UCB from the hoops contest, but not part of "The Line" proceedings: Jon Hamm, Jack McBrayer, Laura Krafft. New SNL'er Michaela Watkins also was there in support.
* Originally, Sudeikis gave a full 11-minute speech to the fans on opening night, but that and a lot of other goodness got cut for the sake of keeping each episode short for Internet attention spans. Where is the extended director's cut???!!!
* That said, when someone in the audience asked what the plan was now, Hader quickly replied: "You just saw it!"
* Meyers recognized that it might have been tougher attracting viewers to the series by calling it "The Line." Not an easy thing to Google. Someone joked, maybe if they had titled it "Real Boobs"?
* Someone pointed out that SNL itself has a 30-minute rule for keeping your spot in that show's waiting line for tickets. And everyone from the show kinda bowed their heads and collectively groaned in recognition.
* About the look for the spoiler guy (played by Paul Scheer). "Have you ever seen a guy with a Big Gulp in a suit?" Hader asked. "Where is he going?" Hader and Meyers then improvised a funny bit about a guy who spoiled Harry Potter for a bunch of kids waiting outside a bookstore by getting and reading the book as fast as he could, then driving past and shouting out a spoiler (based on an actual YouTube video?).
* Slightly related: I heard about one sketch in the works for this week's SNL, and you shall either love it or hate it. Tune in this Saturday to find out which one it is! Hint: It's a recurring character.