I’m not sure if you heard, but Sunday night was the 40th anniversary celebration of a little show called Saturday Night Live. It was the most viewed NBC show in NBC’s history. That’s insane. Saturday Night Live has become an institution, one that every girl and boy who has any interest in comedy dreams of joining at some time or another.
Let’s just take a step back, though. There’s probably not a single show in television history that is as fiercely criticized. I’m guilty of this, too. I watch pretty religiously every week and I’m always scrutinizing every sketch that makes it on air. I’m not naive enough to think that I could write a better sketch or that I could even fix the sketches that were put up. But I am naive enough to think that some day, maybe I might be.
I don’t remember the first time I watched SNL. Honestly, I can almost guarantee that it wasn’t the actual SNL, but it was probably a “Best Of” DVD, be that Will Ferrell or Chris Farley. Those were the ones I connected with, at least at first. Once I headed into high school and everyone was coming back on Monday mornings and quoting the show and doing impressions, I think I found it more important to connect with my classmates in that way.
I’m not sure if I always liked SNL or if I just thought it was something I should be watching. It wasn’t until college that I realized that it might just be my dream. I specifically remember walking around campus my sophomore year of college with a friend and we were discussing a show called “Fall Follies” that the campus held every year. That show would change my life, but I didn’t know it yet. Follies was basically a Belmont edition of Saturday Night Live. It was topical, satirical sketches about our campus life and I went for the first time to see it my sophomore year. It was that next day when we were walking around talking about the show that a sentence came out of my mouth that I’ll never forget—my friend said something to the effect of “I would love to be a part of that, it seems so fun.” and I responded simply with “Honestly, I’d love to write for it.” Now, a little back story if you somehow stumbled on this blog and know nothing about my life: I’d done this before. I’d said this sentence. I’d done what I said I’d like to do. My senior year of high school, I kind of made myself the writer and director of my high school’s version of Follies, that just coincidentally had a Saturday Night Live theme. So I did that. And I loved it and I hated it in equal measure. We had a group of girls who brainstormed and basically acted as a writer’s room, but in all honesty, I did the heavy lifting of writing that show and it was the hardest thing I’d done up to that point.
When I confided in my friend and said that I might be interested in writing for my college’s version of the show, I think it even surprised me. I’d always been funny, but I’d also not always been a writer. Not in the “sketch show” sense of the word. Yes, I’d written a sketch show in the past, but I wasn’t what you’d call a “sketch writer”, I was just a person who liked funny things and could apparently appreciate certain sketch shows.
That next year, though, I applied to this thing called Fall Follies and got the position for god knows what reason and it changed my life. It took over and became a passion and something that I absolutely needed to do.
Look, I’ve told this story and I probably will tell this story over and over again until I’m 90 years old and realize that other things in life are important, but what it really boils down to is this: Saturday Night Live changed my life. It started as something I would watch to connect with friends and to copy in order to make people laugh. Then it turned into something I would watch every Saturday with a friend with some donuts and a bottle of wine. Then it turned into an inspiration. Then it turned into a real and legitimate thing that I could dream about. Then it turned into something I could work toward.
As I’m sure it does to so many people who love comedy, SNL served a specific and real purpose for me. And, wow, am I glad I grew up in a time when sketch comedy was not only shown, but also appreciated on a national scale. Thanks, Lorne, and let me know when you’re ready for me.