“Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night!”

There’s only one place in the world where you can rub elbows with Coldplay, witness Lorne Michaels give Kate McKinnon a pep talk, and watch Kristen Stewart struggle not to drop a f-bomb. And that place is 30 Rockefeller Plaza, home to the one and only Saturday Night Live.

After receiving an email with the headline "CONGRATULATIONS! We are thrilled you are one of Saturday Night Live’s biggest fans!” I made an impulsive, last-minute decision to book a trip to New York for that coming weekend. I had to, right? I’ve been watching the iconic sketch-comedy show since I was young enough to laugh – mostly because my dad would let me stay up to watch it with him. I may not have understood most of the jokes, but that didn’t stop me from cracking up at it every week. 

Arriving at Studio 8H, the magic started to reveal itself. We were advised to shut off our phones as they don’t want anything to be leaked before showtime, which allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in the experience. My sister (my plus one) and I were seated second row on the floor. If I reached out, I could touch the main stage… and I did, but don’t tell anyone that. Everywhere I looked, there were crew members running around and moving sets, stagehands ushering people towards their seats, and even cast members popping up out of the darkness. Before the cold open, I looked up to see Lorne Michaels giving a nervous Kate McKinnon (in character as Senator Elizabeth Warren) a pep talk, right before she ran onto stage. Rightfully so – McKinnon carries this show as she appears in almost every skit, where she is completely transformed. I don’t know how she does it.

Photo Credit: Will Heath/HANDOUT

The host this past week was Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame. Some people might think she’s too cool for school, but I was very excited to see her perform. Last time Stewart hosted, she famously dropped a f-bomb during her monologue, which she also addressed this time around. But instead of cursing, she took “audience” questions – the audience being planted actors. I would’ve much rather preferred that she cursed. What I wasn’t expecting was for Pete Davidson, who hasn’t been in as many sketches recently, to make an appearance right beside me as he asked Stewart a question of his own. But, this is a casual occurrence here. Studio 8H is crawling with celebrities, just breezing by and popping up out of nowhere.

Photo Credit: Will Heath/NBC

The musical guest of the night was Coldplay, who I never thought I’d ever see live. While I was hoping they’d sing one of their classics such as “Fix You” or “Yellow,” I was pleasantly surprised by their latest song “Orphans.” I had no idea what to expect when the three people in front of me were asked to step to the back as their seats were needed for the performance. The guitarists Jonny Buckland and Guy Berryman sat down in two of the seats as they tuned their guitars and strummed some chords before the performance. Chris Martin appeared from backstage accompanied by a group of dancers giving a high energy rendition. He then proceeded to sit down directly in front of me. I repeat, directly in front of me. My knees could touch the back of his chair. As he continued to sing, he slyly turned around in his swivel chair and shook my sister’s hand. I was losing my goddamn mind.

Photo Credit: Will Heath/NBC

The show was funny (not like it used to be, but still funny). The top sketches of the night were “Stargazing” and “Hero Dog Press Conference.” The latter worked because, well, it didn’t. The dog handler had difficulties getting the dog to bark, which is the whole premise of the sketch. But watching Cecily Strong struggle to keep the dog still (improvising when there was nothing for her to translate) and seeing Kate McKinnon (as Kellyanne Conway) try not to laugh offstage made the sketch ten times better. Because it was a dress rehearsal, the show was much longer as they tried out all the sketches to see what worked and what didn’t. There was a total of four sketches taking place in a bar/coffee shop, which is three too many. So, I was glad to see that they cut most of them. However, there was one sketch featuring Stewart as an elementary school teacher holding parent-teacher conferences. A gaggle of kindergarten students appeared to show their parents that they had just learned the ABC’s. But instead of singing “LMNOP” the normal way, they spaced it out to give each letter an equal amount of time. This drives the parents insane. Hopefully they post it on their YouTube channel soon, because I know that the audience got a kick out of that one.

Photo Credit: Will Heath/HANDOUT

Overall, seeing the show unfold right in front of you is an exciting, yet strange experience. It’s like in The Truman Show when he discovers that he is in a reality show and all the lights and cameras appear. They pull the curtains back on the magic of television and show you the less glamorous, laborious side. Even when I couldn’t hear Kristen Stewart talking since the mics don’t project to the audience, or when I had to watch on the monitor because the set was out of sight, I still loved every second of it.

Being able to go behind-the-scenes of one of the greatest, longest-running television shows was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Everyone at SNL works extremely fast and extremely hard. The fact that they had to do another show directly after is a testament to their hard work. Hey, maybe one day, I’ll get to be a part of that, but for now, I’m just fine watching it from home. Thanks for a great show, Saturday Night Live.

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