While Global’s “Saturday Night Live” remains a weekly pop-culture touchstone and launching pad for top comedy talent, the show also continues to be a showcase for hot musical acts. A new behind-the-scenes video details what goes into putting together the show’s iconic musical performances.
“I think the role of the musical guest is to break up the show,” says producer Lauren Shookus, explaining why the musical performances in the show have stuck to show creator Lorne Michaels’ original format, which has remained essentially unchanged since the show’s early years in the 1970s.
“Lorne came up with this format of the show so long ago and it works for a reason,” adds Shookus. “It’s not just 90 minutes of comedy. He wants those musical breaks.”
It takes a full three days to coordinate a musical guest’s performance, with Thursday set aside for lighting and a soundcheck, while the performer(s) will also appear with the host in a promo. Thursday is also the day that portraits (which appear as interstitials before and after the performance) are taken; if the musical guest appears in a sketch, rehearsals for that will also take place on Thursday. Musical performance rehearsals take place on Thursday and Friday, while Saturday includes another soundcheck, a performance at the dress rehearsal and, finally, the actual live on-air performance.
As associate producer Melanie Malone notes, “SNL” has showcased some of the biggest acts in music as well as up-and-coming artists for whom the show could provide career-making exposure, pointing to memorable performances from the likes of Prince, Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Bruno Mars.
“Bruno Mars is amazing, he brings it all and then some,” she adds. “All of those performers have just utilized that space, just made it their own. It’s like bringing their concert to our stage.”
Foo Fighters have appeared on “SNL” seven times (frontman Dave Grohl, in fact, first appeared on the show as drummer for Nirvana back in 1993), yet Grohl says it’s an experience he and the band do not take lightly.
“Musically, I think ‘SNL’ has always represented something really important,” explains Grohl. “When you’re playing a show in a stadium or arena, you run out on stage and your adrenaline’s pumping. Here, it’s like you’re getting thrown into a cold lake.”
“Saturday Night Live” airs Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. PT/11:30 p.m. ET on Global; you can also watch full episodes and individual sketches online.
“SNL” returns with a new episode on April 7 with host Chadwick Boseman and musical guest Cardi B.