One of the first Saturday Night Live sketches I ever saw was one where Kenan Thompson plays a talk show host who always interrupts his guests by singing, “What’s up with that?” I sat in my pajamas laughing until I cried and have been a fan of the show ever since. With the move to New York came the craving to be on SNL in any capacity, although I had no idea how to go about making this dream a reality. But all that changed one afternoon when I overheard one of my coworkers talk about being tired from her time as an extra on SNL. I immediately yelled “Wait WHAT!? That’s a thing? How did you get that?” She replied, “Oh girl, just mail them a copy of your headshot and resume and include a note saying you’d love to be an extra on the show. They’re so casual over there; they’ll just text you and ask if you’re available.”
They will TEXT me? On my mobile device!? All I have to do is ransom-note them my resume? WHY DID I NOT THINK OF THIS BEFORE!?
I mailed my headshot and resume to 30 Rockefeller Center around Christmas. My roommate, Kendall, convinced me to type my “Pick me!” note on resume paper instead of handwriting it on a sticky note.
Yeah, good call.
I knew Lorne Michaels wouldn’t text me the next day to offer me a spot on the show … but I couldn’t help but be disappointed when I didn’t hear from SNL within the week. Or month. By the three month mark I had forgotten all about it. SNL had joined the ranks of Those Who Don’t Want To Hire Ang, and there was no use continuing to pine over them.
Until Thursday, April 14th, at approximately 2:10pm.
I had just taken a jazz class and as I walked upstairs to the lobby I said to myself, “Ang, every person’s story is different. Find joy in the process.” And then I took my phone off airplane mode, and I saw a text from an unknown number: “Hi Angela it’s Blake from SNL” —
I started squealing.
“Just wanted to know if you are avail tomorrow – time TBD – for background work? Would also need you Saturday for live show.”
Ok I was in class for 90 minutes; when did he send this? I hope I’m not too late if I text him YES I AM right this second …
He replied, “Great! It is for the Cold Open Democratic Debate sketch.”
Be still my heart. Dreams DO come true! My SNL debut, and it’s in a political sketch? I’ve been saying I need to expand my political commentary and what better way to do it than pretending to attend the democratic debate in an SNL sketch? I am living my dream.
Rehearsal was Friday night at 8pm. At 30 Rock. I couldn’t stop screaming, which would have been a problem if I hadn’t lost my voice. My inner dialogue was along the lines of “I’m gonna ACTUALLY be in the REAL Room Where It Happens!” I proceeded to the Visitors Center to receive a pass that granted me access to The Sacred 8th Floor, and I was smiling so big I’m sure those bored receptionists questioned my sanity.
It was another blessing that I was alone in the elevator. It looked exactly like the inside of the elevators from the TV show 30 Rock, a show I’ve watched more times than I care to admit. I barely got out all my wannabe-screams by the time the doors opened.
There it is. The hallway leading up to studio 8H. Ok walk reeeeeeeally slowly. Soak it in. Breathe the oxygen surrounding the black-and-white framed photos of each SNL cast. These are the genius demigods of comedic writing and performing. I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M HERE.
After signing in at the NBC Page Desk (omg how ‘30 Rock’ is my life right now!?) I was directed to the holding room, Seth Meyers’ studio. There was a nice spread of snacks and several long tables in the middle of the floor where people had begun to congregate. I parked it next to a couple of older ladies. Somehow I knew 80-year old actresses would be my favorite. They didn’t so much talk to me as to each other, but I didn’t mind. They discussed where to eat dinner on the UES, where to go on vacation when you retire, and complained about how long you wait around when you work as an extra. Katherine said, “At least it’s a paycheck.” I nearly lost my mind.
IT’S A PAYCHECK!?
I would have done this for free. Every weekend until I die. You mean it’s possible to get paid to do what I love? I never really thought I would get to experience something so rewarding. Oooomg here come the tears. Rein it in, Ang.
Finally someone came to escort us to the stage for rehearsal, and I quickly surpassed my previous freak-out threshold. Suddenly, in walked Kate McKinnon. Then Larry David. Then Julia Louis-Dreyfus. And THEN the next time I looked over I saw Lorne Michaels.
I get excited pretty easily, but there have only been two times in my life I have gotten teary-eyed due to artistic euphoria. The first was when I saw the Bolshoi Ballet perform ‘La Bayadere’ at the Kennedy Center, and the second time was when I saw Lorne Michaels.
