One of the many cool things about Saturday Night Live is that it’s actually live. Except for the digital shorts, nothing is pre-recorded, and that means everything happens inside 30 Rock between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. EST. All the sets are constructed right there in Studio 8H, and while we, the viewers, never see it happen, of course everything is built and then torn down as quickly as possible. Ever stop and wonder exactly how all those set pieces change at SNL?
Unless you’ve been in the SNL audience, you have no idea how the behind-the-scenes shuffle of SNL works. Until now. NBC has released a video showing us exactly what happens from the “LIVE FROM NEW YORK…” moment to the cold open.
The episode they’ve used is the December 17th episode with Casey Affleck. We see
Donald Trump Alec Baldwin, Beck Bennett, and John Goodman yell “LIVE FROM NEW YORK…” and then the SNL magic happens.
Over the cast’s yelling, the director of the episode starts calling out camera cues to cut away from the action. That leads into an INTENSE countdown as the roughly 20 crew members rush the stage to start disassembling it. Everything has to come apart and down: The walls of the cold open, all the furniture, the props, for this scene a fireplace, everything. Watching SNL, you probably don’t stop and think to yourself “Huh, I wonder how all these set changes happen? And is it semi-chaotic but totally mesmerizing to watch?”
The answer is: It comes down so fast, and YES.
From now on this is all you’re going to be thinking about between sketches because it is a race against the clock where these stage hands literally have like, 120 seconds to get everything into place for what happens next. And no spoilers, but yeah, the SNL crew pulls it off with 15 seconds to go. OMG, it is heart-pounding, but they’re all pros.