I know what you’re thinking: “What? James Franco? The guy who teaches his own class at NYU, posts nearly naked photos of himself on Instagram only to quickly delete them, and lived on the streets for a movie role did a documentary about Saturday Night Live? Nope! Hard pass!”
But here’s the thing: it’s a must-see for anyone remotely interested in the late-night sketch comedy show.
Simply dubbed Saturday Night, the documentary premiered on Hulu Plus this past Friday and goes behind the scenes of a single SNL episode from December 6, 2008, hosted by John Malkovich. Chronicling the first pitch meeting, all the way through to the live performance, and even into the start of a new week when the entire process starts over again with a new host, the documentary is a never-before-seen peek at often-tumultuous writing and rehearsal processes backstage at Studio 8H.
Even those diehard fans that’ve memorized Live From New York and annoy family and friends with a barrage of know-it-all SNL facts will learn a thing or two from Saturday Night.
Here are some Saturday Night moments to whet your palate and reasons to check out Franco’s film.
Inside The Monday Pitch Meeting
“Executive Producer Lorne Michaels” is the first thing you see when the end credits start rolling on a ton of popular NBC shows, from 30 Rock to Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show to, obviously, SNL. In the first stage of the show’s conception, all the writers pile into Lorne’s office for a pitch meeting and toss around ideas for sketches. The basics of the pitch meeting are the writers and actors attempt to see what sticks with the group.
Former SNL feature player Will Forte quickly explains that pitches are “50% bullshit.”
“Usually, when something sounds really funny, that person doesn’t intend to actually write the thing, because if you have an idea, you don’t wanna blow the joke,” says Forte. Which leads us to this interesting fact – the goal is to hide the punch lines for the sketches that move forward until they are acted out on Wednesday.
There’s a Minute-Long Scene Where Will Forte Tries to Pick the Right Fart Sound
After the pitch meeting on Monday, only 24 hours are given for the writers and cast to turn in their finished scripts. And the actors and writers are for sure collaborating with each other, from discussing potential blocking to working out the exact jokes to even, in the case of Kristen Wiig and Will Forte, trying to come up with the perfect fart sound.
A scene between the two in Saturday Night involves something SNL utilizes from time to time called “The Ultimate Fart Soundboard.” During this scene, this wonderful exchange happens:
“You think we should start with that one or start with this one?”
“That’s a more classic-sounding far.”
[PFF] [PFF] [PVVRT] [PFFF]
“That’s a little busy.”
Over 50 Sketches Come In, Nine Sketches Come Out
Out of the more than sketches that were written for this particular episode with John Malkovich, only nine of the skits actually made the air. Whether they were cut after the table, or during the rehearsals, or even just before airtime, nothing is set in stone until it’s said on live TV, which, if you think about it, is why SNL is so popular.
The film will give SNL fans an even greater appreciation for everything that goes into doing a weekly live show. The jury is still out about whether Saturday Night will make people like James Franco a little more.