How live is Saturday Night Live?

Obviously the commercials are taped prior to the show, but what about certain skits? For instance: The host is in the final skit, wearing a business suit. At the conclusion of the skit, literally 2 seconds after the skit ends with the host on stage, you zoom to the host on the main monologue set wearing a completely different outfit and saying “goodnight?” There is physically not enough time to run between sets most of the time, let alone change. Are these skits taped? Are the monologue and ending taped? What’s done live right there and then, and what isn’t? I’m hoping for someone who’s been to see the show in person, or, hell, maybe a performer! :wink: Anyway, this has been bugging me for a while.


I’ve been a performer on the show! Remember The Blues Brothers skits? I was the fat guy! :rolleyes:

All kidding aside, AFAIK every broadcast, save one (with Andrew Dice Clay) has been 100% live, although I think they have something along the lines of a 7-second delay for the censors.

Perhaps they tape the final sequence with the applause and the hugs and the credits in advance…

They have been showing a lot of reruns recently, though, which is really annoying.


I do not believe this.

An associate from high school told me that Saturday Night Live is no longer live (this was about four or three years ago). They keep live in the title because the show is not edited in any way. Sez he saw the Norm McDonald “fuck” episode while touring NBC on a Wednesday, and the show was aired ‘live’ that Saturday.

I have heard or seen no other corroboration, so I don’t believe him.
Now, I know for a fact that the show is run twice each saturday. There is a run-through that is maybe two hours long before the show proper. Whatever got good laughs stays or is actually pushed up in skit order. The bad stuff is cut (which makes one wonder how eye-poppingly bad the ‘bad’ skits musta been a few years back). Then there is the show.

I remember about three or four years back, Lorne announced that the show was going to rely on more pre-taped material, but I always assumed that this meant more commercials and the like. And probably the Smigel stuff, which is the only reason that I laugh when I watch the show. That guy could eat a bowl of porridge for half an hour and I would watch it. anyways, there you go. I didn’t answer your question, and I confused the issue with even more material. You’re welcome.


If I see it at midnight in California, that’s what? 3, 4 AM in New York? AFAIK, none it has ever been live for the West Coast. The Jack Handy stuff must be prepared ahead of time. And I find it hard to believe that stuff like “The Ambiguously Gay Duo” is animated live. As mentioned in The Simpsons, that tends to be hard on the animators’ hands.

I was always under the impression that about 1/2 the skits, all the commercials, and various other things were taped during the 5 or so days of preparation. Then about 1/2 of the skits were live. Watching some of the episodes closely makes it fairly obvious if it’s a live take. The acting is less fluid, and it shows. If there’s some sort of clothing change, scene change, or fancy setup, it’s usually a taped skit.

Correct. It’s live only in the Eastern and Central time zones, the others view the tape meaning any shenanigans like Sinead O’Connor ripping up a pic of the pope get edited out for us. (I think that was when that happened, I’m prolly wrong though.)


Ha ha :wink: Yes the reason there are prerecorded items are so the “actors” can change costumes etc. before the next scene. If you wanted to pick it apart I think you’d probably notice that it goes something like: Monologue, pre-recorded bit, live bit, real commercial, live bit, pre-recorded bit, live bit, real commercial, etc. Also I think a lot of times there’s two live bits right after each other that don’t actually have any of the same actors in them, giving the first ones time to change or go to another set.

I’m surprised no one on the board has yet admitted to seeing it in the audiance. They’d probably have the best idea of how to describe it. (I’ve only seen David Letterman, so I can’t help you there.)

The episode where Richard Pryor hosted was also on a
7-second delay. Thankfully, he behaved himself.