40 Years of Saturday Nights
One could only dream of being at a live taping in Studio 8H watching the repertory players of “Saturday Night Live.” It’s truly a once-in-a- lifetime experience, every show is different, live and on-air. The experience of “SNL” is now one that is accessible; the history is well-documented at a new Midtown exhibit called “SNL: The Exhibition” (417 5th Ave between 37 and 38 St.) In conjunction with SNL creator Lorne Michaels’ production company Broadway Video Enterprises, Premier Exhibitions had a grand opening May 30 at the brand new Premier Exhibitions 5th Avenue with this New York comedy institution as the centerpiece.
“We feel honored first of all to be working with Broadway Video and SNL,” said Mark Lach, Creative Director of Premier Exhibitions. “To spend the last year with the show walking the halls has been very exciting for me but also to do the research to tell the real story of SNL. I was not just sitting in the audience, but in the control room, sitting with hair and make-up, in the writer’s room hearing scripts read for the first time and seeing Lorne Michaels’ reactions.”
At “SNL: The Exhibition,” fans are taken through the seven-day process of preparing the show, from developing scripts and whittling down 40 sketches to less than half to hair and make-up to video shoots and last-minute edits. Some of the enticing goodies includes creator Lorne Michaels’ original desk complete with tchotchkes from the 70s and a typed letter circa 1992 from cast member Al Franken requesting the presence of President Nixon for an SNL political special. On the more interactive side of things, you can sit where Mike Myers and Dana Carvey did for their lovable, amateur basement talk show “Wayne’s World,” or you can stand behind the contestant podiums and live vicariously through “Celebrity Jeopardy” and the shenanigans that made it a fan favorite. A large Thanksgiving-size meal sits on expanded tables for a huge writers meeting, and documents from these writers are projected at a table that exhibit guests can sit at as they feel nostalgic about favorite show moments.
Some of the more behind-the-scenes details are even more fascinating. Each host in the modern era has a life cast made of their face, to prep hair, make-up and prosthetics teams for the variety of characters the host must portray; these masks and molds are on display. So are a variety of the witty commercials and infomercials over the years, from Chia Head to Colon Blow. There are videos to watch, costumes of Mary Katherine Gallagher and motivational speaker Matt Foley to inspect and floor plans laid out for the hardcore fans to enjoy. The big reveal is a Studio 8H set to scale, with super HD video screens, flashing applause signs and audio, lighting, music and a special intro from Tina Fey.
“SNL: The Exhibition” pays its respects to some of the early greats, both living and deceased, from John Belushi and Gilda Radner to Eddie Murphy and Rachel Dratch, while also including many newer sketches and characters including Kenan Thompson’s host for “What Up With That?,” Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake’s wildly popular taboo sketches and Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri’s Spartans cheerleaders.
Premier Exhibitions 5th Avenue will have the “SNL” world living in the space for at least a year. The gift shop is not your typical museum gift shop either – a couch from Pee Wee Herman can be found inside, as well as Miley Cyrus’ famous “wrecking ball.” You can purchase clothing with Stefon’s likeness on it, a mug with Hanz and Franz and talking stuffed pillows with the faces of Gilly, the Ladies Man and Debbie Downer.
“It keeps you young. When I tune into SNL I know I’m getting the very best in young talent.”