Call me naive, but when I tune into Saturday Night Live, I typically feel like what you see is what you get. Something about the ensemble cast in which everyone’s a writer and the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants format makes me believe that if something comes up in the writers’ room, we’re going to see it on the show.
But as it turns out, that’s far from the truth, particularly when it comes to the political side of things. This should have occurred to me on my own, but of course not everyone writing or performing for the show shares the same beliefs. How could they? There are dozens of them. But I just hadn’t really considered that before, which is why it was so exciting to me to read some behind-the-scenes secrets from the show’s cast members and writers.
If you want to see them in their natural habitat, you should read the classic SNL book called Live From New York, written by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales, which has recently been updated to cover the 2000s, or read the piece on The Hollywood Reporter. But if you want a run-down of my favorite parts, then you’ve come to the right place. Right this way:
- Hilary Clinton requested to appear on SNL in advance the 2008 election, and then backed out at the last minute, allowing for Barack Obama to go on the show instead. The cast pretty unanimously feels like that tipped the primaries in Obama’s favor.
- Lorne Michaels never quite had to ask Tina Fey to play Sarah Palin. It was just something that the show’s audience (including Robert De Niro) demanded once everyone saw how closely she resembled the Vice Presidential hopeful.
- Lorne asked Alec Baldwin to be on the show the same day as Sarah Palin, because he was the most ‘emblematic liberal’ at that point. Alec had to cancel an appearance at a film festival on Long Island to be able to make it.
- …and Tina wanted their first shot to be together (Palin and Baldwin), so that the SNL audience wouldn’t boo. Good looking out, Tina!
- Sarah Palin knew that the show portrayed her as an idiot, and she hoped that her appearance on it would counter that.
- Bill Hader didn’t know who Eliot Spitzer was until he played him…even though he was the governor. (You guys knew that, right??)
- Horatio Sanz feels that the show didn’t go far enough toward the liberal side, and that Will Ferrell‘s likable portrayal of George W. Bush may have actually contributed to Bush’s re-election.
- Even Will Forte didn’t think he did a good impersonation of GWB once Will Ferrell left the show.
- James Downey, a writer-producer, says Obama is one of the most difficult characters to write. He labels him a 10.10 degree of difficulty.
There are a lot of other fun details too — enough that I really want to buy the book when it comes out on September 9th. Someone want to get it for me as a late birthday present? I WOULD LOVE IT.