Every August, I always enter the SNL ticket lottery, and then make all of my friends enter it as well, and promise to take me if they win. This past March, it paid off! My best friend forwarded me an email she'd received from NBC informing her she'd won two tickets to the dress rehearsal of the March 28th show. Not wanting to forget a second of it, I've written down everything I can remember.
Saturday Night Live/The Rock/George Ezra/March 28, 2015
We walked into the lobby of 30 Rock around 5:50, even though our tickets said to get there “no later than 6:45.” I’ve waited in enough NBC lines to know you always get there as early as possible. We ended up being second in line of ticketed people. We waited in this line of the lobby until a little after 7, at which point they started bringing lines of people through the metal detectors and up the elevators to the 9th floor. (Even though SNL is technically studio 8H, the audience seats are elevated enough that the entrance is on the 9th floor.)
There were multiple lines – lines of people who know someone and have guaranteed tickets, NBC employees, the line of standby tickets (given to those who wait outside, sometimes for days, before the show), and the line of pretty people. I’ve heard rumors before that if you dress up nicely and are attractive, you might get picked for the pretty people line. These people get the coveted floor seats right in front of the monologue stage. We figured that since it was just the dress rehearsal and we had no chance of being on live TV, it wouldn’t be as important and we dressed normally. However, the couple directly behind us in line were pulled out and quickly whisked away. When we entered the studio about an hour later, I noticed them in the second row of floor seats. Note for the future: If you’re a girl, wear SUPER HIGH heels, short skirts, you hair down and curled. Guys should wear collared shirts and dress shoes. Oh, and be extremely attractive.
So before we could even head upstairs, we had to watch as all of the other "special" people went in before us. By the time we got upstairs and glimpsed the inside of 8H, 75% of the seats were already full. I’m not sure how or if the people behind us got in. As we were led to our seats, we were informed that we also could not sit together. I was shown a seat in the front row, slightly to the left of center, and Nicole is a row behind me to my right. Luckily before the show starts, Nicole is able to convince a page to let her sit directly behind me. Still not ideal, but an improvement!
I spend the first few minutes just looking around at everything. There are hundreds of lights hanging from the ceiling, most of them are level with our heads. Above us are flat screen monitors and applause signs. There are lots of men in Broadway Video hoodies running around getting ready for the show to start. Cameras and mics are everywhere, and stacks of cue cards are getting ready for sketches.
Soon Michael Che runs out and jumps up to the main stage. He has the task of warming us up for the night. He throws in a few instructions to us in between jokes (Don’t take pictures – seriously don’t, if you notice everyone else is running out of the studio, you might want to follow them..) When he’s done, Kenan Thompson comes out and sings a song with Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Vanessa Bayer as backup singers. They have a dance partially choreographed, and Vanessa can't keep up. She may be hilarious and great at impressions, but she’s not so great at keeping the beat.
The SNL clock comes down from the ceiling and someone sets it for 11:15. I think it stayed down for the monologue and then was raised back up into the ceiling until the Good Nights.
As we’re waiting for the clock to hit 11:29:30, I look around I can see a few of the sets. The first set I notice in front of me didn’t end up being used until the last sketch of the night (which was ultimately cut for air) I can see a prison looking set below me, and a kitchen set in front of me.
I notice someone walking around in a dark hoodie and a Yankees hat pulled down over his eyes. He looks familiar, and my first thought is Mike Shoemaker, but I quickly rule that out. He’s obviously not part of the staff moving around sets, and he’s not a cast member either. He disappears under the seats.
The Cold Open:
We can see a living room set way off to the right. I tell Nicole it's usually a political sketch, although I can’t confirm as nothing about the set screams oval office to me. "So it’s going to be boring?" Is Nicole's reply. I confirm it’s definitely a political sketch when I see Jay Pharoah walk in dressed as Obama. I can also see Sasheer Zamata dressed as Michelle Obama on the side, behind the door on the left side of the set where cast members were entering and exiting throughout the sketch.
It quickly becomes clear that we’ll see the return of “The Rock Obama” which someone earlier in the week had bet would happen, but I can’t remember who now. I can only see the right half of the set, so I don't see Taran Killam go through the window. Instead I focus on the cast members off camera who are coming in next. I see Leslie Jones ready to make her entrance. She eventually comes on as “She Rock Obama”
"LIVE FROM NEW YORK IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT!"
I turn around and tell Nicole that Leslie probably doesn’t get to say that very often because she’s a newer featured player. I find out later it’s the first time she’s ever said it! Go Leslie! The opening credits are playing, and the voice reminds me that it’s no longer Don Parado, as he passed away this summer. He’s been replaced by Darrell Hammond, and I remember reading something about how Darrell does the announcements live from the studio each week. It dawns on me that that’s who I saw walking around the floor earlier!
Before I know it, they announce The Rock as the host, and he’s through the door and down the stairs wearing a brown suit. It’s not often the host is in the cold open, but he managed to completely change and be ready in time. As the Rock starts talking, I notice that Darrell Hammond is back, and now he’s sitting in a chair in the prison looking set, watching the monologue. He's maybe 3 or 4 feet away from me, directly below where I’m sitting. He watches for a bit, and then disappears not to be seen again.
The rock's monologue is okay. He sings his song with Cecily, Sasheer, Aidy and Kate as backup dancers/singers. At the end a confetti cannon explodes with paper money flying everywhere. As soon as the camera goes dark, 4 people with brooms run out and furiously start sweeping them up. Stage hands start moving a kitchen scene into place even though that doesn’t appear to be the next sketch. An older blonde lady runs up to The Rock, grabs his hand, and drags him towards the dressing room. She’ll do this after every sketch, making sure he makes his costume changes on time. She also can be seen smoothing wigs and handing him water before each sketch. The cast members all monitor their own quick changes.
Pep Boys/Starbucks Spoof:
This is a taped sketch, so we watch it on the TV screens above our head. Although this airs directly after the monologue, we originally saw it after weekend update. I don’t spend much time watching it, as I know I can watch it again later. Instead I watch all of the movement happening in the studio. It’s amazing how fast they can transform the space.
We also getting a running commentary of how many seconds are left until we’re “live” again. Every 10 seconds someone will update us. Also as I’ve read in other accounts, I can verify that the person counting down before the cold open purposely cracks his voice when announcing 5 seconds so that there will be laughter as the show opens.
This moved sketch performed well and as a result was moved way up to the beginning of the show. I think we saw it second or third to last. Taran was my favorite part of the sketch. He seemed the most able to turn on and off his acting and be so on point. I loved him walking off at the end and saying “too far” to The Rock.
This was bumped later – we saw it earlier, when the Pep Boys commercial played instead. Again, I didn't watch it on the monitors; I watched them put together more of the kitchen set. This set was one of the more elaborate ones, and people kept bringing out food and bowls and fiddling with the oven which had a light bulb in it. However, Nicole watched and LOVED this one, and couldn’t stop laughing, even as she saw it a second time when we watched the show live from our hotel room.
This was also moved to earlier in the show. During this sketch they were setting up the improv set on the main stage. It was amazing how quietly they can move these big sets around. As cast members were performing, 10 foot walls would just be passing by, out of reach of the cameras.
I’m only half paying attention to the sketch since I’m watching the set builders, but I see the plate of onion rings being carried over towards the set, and being handed off to Taran. In the sketch Vanessa has to stuff them in her mouth, and as soon as the camera goes black, she bursts out laughing and spits them all over the table, which makes everyone else laugh.
This is about where in the show we saw this sketch. I was really glad this wasn't cut since it was a big sketch for one of my favorite cast members, Pete Davidson!
It was a really big and elaborate set and had been set up since we came in, way to the left of the musical stage. Nicole pointed out that when we saw it, Kate McKinnon had on a dark grey wig pulled back into a bun which made her look old and ugly. In the live show she has her own hair and looks much prettier which makes the sketch not work as much in my opinion. It’s odd she’s missing her wig since she wasn’t in the previous sketch, and she’s not in a sketch immediately after either. Another change is that Pete’s character’s name in dress was Short Tall, but in the live show was Short Long.
And yes we definitely saw The Rock's bare butt during this sketch haha.
Frat Bald Guy:
I’m not sure I watched this one at all while we were in the studio. I was watching a back log of sets piling up in the studio. They were trying to clear away sets they were done with for now, and move them down a hall to the left of the musical stage. Something went wrong or got stuck and there were 5 or 6 walls from sets in front of the musical stage that they needed for George Ezra. Someone yelled out they only had 50 seconds, which doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but they managed to fix the problem and clear everything away with plenty of time to spare.
It's weird he plays to a mostly empty room. The audience is pretty far away and above him. Even the audience on the floor is off to the side. Stage hands walk around without even noticing him really. He plays “Budapest” first, which is the one song everyone knows.
He's super geeky and reminds me of a mix of Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera. He’s also super awkward and only seems to have one dance move which is to swing his hips as he throws his guitar in the opposite direction. It’s as out of place as the gold chain he wears over his black T shirt.
I had heard that the Weekend Update set will sometimes get applause as it’s rolled out on stage, so I was super disappointed when our audience didn’t seem to notice or care. The desk is set up in front of the band on the main monologue stage. The desk itself plugged into the stage and it lights up in a few spots, which I don’t think I’ve ever noticed before. Someone ran out and put pencils and pads of blank paper on the desk.
Colin Jost came out first and said hi to the audience. Michael then entered and is holding a rolled up copy of either the jokes or the run-down of the show. He doesn’t have this during the live show.
When Colin is telling jokes, Michael is usually cracking up, poking Colin with his pencil, or spinning slightly in his chair. When Michael is telling jokes, Colin drinks from a tiny water bottle or sits very still. He does not break nearly as much as Michael does.
When guests come out, they're hidden behind a black screen on either side of the desk so you can't see who is coming out ahead of time. Due to my angle though, I can see Kenan off to the side before he comes out. I also saw Kyle Mooney because he was wandering around and at one point sat down on the musical stage, but I didn’t really pay attention because Kyle Mooney is stupid.
In one of his first jokes Michael accidentally says "god damn" and then paused, looked at us and says "but I won't say that on air!" He glanced at Colin who was just starting at him and says "I felt that note" (Colin is the head writer, and would normally be in charge of giving notes about things you should or shouldn’t do on air).
The Starbucks race joke was funny during dress but it ended sort of abruptly and they broke and turned to the audience to acknowledge they needed to come up with an ending to that. When it aired during the live show, it was slightly rewritten but landed poorly and wasn’t as good as what they had during dress. It still didn’t have an ending.
We saw 3 guests on weekend update – Kate McKinnon’s Russian character, Kyle Mooney being a stupid and privileged kid that goes to a lot of concert festivals and Kenan Thompson as Springtime Willy. I personally hate everything that comes out of Kyle Mooney’s mouth, but Nicole agreed his part was incredibly stupid. Knowing that weekend update usually only has two guests on it, we were hoping heis would get cut, if only because he doesn’t have the seniority the other two have. We were very relieved to see his section gone when it came to air!
The only other notable thing about Weekend Update was during the Springtime Willy segment, when he told the wife/drag race joke, both him and Micahael cracked and couldn’t stop laughing. They held it together in the live show.
This was about 4th or 5th sketch that we saw, but had been set up almost from the beginning. It was definitely before weekend update when we saw it. I also really thought this would get cut since there wasn’t that much to it, it was pretty much just one joke over and over. The thing that sticks out to me the most is how much smoke there was! The whole studio filled up for a while. I think they decreased the smoke for the live show.
As this sketch started, money from the opening monologue started falling from the ceiling and landed on the stage in the set. All of the extras in the audience and sitting on the stage were marched in about 30 seconds before it began and someone gave them all directions about when they should clap and what they should do during the sketch. The oddest part to me was that the “audience” of the improve show wasn’t facing the stage part of the set. It was off to the side on the left of the set. Jay Pharoah came in and sat in the middle of the audience and called out a suggestion at the beginning of the sketch. As soon as he was done, he walked off (his entire part was cut for the live show). Cecily also left the set after her speaking part was over during dress, although in the live show it had been rewritten to give her more air time.
My favorite part was Kate was hilarious dressed up as Durst. During dress, The Rock was in this sketch appearing as the director of the documentary. I remember we saw this sketch after weekend update (probably around when it aired in the live show), because I only knew what the director looked like due to a joke they did during weekend update where they showed his picture (which was later cut)
This sketch was the first one in the live show that was heavily rewritten. Besides removing The Rock and Jay Pharoah completely, they added a few jokes that made the sketch smoother. The joke about stealing the sandwich was clarified, and they changed the final improve scene to something with more content which gave the sketch more of an ending. This was also a lot shorter than the dress version.
Another song, this one was one that not many people knew. I get sad because I realize there’s only 10-15 minutes left in the show.
This was the first sketch we saw live after the monologue, and was the one staged closest to where I was sitting.
Taran Killiam is the first one on set, and someone places him in handcuffs. Because of the position of the set below me, I can see the cue cards pretty well. There are at least 3 sets of them – one behind Taran which someone crouching down on the ground, one just off to his right, and one across from him. The cue cards are written in 3 different colors for the 3 people in the sketch – there is no names by the lines, they just have to know what color they’re supposed to be reading. The Rock’s lines are in black, and Taran and Vanessa’s are in blue and green. Some words are underlined for emphasis, and stage directions (lean in, walk out) are circled. Some lines had been changed recently and were taped over with white tape and then rewritten over them.
When the sketch is over Taran sits patiently at the table after Vanessa and the Rock have run off, for someone to come un-cuff him.
Sketch itself wasn't that great, but it was one of my favorites just because it was the first sketch I saw up close. This is another one that changed significantly between dress and air. They cut out a whole part of the sketch where The Rock and Vanessa leave the room and talk outside in a hallway. Some lines also changed, for example “Hey you know when you lean over like that, I can see down your shirt” changed to “You know, wearing that blouse, I can kinda see down your shirt“
The Rock also stumbles over his lines more in the live show, especially the friends theme song.
Don't even talk to me about this “sketch”. I hate Kyle Mooney, I don’t think any of his stuff is funny, and please never call any of his taped stuff a digital short. They do not deserve that title. He is an idiot and I will not be happy until he is off this show or I can kick him. Hard. This was stupid and did not belong on TV. This should have been CUT. HATRED! Also it made the show run long so Good Nights were short.
The clock came down for these, and read approximately 1:35, which means they had a lot to cut out! Taran seems to be the most excited person there, and is jumping up and down… but he is also the first to run off the stage and leave. It seems a lot emptier when you’re watching from in the room and not through the cameras zooming in on everyone.
During the live show, The Rock gives a shout out to Steve Higgins, which he doesn’t do in dress rehearsal. Also my favorite part of the dress Good Nights didn’t happen on the live show due to a cut sketch.
Red Planet with Bone Guy:
I’m not really sure what this was. It was a two part sketch separated by a commercial break. It looked like it was set on Mars or something, and The Rock was in some crazy bone costume along with some other cast members. Beck Bennett was in a suit making an announcement that some evil guy was defeated and they were going to partner with this crazy bone guy in order to get peace maybe? In the second part, Beck Bennett was in a ripped suit and had become a prisoner. The Rock had him on a leash and a neck collar. He announced that he was stupid to trust The Rock and that he was going to do bad things to everyone or something. We were pretty sure this would get cut.
This had all of the ladies in it, pretending to be drunk and drinking fancy drinks. There’s a knock on the hotel room door and The Rock comes in dressed as a police officer. Everyone demands that he takes off his clothes while he tries to explain he’s a real police officer. Then Pete Davidson comes in, also dressed as a stripper and tries to take off his clothes as they yell at him to put them back on. The concept was great, “Pete is the real stripper and The Rock plays the real police officer even though The Rock looks like a stripper and Pete does not,” but it didn’t play well.
I was mostly sad that Pete got a sketch cut that he was a lead in. As he walked off set, he was trying to button his shirt back up.
This was the most elaborate set for some reason they had a lot of trouble with it. They kept yelling "less than a minute! We need to go! Go!" Nicole's favorite part was when some guy came out with steps and someone yelled "No! We don't need that! We're never needed that! Go away!" They continued to have a hard time lining up pieces of the set and adding in props.
As this was going on, we catch a glimpse of The Rock, dressed up as a daisy in a Terra Cotta pot. The whole audience starts cracking up, and he looks up, smiles, and winks at us. Then Aidy Bryant, Sasheer Zamata, and Kenan Thompson walk/wobble in dressed as flowers too.
The premise of the sketch is similar to ones I’ve seen before. They are adults performing at a local theater. The 4 of them get up on stage and do a little choreographed dance to some music playing. Then the camera zooms in on them individually and you hear their thoughts in the form of a voice over. They all doubt why they’re doing this and talk about how humiliated they are. Even though the thoughts were recorded, and all they just needed to do was make facial reactions to them, there were cue cards in front of them anyway with the recorded lines on them. For some reason Nicole and I both loved this sketch and were really upset that it was cut.
After it was over, The Rock ran out quickly to change, while the other 3 remained on stage for Good Nights. (Usually they’ll only let the host change after the last sketch). Taran came out with a camera and started taking pictures of them in their flower pots, and then gets someone to take a picture of him posing with them. They all need help getting up and down the stage to the Good Nights.
Although I looked constantly, I never saw Lorne Michaels or any other celebrities milling around. Lorne sometimes shows up on the live show during a commercial break when they cut in briefly to show a preview of the next sketch, but I didn’t see him do that at all when we were there. I thought Bobby Moynihan had a really quiet night, although after re-watching the show, I guess he was in more sketches than I thought. Beck Bennett also (thankfully) had a quiet night. I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of Leslie Jones. Also despite hearing Steve Higgins voice a lot, I never saw him in the studio. I think he pre-tapes a lot of his voice overs.
SNL/NBC, as they sometimes do, released the Daisy sketch online a few months later. I still think it was one of the best sketches from the night. Here's the photo that goes along with it for the bumpers: