In the build-up to season 46 of Saturday Night Live, NBC announced that the sketch-comedy TV institution would be partnering with select comedy theaters and schools across the country to offer scholarships.

Now we’re starting to see how that’ll look, and it looks like each of the four institutions involved — The Second City, The Groundlings, The PIT, and The UCB — all have different ways of interpreting how and whom should benefit from the SNL cash-and-opportunity infusion.

I asked NBC about this, and it seems intentional, that NBC let each theater/school decide how to implement the SNL-branded scholarship.

So let’s take a look!

The Second City

Much of the inspiration for SNL’s start came from The Second City and the comedians who came up through the theaters in Toronto and Chicago, including Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. The list connecting Second City to SNL is long and illustrious and continues today with the likes of Cecily Strong, Chris Redd and Aidy Bryant.

How Second City is implementing the “SNL Scholarship”

Their announcement:

Legendary comedy institution The Second City today announced the creation of a new scholarship for up-and-coming diverse comedic talent in partnership with iconic television series Saturday Night Live. The SNL Scholarship will grant students at varying levels of experience the opportunity to further their professional development at The Second City, the renowned home of improvisation-based creative arts.

Comedians with diverse life experiences, including varying cultural and economic backgrounds, orientation, ethnicities, and points of view are encouraged to apply for the inaugural program. In addition to receiving Second City performance and writing training, recipients will be connected directly with SNL talent executives and have direct entry to submit an audition tape or sketch packet to SNL for the landmark show.

Long before SNL made history by becoming the most Emmy Award-winning show in TV history, Second City alumni Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner were members of the very first group of “not ready for primetime players” in 1975. Over the course of the show’s historic run, several more Second City-bred performers and writers have found a home at SNL, including Peter Aykroyd, Vanessa Bayer, Jim Belushi, Aidy Bryant, Brian Doyle-Murray, Rachel Dratch, Robin Duke, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Mary Gross, Bill Hader, Tim Kazurinsky, David Koechner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tim Meadows, Jerry Minor, Alex Moffat, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Mike O’Brien, Bob Odenkirk, Amy Poehler, Chris Redd, Tim Robinson, Tony Rosato, Horatio Sanz, Martin Short, Cecily Strong, Jason Sudeikis, and Nancy Walls.

Their application: In addition to uploading your resume and headshot, you’re asked the following questions…

  • Pick location (Chicago, Hollywood, Toronto)
  • Have you taken Second City classes previously? 
  • Are you a current Second City student? 
  • Why are you most interested in the SNL Scholarship?
  • What is your favorite SNL Memory? 
  • Please explain your need for financial assistance in order to take classes with us
  • Please select the statement that best applies: 
    • I want to be famous!
    • I want to learn the skills and craft to be a great comedian!
  • Which program(s) would you hope to use the scholarship toward?
  • Is there anything else you think we should know about you? (No pressure to be funny. We’re genuinely asking.)

The SNL Scholarship application for The Second City available here. Deadline to apply: 5 p.m. Central, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020.

The Groundlings

Los Angeles and Hollywood’s longest-running sketch and improv training ground also has provided future stars to SNL from the get-go. The Groundlings-SNL alums include Laraine Newman, Jon Lovitz, Phil Hartman, Julia Sweeney, Cheri Oteri, Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Ana Gasteyer, Chris Parnell, Maya Rudolph, Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Nasim Pedrad, Michaela Watkins, Taran Killam, with Mikey Day, Heidi Gardner and Chloe Fineman in the current cast.

The Groundlings just announced its virtual diversity festival for November, but the details of the SNL Scholarship remain a work in progress. The Groundlings 4th Annual Diversity Festival will take place Nov. 13-15, 2020, with NBC and Nickelodeon as corporate sponsors. On the existing scholarships page HERE you’ll find information on four separate Diversity Scholarships that you can apply for on a quarterly basis, with SNL’s scholarship becoming the fourth: “The Groundlings have partnered with “Saturday Night Live” in the creation of the “SNL Scholarship”. This will initiate significant steps toward progressive recruitment of diverse applicants. Groundlings students at any level are eligible to apply for the scholarship. Recipients will also have direct entry to submit an audition tape or sketch packet to “SNL.” The link to apply for this scholarship will be available soon!”

The UCB

UCB4’s Amy Poehler (and before her, O.G. UCB’ers Adam McKay and Horatio Sanz) made the jump to SNL even easier once The Upright Citizens Brigade set up camp in New York City in the 1990s. Newcomer this season Lauren Holt came from UCB.

But you can’t exactly apply for the UCB’s SNL Scholarship. First you’ll need to be identified internally as a prospect. As the announcement indicates, “Members of the UCB faculty and community will nominate outstanding students and potential students who represent an underrepresented community for a scholarship and those nominated will be eligible to apply by submitting a short, essay-based application.”

Eventually, UCBers will pick four applicants each for performing and writing scholarships.

But the UCB promises that scholarship recipients will have “direct entry” to submit audition tapes and packets to SNL.

The PIT

The People’s Improv Theater was founded by Ali Reza Farahnakian, a former UCB guy and SNL writer. Perhaps its best known alumni in TV and films today are Kristen Schaal and Ellie Kemper.

The PIT’s announcement of its SNL Scholarship program aims to “engage comedy students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds and initiate significant steps toward progressive recruitment of diverse candidates. This initiative provides access to direct instruction and mentorship for recipients to learn more about the field and empower them to pursue a career in comedy.” That includes the theaters/schools in New York City and Chapel Hill, N.C.

What do you get with an SNL Scholarship at The PIT?

  • 5 classes from across The PIT’s remote classes offerings for NYC-based applicants, 3 classes for Chapel Hill-based applicants.
  • A monthly check-in meeting with The PIT to answer questions and provide career development support.
  • Assistance and mentorship in putting together either 3 characters and 3 impersonations for a SNL-type audition or compiling a writer’s packet for a SNL-type submission.
  • Connections with SNL talent executives.
  • Additional access to SNL representatives or creatives as available.

THE PIT’s SNL Scholarship application does note preferences, though. To wit: “*PLEASE NOTE: In order to best institutionally support successful applicants, preference will be given to candidates currently based in or near New York City/Chapel Hill, candidates typically based in or near New York City/Chapel Hill who have been displaced during COVID, or candidates intending to relocate in or near New York City/Chapel Hill. Accommodations for individuals with disabilities are available”

The application itself includes different requirements for performers versus writers.

For Performers: Please submit a video, under a minute in length, introducing yourself, who you are, where you are located, etc. If you’re an improvisor, sketch comedian (performer), or a stand up comic, please include brief snippets of characters, impressions, or your act. If you’re an actor, please include a brief comedic monologue.

For Writers: Please upload a sketch or selection of your work in PDF format no longer than 2 pages in length.

Applicants who open until midnight Eastern on Nov. 21, 2020. Selected applicants will receive Zoom interviews afterward, with final decisions by The PIT in early-December.