Plenty of interesting moments out of last night’s “Long Days Journey into Late-Night” panel at the 2011 New York Television Festival, but I wanted to single out just one for now.
Moderator Jason Sudeikis went through a typical week’s schedule for Saturday Night Live, which just reconvened the full cast and new writing staff for this season’s premiere on Saturday. Here is what Sudeikis had to say about their typical Tuesday all-nighter as the cast and writers whip up new sketches in time for Wednesday afternoon’s read-through:
“Tuesday folks get in there around, again with ours being much more of a second-shift lifestyle, and maybe I’ve always assumed like a vestige of years when the show was fueled not just by viewership but also cocaine, we get in around 2 (p.m.). I get in around 6. Things start much later. Tuesday night is our writing night. People stay as late as 4 a.m. to as late into the next day, which our read-through is usually around 2:30 (p.m.) on Wednesday. The pieces just have to be in and formatted by our script department, and people will literally stay there and sleep on their couches and go to sleep for four hours, wake up and write something, and you can usually tell in a delightful way.”
Scott Bodow, former head writer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, asked Sudeikis: “I’ve always heard, I’ve always understood that that’s how SNL operates. I’ve always wondered: Is that productive or just sort of by tradition?”
“Yeah. I think it is, I guess both. But I think it is ultimately by tradition. I think if someone showed up at 9 a.m., wrote two kick-ass pieces, and left at fucking 10 a.m., they’d be fine! If they wrote ‘Schweddy Balls’ and ‘Farley’s Chippendale Dancer’ and they left at 10 a.m., people would be like, ‘I don’t know where he’s fucking going, but read this!’ I swear to God, I couldn’t see it working out any other way. Because ultimately the idea and the piece is what dominates more than the personality in a lot of cases. We, I do think it adds to kind of that breakneck pace, the mystique a little bit. But I do think it is a vestige of just tradition. There’s a lot of things there — Lorne has a strong, I believe, I’ve always sensed, a strong belief in hiring people for their first television job there, because there are so many things that are done there that are counterintuitive to people that have worked other places…
“I think that’s what it is. I don’t know if it’s the best. I’m sure there’s a lot of people, you know, parents at home with children, going ‘It’s not for the best,’ you know. But the people who are there. That’s just how we do what we do.”