NEW YORK (AP) – It wasn’t live from New York as usual.
About 150 audience members in a tiny Manhattan theater were the only folks in the world to witness a totally new “Saturday Night Live” episode starring guest host Michael Cera and musical guest Yo La Tengo.
Anyone who tuned into NBC was subjected to a two-week-old rerun featuring Brian Williams and Feist, thanks to an ongoing Writers Guild of America labor strike.
“It was everything that’s never been on the show before,” cast member Kenan Thompson told The Associated Press after the show. “Sometimes it doesn’t get a chance to shine, but it sure shined here.”
The “SNL” cast and writers collaborated on staging the special “Saturday Night Live—On Strike!” event at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre to benefit the behind-the-scenes staff affected by the strike. The live performance was not officially sanctioned by NBC, but “SNL” executive producer Lorne Michaels, who celebrated his 63rd birthday, did attend.
“He came and saw it and laughed a little bit,” said Thompson.
The performance included all the trappings of a typical “SNL” episode, such as a host monologue, musical performance, “Weekend Update” news segment and several comedy sketches—all without any commercial interruption.
“It was a little dirtier than usual,” audience member Birch Harms said.
A typical “SNL” episode features about seven sketches, but the cast performed about 15 original sketches during the two-hour event. Thompson said he starred in a sketch called “Hip-Hop Whodunit,” a mock game show about solving hip-hop crimes, and also appeared as a French comedian during “Weekend Update.”
“They didn’t have elaborate costumes or graphics or anything,” audience member Risa Sang-urai said. “Sometimes they would explain things or wear wigs. It wasn’t anything too elaborate, but you didn’t really need it.”
Tickets to the hush-hush sold at the 11:30 p.m. EST performance were difficult to come by. Many audience members were friends or acquaintances of “SNL” cast members or performers at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, an improv theater co-founded by “SNL” cast member Amy Poehler.
Thompsen said everyone in the current cast participated in the event, except Maya Rudolph. Past cast members Rachel Dratch and Horatio Sanz also performed. Singer Norah Jones made a cameo appearance, according to audience members.
Production of “SNL” shut down because many of the stars also write the shows. The cast and writers of “30 Rock” have also planned to stage a similar live performance Monday at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater.
“Everybody’s in a holding pattern right now,” Thompson said of the “SNL” staff. “It’s a shame. All these creative people are just sitting around. We’ve obviously got material we’re waiting to unleash on the world.”
On the Net: