Wednesday, January 18, 2012

a Saturday Night Live story.

My high school put on an all-school play every fall. And every fall, I didn’t even consider participating: they tended to be incredibly trite. During my senior year, though, everything changed… (here is a dramatic theatrical pause) when the school did Saturday Night Live.

As a teenager, I had spent a significant portion of my time watching SNL reruns on A&E or whatever channel happened to be airing them at the time. My favorite episodes were from the early-to-mid 90s, when Chris Farley, Mike Meyers, Dana Carvey, and Adam Sandler ruled the show. So when I heard a rumor that the 2004 all-school play would be Saturday Night Live, I HAD to be a part of it.

The play was going to be made up of a number of skits, just like the show itself. And here’s the most beautiful part: you got to choose your own skits. If you wanted to be in a particular skit, all you had to do was present your idea to the director. If she deemed the skit appropriate enough for the play, you were responsible for casting any additional characters. I was overjoyed: not only could I reenact some of the greatest SNL skits of all time, but I could cast my friends in them, too!

Each person could only submit so many skits for consideration, so I had to narrow down the huge number of possibilities to the skits most likely to be appreciated by the Arlington crowd. My ultimate choices? Wayne’s World and Landshark.
Exsqueeze me? Baking powder?
I chose Wayne’s World because – seriously – what character could be more fun to embody than Wayne? Besides, Wayne’s World is something that the people of Arlington could definitely appreciate, whether they’d seen the SNL skit or not. The next step was to cast Wayne’s faithful companion Garth. There was no question: it had to be my friend Tiffany. Together, we would make the best Wayne and Garth that Arlington had ever seen. After hearing of the stellar casting, the director asked me to plan for not one, but THREE Wayne’s World skits, which I was more than happy to do.

I chose to include Landshark because it’s always been one of my favorite skits. Yes, it’s silly and ridiculous, but honestly, what SNL skit isn’t? I also presumed that a solid percentage of our audience would remember watching the early episodes of SNL. Most of the other skits were from the early 90s and beyond, so I thought the fledgling years of the show deserved some recognition. Besides, it had been a life goal of mine to dress up as a shark that walks on land and pretends to have candygrams. (“Life goal” may be an exaggeration. “As soon as I found out about this play goal” would be more like it.)

After our skit ideas were approved, we needed to find scripts for them. I lucked out with Wayne’s World; finding transcripts of the original sketches was a breeze. There were no Landshark scripts to be had, but they weren’t that hard to write up: knock on door. Landshark pretends to be the plumber. Girl doesn’t fall for it. Landshark pretends to have a candygram. Girl falls for it. Door opens, Landshark eats the girl. Comedic gold!

We began rehearsals, and everyone was convinced that this would be the best Arlington all-school play of all time. Ever. I wish I could remember what all of the other sketches were (I know somebody was Roseanne Roseannadanna), but I was too busy perfecting my early 90s wannabe rocker with a public access television show persona.

Costuming was another hurdle to jump, of course. We were more or less on our own, and we accepted the challenge. Tiff’s and my Wayne’s World costumes were fairly simple, but they were dead-on. We both had ripped-up jeans and t-shirts, and Tiff’s mom made me a special hat that read “Wayne’s World.” I borrowed my friend Nick’s electric guitar, and Tiff had drumsticks from the band room. The only real challenge was the hair. Luckily for us, the all-school play took place in the fall, so the stores were well-stocked with Halloween wigs. Tiff’s wig was some blonde shiny thing that she trimmed up, and mine was some sort of Cher wig that we hacked into a mullet. We looked great.
My Landshark costume was nowhere near the perfection of Wayne’s World. I wasn’t going to create an entire shark costume, so I settled for drawing a profile of a shark head that would emerge from the door and “eat” its victim. It was low-budget perfection.

However, every great play has its obstacles. We were closing in on opening night when a handful of cast members dropped out, taking a few skits with them. The play would run short unless a few brave actors stepped up to fill the space. I was one of volunteers: I wanted to be the Church Lady.

Now, Arlington had its own fair share of Church Ladies, and if you remember the skits, most of them were about the evils of sex. I chose the only semi-innocuous Church Lady skit I could find: she goes to the church potluck and denounces the red Jello for being food of Satan. As long as I got to say “Isn’t that special?” and do the Superior Dance, I was satisfied.

The play was an absolute blast. Everything went smoothly (except for the time I lost my microphone when Tiff and I were doing the drunk driving PSA sketch), and people loved us: especially the “Aerosmith Comes to Wayne’s World” scene. The crowd just loved seeing Tiff and me enact the old Wayne’s World classic: “we’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” We tried to work in every Wayne’s World catchphrase possible: from “party time! Excellent!” to “schwing,” we covered a lot of ground. (Yes, I know “schwing” probably wasn’t appropriate, but Tiff and I made it work. In our play, “schwing” meant “awesome,” and was not used in conjunction with Heather Locklear like it was in the real show. That could’ve gotten weird.)

Landshark and the Church Lady were hits, as well, but Wayne’s World was the clear favorite. I’d had the best time being Wayne, and I was definitely sorry to see it end. I was almost sorry to throw away my mullet wig… almost.

I had been in school plays before, and I would be in one more play after SNL. However, I have never had as much fun in a school play as I did during the short run of Saturday Night Live. Sure, it helped that we were performing old familiar skits that had been proven to be funny once before, but what really made it great was the incredible freedom that we were given. If you wanted to be in a skit, YOU made it happen.

Thinking back, I would’ve loved to do more skits. If I could do it over, my next skit would undeniably be Matt Foley: Chris Farley’s motivational speaker who lives in a van down by the river. 
Ah, but hindsight tends to be 20/20, doesn’t it? I’m still incredibly happy with the SNL play as it was, and it brings back many happy memories of my friends, my high school, and how easy it was to have such absurd fun. So, in the immortal words of Wayne: party on!

1 comment:

  1. Wayne's World, Wayne's World! Party on Wayne....these were the best of times! We absolutely rocked the Wayne's World, Excellent! Thanks for this amazing trip down memory lane; schwing! :)