The next day I had to be back at 30 Rock at 11:30am in preparation for the run-through. I brought the most politically-appropriate clothes in my possession, which was a challenge because Wardrobe said, “I really don’t want black, or anything too revealing.”
I’m a dancer with an aversion to pants, so you’ve basically ruled out everything I own.
I brought my yoga pants and a sweater of Christina’s for my upcoming SNL debut as “Left-Leaning Democrat.” Allow me to explain. The extras were seated behind Beck Bennett, who was playing the moderator. The camera was going to do a quick shot of us before hitting Kate McKinnon and Larry David on the center stage platform. Because they had sent us on stage in a single-file line, I ended up in the chair furthest from the camera. So my character choice was to be an excited, ethnically-ambiguous Democrat who leans over to talk to her best friend, literally leaning over far enough to the left to ensure her hair gets caught on broadcast television.
I am totally getting the hang of TV.
We had a quick 45 minute break for dinner on Saturday and while I didn’t want to leave the building, I definitely wanted the satisfaction of saying, “Please make this to go. I have to get back to 30 Rock.” I grabbed a falafel salad, ran back to the building, and slid in the elevator with two other extras. The doors were about to close when in walked Lorne Michaels.
OMG OMG OMG LORNE MICHAELS IS IN MY ELEVATOR! Do I make a joke? I mean Larry David is here and I’m holding a falafel salad and I have a big nose; there’s a Jewish joke in there somewhere, right? No no NO Ang absolutely not. Do not say anything you haven’t had the chance to rehearse at home.
So I kept my mouth shut and screamed as silently as I possibly could.
My excitement was barely containable as we took our places for the 8pm snow. I smiled out at the audience from my far corner chair and jammed out to the music the band was playing as if everyone had come to 30 Rock just to see me dance in my seat.
Between the 8pm and 11:30pm show we were sent to Hair and Makeup. Hair and Makeup was just a line of brightly-lit mirrors in our holding room/Seth Meyers’ studio, BUT STILL. And it’s not like I hadn’t put so much makeup on my face already and willed my hair into a tiny afro, BUT STILL.
My hair lady was a beautiful Eastern European woman named Neraida. She commented on how similar my hair was to hers. It always feels like a good sign when the hairdresser thinks you’re hair twins. We made small talk mostly because if I kept my mouth shut I would have exploded, but also I definitely wanted to make as many friends as I could.
“Hey you know who we should bring back? The ethnically-ambiguous, curly-headed girl.” THIS IS THE GOAL.
And then it was time. Baby Interns told us to line up single file, like they didn’t trust us not to wander off into the backstage. Which was annoying but also a VERY good point. They led us through the backstage area.
It’s just like Stefon said. This place has everything.
Out of Seth Meyers’ studio. Past the Wall of Casts. Back through the hallways where cue cards were being rewritten. Through the hallway where cast members were being wigged and prepped and then through the double doors to the set. Under the stairs there’s a little sacred box where I’m guessing Lorne Michaels watches the show. I saw him open a bottle of champagne and smile at a man and a woman who were sitting with their backs to me.
I feel like I recognize the back of that guy’s head.
He turned around right as I walked past.
Yep; just as I thought: Chris Rock is here to see my show. It’s almost like Lorne Michaels whispered, “Hey Chris, you see that ethnically-ambiguous, curly-headed girl behind you? You should read her blog.”
We sat in our chairs and once again I smiled at the audience as if they were paying attention to me. Beck Bennett was on deck immediately to my right, and then out came Kenan Thompson. He and Beck began quietly riffing and giggling like little kids. And then I was giggling without knowing or caring why. Whatever they were saying I’m SURE it was hilarious. Stage Manager called for quiet on the set as we were set for sixty seconds until the live show. You could hear a pin drop.
Wow, these people are good. I wonder what’s it like to be routinely incredible.
Stage Manager counted down from five seconds and pointed at Beck. The red camera light came on, and I was the best “Left-Leaning Democrat” there ever was. It was just a fraction of a second, but my giant head did appear in the corner of the screen.
I think this is what “making it” feels like.
When I finally walked into my room at 2:30am, there was a giant bouquet of flowers and a card from my family, congratulating me on the happiest I had ever been while wearing pants and a politically appropriate sweater.