Reddit Stages Their Very Own Episode of SNL Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
With “Saturday Night Live” on (relative) hiatus, the redditors behind r/LiveFromNewYork put together their own version of the sketch-comedy show. And it’s pretty damn hilarious.
“Throughout all this, I’ve really only had one wish: It’s that this pandemic would be over and Saturday Night Live would be back in Studio 8H and me and all of my subreddit friends would be able to watch Saturday Night Live,” Andrew Haskell says, reclining in his rocking chair, next to one of those artificial fireplace boxes in his cold open for the “homemade” Saturday Night Live homage.
When Haskell, who is one of the moderators of the subreddit devoted to SNL, r/LiveFromNewYork, got the disheartening news that Saturday Night Live was halting production indefinitely due to coronavirus on March 16, he was devastated, posting to the subreddit, “Expected but total bummer. Hopefully we can find something as a r/LFNY community to still enjoy SNL together during this time, maybe a discussion thread for the SNL rewinds.”
The 25-year-old suburban Bostonian had recently been laid off from his job in minor league baseball ticket sales thanks to COVID-19. In the grand scheme of things, with thousands of people dying from a pandemic, the loss of SNL seems minor. But for him it was another blow. SNL isn’t just something he watches once a week—he spends hours every day posting and obsessing over every sketch on r/LiveFromNewYork, a subreddit devoid of some of the nastiness on other social media.
“It is very much an SNL fan club. And I would love to discuss and debate things about SNL all day long,” Haskell said. “We just don’t have time for trolls. If you want to come on, and take time out of your day to make a post that says,’ Oh, you know, SNL sucks,’ …[that’s] not really the place.”
The SNL subreddit isn’t just about praising and critiquing the show—it’s also about connection. SNL ties this disparate group of over 60,000 people from Austria, Australia, Britain, Brazil, Canada, the United States and Iran together, united in their love of the 45-year-old sketch-comedy show.
Haskell, who is also an aspiring stand-up comic, said members of the subreddit had even seen his shows in New York. “[That] people that I have never even met in person are willing to support me, that’s something very, very unique to find online,” he said.
The subreddit is particularly important to him and other fans during the pandemic.
“Is there anything we need more right now than then just the chance to kind of have a little bit of a sense of community and, you know, enjoy each other’s ‘presence’ while we’re all social distancing?” Haskell asked.
So when SNL announced it was going off the air indefinitely, Haskell didn’t just think he might be losing his favorite show—he also thought he might be losing his community. In the interim, the subreddit’s members could dissect old episodes and favorite sketches, and follow cast members’ Instagram and YouTube postings. But would that be enough to keep the group together indefinitely? The glue holding the subreddit together is new episodes of the show, with members creating lists of the sketches they hope to see, contributing to a live thread while the show is airing, and the “Sketch Sorting Sunday” where they rank their favorite skits.
“A lot of people were like, ‘Hey, what are we going to do during this break?,’” Haskell says. “It was important to me because, I’m looking for a way to kind of keep us all together, you know?”
Later that day he posted to the subreddit: “A crazy idea if we lose the rest of the season. Let me know what you think… the first ever r/LiveFromNewYork episode of SNL.”
He fully anticipated that many of the other redditors would nix it. He decided to post anyway because “even if they said, ‘Hey, this is stupid,” they weren't going to exile me.’” But that’s not what happened.
“All for it! As long as you are ok with me acting out the entire sketch with my old Barbie dolls lol,” someone posted.
“... Now I kind of want to recreate a whiskers r we [a Kate McKinnon sketch] with my one single cat,” another person wrote.
Three days later, Haskell began asking for submissions.
“Honestly, I gave it a week and said, hey, if nobody sent anything in, it would have been a cool idea,” Haskell says.
Soon more suggestions came flooding in. Somebody pitched a Criterion Collection parody where the actors being interviewed for the videos claim that “absurd porn titles” are their greatest influences.
“Stay tuned for our chad coronavirus sketch,” wrote another redditor, who drafted an outline featuring a coughing Chad whose “friends, girlfriend, and even the spirit of his dad [try] to convince him to go to the hospital,” to no avail. They tell him he’ll die. Chad responds by saying “cool.” He “develops a horrendous cough, made worse by hitting his Juul. Eventually he goes to the hospital and the doctor gives him the test. He doesn’t have coronavirus. He just smokes too much weed.”
And fans didn’t just send in sketches. High school senior Dean “Comicz” Kaffenbarger, 17, emailed Haskell asking if he could be the musical guest. Haskell agreed to let him be the guest after listening to his song “If I had 100 Hashbrowns,” which Kaffenbarger made with 4 chords, a keyboard stolen from his mom, and a $5 plastic kazoo he bought at a Cavetown show. “If I had 100, people probably would complain…why not donate all those hash browns to a charity,” he sings over a poppy electronic beat, then breaks into a kazoo bridge.
Another fan offered to work on graphics. “I saw they had plenty of people making sketches but no one had mentioned the bumper photos,” Becky, a British fan of SNL, said. “With no host, I featured the Reddit mascot instead. I love the ones that Mary Ellen Matthews creates so I tried to mimic her style.” Becky only became aware of the show in 2016. “I managed to watch (and love!) the entirety of 30 Rock without realizing it was based on a real show,” she said.
Haskell eventually received about 15 written sketches and 15 filmed ones. He decided to only accept filmed skits, since it was too hard to coordinate assigning written sketches to those who wanted to act in them.
He culled them down to the ones that were funniest and had the highest production quality, making sure to give those redditors who didn’t get picked a way to remain “involved in the episode.”
After all, the point of the episode was to strengthen the community, not tear it apart. “We put this together because we’re all socially distant from each other, both in the sense that we should all be socially distancing, and in the fact that a lot of us have never met before. We’re only friends on the internet,” Haskell said.
The sketches that made the cut included an Old Navy CEO’s COVID-19 announcement where, over cheerful Muzak, the CEO (played by comedy writer Katherine Coleman) assures customers the store will remain open, while trying to allay their fears.
“We know your top concern right now is not, ‘Should I stay home instead of going shopping?’ it’s ‘How sanitary are my $12 jeans that will bleed dye on every surface they touch?’” the CEO intones in the video, while sitting on her couch in a blue button-down shirt. “And we want you to know that we sprayed some Lysol on that shit seconds before opening the doors this morning. As for our 2 for $10 V-necks, most of them were unravelling anyway so we burned them in the dumpster out back. We also wiped down the door handles and instructed our employees to do this once every hour…And since one hundred other people pulled that nasty, germ-covered shirt over their heads before you did today, does it matter what you touch anymore?”
A music video of “Johnny Depp Looking For His Keys” also made the cut. The sketch features Jake Orlick dressed as Johnny Depp in a tan beanie and sunglasses, ambling through an apartment drinking wine and searching through utensil drawers over thumping club music as Dylan Harrison executes ridiculous dance moves while asking, “Where did Johnny Depp leave his keys?” and Orlick-as-Depp responds, “I came into the room, I put them down, I know they’re around.”
Other skits include a James Bond audition sketch featuring impersonations of celebs like Aaron Paul, David Lynch and Jonah Hill auditioning for Bond. It was also created by Orlick and Harrison, who make up the comedy duo bardiche.
To get more of the redittors to participate, Haskell asked them to send in videos of themselves shouting “Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night!” Haskell and a Rutgers film student edited together fans saying everything from “Live From My Unmade Bed: It’s Saturday Night!” and “Live From Raleigh, it’s Saturday Night!” together in an opening montage with the series music playing in the background.
With the episode nearly done, to Haskell’s (and the subreddit’s) joy, on April 9 SNL announced they would have an episode airing two days later.
“Super excited for this! Completely takes the air out of our Homemade SNL but still very exciting lol,” Haskell wrote.
“Conspiracy theory time: Lorne felt threatened by your project and had to do this in order to compete with your show. Feel honored,” another redditor posted.
As all the SNL stars quarantined at home, the April 11 SNL At Home episode had a charming, lo-fi vibe to it. Hosted by Tom Hanks with Chris Martin as a musical guest, the show featured a spoof of Zoom calls, a Carole Baskin MasterClass video, and an RBG workout video. There was no Chad coronavirus sketch, but there were two Pete Davidson raps, appearances by Larry David, Fred Armisen and Alec Baldwin, and a touching tribute to music director Hal Willner, who passed away from COVID-19, featuring numerous former cast members. The subreddit swooned. The only major criticisms were that Bowen Yang, Melissa Villaseñor and Cecily Strong weren’t in any sketches.
But Haskell didn’t stop working on the subreddit’s own version. The SNL At Home show served as another source of inspiration for them.
He plans on streaming the show on YouTube Live on May 9th or 16th, although if SNL At Home returns, those dates might change.
“The people who sent in sketches, the people who have offered to edit it, like, it’s amazing, you know,” he says. “We’re learning more about the human spirit than we ever have in the world right now. And just in this small, absolutely miniscule sense, to see people kind of just coming together is cool.”