You enter the exhibition through sliding doors to a room for watching a clip reel of some of the most memorable sketches from “SNL” as well as a history of how it all began. This room is one of many holding areas where you wait for the next part of the show to begin.
Then you enter Lorne Michaels’ office with his desk and see notes from Steve Martin and Buck Henry in the early days of the show. You see the letter Michaels received announcing that NBC was going to buy the show and that they wouldn’t have to do a pilot.
You see some of the early show memorabilia, from the Land Shark to Buckwheat’s costume, the Killer Bees outfits, Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood and more.
The exhibition then follows the order of how the show gets put together each week. You hear from some of the writers of the show, including Seth Meyers talking about trying to find ideas into the wee hours of the morning. You see the large table where actors read the proposed sketches to the crew and Michaels.
Then you see the board where Michaels announces the show lineup of sketches.
The exhibition takes you to the set design department, where you see the Church Lady’s set and the “Celebrity Jeopardy” set with the Burt Reynolds costume on a mannequin.
The prop department is next, with some of the products they’ve created like the “Bass-o-Matic,” “Colon Blow” cereal, “Oops I Crapped My Pants” undergarments and “Baby Spanx.”
The makeup artist area shows you some of the wigs and makeup designs the artists have planned for some of the characters.
Next you head to the costume department where you see a hall of costumes, including ones for King Tut, Hans and Franz, the Spartan Cheerleaders and the Coneheads. The exhibit also has the dressing stalls where actors change between skits.
You then enter the control room, where you get to watch and hear a part of a show from behind the scenes and hear the director cue different cameras.
When the doors from the control room open, you enter a mock-up of the theater, with the main stage ahead of you, the music stage to the left and a sketch stage with the “Celebrity Jeopardy” set on it to the right.
The attendant pulls a screen onto the stage, and then Kristen Wiig introduces the show and takes you through a shortened version. It feels like you’re really there in the theater for a “Saturday Night Live” taping.
Afterward, you have an opportunity to get your photo taken near the stage, and then you can attend the “after-party” as the exhibition opens into the gift shop.
The exhibition is very well done and feels like an insider’s guide to the show, though it is heavy on the early days and the 2000s. Those middle decades feel almost ignored, except for the Church Lady and “Wayne’s World.”
If you’re an “SNL” fan or even just an occasional viewer, this is a great way to spend an afternoon in New York.=