“Flenderson’s Poverty Barrels: Replacing Clothes Despite Being More Expensive Since . If you’re sitting in the Harvard Lampoon Castle with your friends, you can perfect a piece of writing so that it is exactly what you want and you can avoid the feeling of red-hot flop sweat—especially because you won’t even be there when someone reads it.
But when you’re improvising eight shows a week in front of drunk, meat-eating Chicagoans you experience highs and lows.
What I learned about bombing as a writer for “Saturday Night Live” is that you can’t be too worried about your permanent record.
Yes, you’re going to write some sketches that you love and are proud of forever—your golden nuggets.
(Not the one where I’m being chased by Count Chocula.) I flew to New York from Chicago, where I was working as a performer at Second City, to interview for a writing position at “Saturday Night Live.” It seemed promising, because I’d heard that the show was looking to diversify.
Only in comedy, by the way, does an obedient white girl from the suburbs count as diversity.But you’re also going to write some real shit nuggets. As long as you know the difference, you can go back to panning for gold on Monday.(4) When hiring, mix Harvard nerds with Chicago improvisers and stir.The staff of “Saturday Night Live” has always been a blend of hyper-intelligent Harvard boys (Jim Downey, Al Franken, Conan O’Brien) and gifted, visceral, fun performers (John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Jan Hooks, Horatio Sanz, Bill Murray, Maya Rudolph).Is the actor being asked to bare his or her midriff, or make out with a Dick Cheney look-alike?(For the record, I have asked actors to do both, and they were completely game.) Rather than say, “I’m uncomfortable breast-feeding a grown man whom I just met today,” the actor may speak in code and say something like “I don’t think my character would do that.” Or “I’ve hurt my back and I’m not coming out of my dressing room.” You have to remember that actors are human beings.This is something Lorne has said often about “Saturday Night Live,” but it’s a great lesson in not being too precious about your writing.You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke until the last possible second, but then you have to let it go.You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. (And I’m from a generation in which a lot of people died on waterslides, so this was an important lesson for me to learn.) You have to let people see what you wrote.It will never be perfect, but perfect is overrated. What I learned about bombing as an improviser at Second City was that, while bombing is painful, it doesn’t kill you.I went up to the seventeenth-floor offices, whose walls were lined with archival photographs from the show—Jane Curtin ripping her shirt open on “Weekend Update,” Gilda Radner in a “Beach Blanket Bingo” sketch, Al Franken’s head shot!Then I sat on a couch and waited for my meeting with Lorne.