On Friday, Hulu Plus made available doer-of-literally-everything James Franco's NYU thesis film, "Saturday Night," a documentary on what goes on behind-the-scenes each week on "Saturday Night Live" (not to be confused with a similarly focused documentary called "Saturday Night Live Backstage" that came out in 2011). And though it may be more of a fly-on-the-wall look at the process rather than anything particularly in-depth, there was still plenty of interesting stuff to learn for anyone who's a fan of the long-running sketch comedy series.
What did WE learn upon watching it? Lots — particularly when it comes to the looney-bin-esque process it takes to get the funny on TV week in and week out. We've highlighted the biggest takeaways below.
1. It's not about Franco, but there's a lot of him in it.
Though he stays mostly behind the lens, Franco's voice is heard in several interviews, and he even appears on screen a few times to wax poetic on the sketch show's inner workings.
2. The documentary focuses on John Malkovich's hosted show from December 6, 2008.
Oh that Malkovich. He's just so Malkovich.
3. SNL pitch meetings are "50% bullshit, 50% actual pitches."
At least so sayeth Will Forte: "If you pitch something that's funny, you've blown the joke." So lots of times, writers and actors won't even pitch the sketch they end up working on, saving the funny for the read-through.
4. If "Dangerous Liaisons" was performed in a hot tub it would be titled "Ja'cuzzi."
Well played, Seth Meyer.
5. Tuesday is the writing day.
If you thought the most stressful day of their week was Saturday, think again: Tuesdays are 24 straight hours of writing, rehearsing, and prepping the 50-some-odd pitches that will be heard by creator Lorne Michaels, the cast, crew, and producers, in order to pick the best 9 that make it to air.
6. Yeah, you heard that right: it takes 50 sketches to get the final 9 that make it to air.
...That's a LOT of funny to come up with in 24 hours, you guys. So maybe just remember that next time you're admonishing it all over the Internet.
7. The writers and the actors work together.
It's imperative that the actors, if not writers themselves, find a sort of writing partner in comedy crime. If they can't find said magical relationship? Food luck getting on the show.
8. Weekend Update is totally separate.
Did you know there's a separate writing staff for the Weekend Update segment? Well now you do!
9. There are many fart jokes happening at 30 Rock.
Never underestimate the power of a good ol' fashioned fart noise. Longtime SNL writer Paula Pell is the champion of them all.
10. If you write a theme song for a sketch about horse cops, know that it will sound perilously close to "horse cocks."
Hey! We're just saying. These are the things one has to keep in mind when writing comedy for television!
11. Bill Hader’s accents are unbeatable.
Is there an accent in the world that this man cannot do? I'm going to go ahead and say "no."
12...and his impression game is strong.
Even when pretending to be his castmates, Bill Hader knows exactly what defining characteristics to highlight and heighten. His talent is truly impressive.
13. Casey Wilson’s insecurities are so relatable.
One of the more honest moments of the documentary featured one-time castmate, Casey Wilson, ruminating on a sketch gone wrong during the table read. Her own anxieties and worries about bombing — and knowing it as its happening — are things to which all of us who've ever embarked on something that requires a leap of faith and trust in one's own abilities, can relate.
14. Because when it bombs in the read-through, it's really painful.
During the big table read, wherein 50+ people are crammed in a room for several hours reading through every single sketch that was pitched, Casey Wilson and Bobby Moynihan performed a musical number that, well, kinda bombed. They committed to the sketch and kept going, but the radio silence in the room? Far more deafening.
15. Andy Samberg says his best asset is the ability to tell a dick joke.
Oh please, Andy! You're also a very good parody songwriter — don't tell yourself so short!
16. Will Forte thinks 'SNL' is a lot like being a cheerleader.
In that maniacal, overly-emotional, 'rah, rah, you're great!' sort of way. "Some people cry, some people are happy," he explained.
17. Bill Hader does something so funny, they couldn’t even show it, apparently.
The man is always on, isn’t he? Franco shows the moment — Hader is lip-syncing a Prince song — but sans music or context. Watch it and see for yourself.
18. Bobby Moynihan is the sweetest.
Seriously. His adoration for his colleagues is just the most adorable, genuine thing. He's our new favorite.
19. The editing literally never ends.
Up until the last second, writers are rejiggering the scripts. Nothing — absolutely nothing — is set in stone until it's said on-air. Jokes get punched up, gags rewritten. Kind of a stressful work environment if you're not down with flying by the seat of your pants, eh?
20. Lorne Michaels tries to be a rational boss.
Sometimes new talent is stronger one one area over an other — maybe TV watcher's tastes change. But Michaels, ever the professional comedy-curator, constantly strives to keep it moving forward, to its delight and — yes, sometimes — detriment.
"Saturday Night Live" is "only as good as its last show," Michaels often states, but that isn't giving it nearly enough credit. It's an amoebic institution that ebbs and flows as it evolves and grows. And sometimes that makes it very, very funny.