‘SNL’ Writers Reveal Why Some Sketches Are Cut Hours Before the Live Show

Former Saturday Night Live writer Tim Robinson revealed that sketches can easily get cut before the show. In fact, some SNL sketches are cut hours before the live show, which leaves the crew a few hours to pull the show together before 11:30 p.m.

Some ‘SNL’ sketches get cut hours before the live show if they don’t get laughs

According to Business Insider, the entire SNL show goes through a dry run at 8 p.m. in front of a dress rehearsal audience. If an SNL sketch doesn’t get laughs, it’s pulled from the show. “This gives time for any last-minute changes to be made, and any sketches that don’t get laughs will get cut before the final show at 11:30 p.m.”

SNL sketch with Cecily Strong as Sen Krysten Sinema, Aidy Bryant as Sen. Joe Manchin, Pete Davidson as Andrew Cuomo, James Austin Johnson as President Joe Biden, Alex Moffat as Sen. Chuck Schumer, Ego Nwodim as Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Melissa Villaseñor as Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
SNL sketch with Cecily Strong as Sen Krysten Sinema, Aidy Bryant as Sen. Joe Manchin, Pete Davidson as Andrew Cuomo, James Austin Johnson as President Joe Biden, Alex Moffat as Sen. Chuck Schumer, Ego Nwodim as Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Melissa Villaseñor as Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez |Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

In other cases, a sketch may get cut down if it runs too long. BuzzFeed shared 21 SNL sketches that were too long and were cut. They included the “Wedding Toast” with John Mulaney and “New Year’s Kiss.”

Robinson said he didn’t know why some sketches were cut. Many of his cut sketches are now getting plenty of laughs on his Netflix series I Think You Should Leave. Robinson’s writing partner Zach Kanin also wrote for SNL. He told The New Yorker that even if your sketch made it, it could be pushed toward the end of the show, which is a less than desirable position. “The stuff we wrote was mostly for the back half of the show, the way Lorne [Michaels] puts it together. It just depended on the idea and the host,” he said.

Some ‘SNL’ sketches were cut because the host didn’t want to do it

Robinson told The New Yorker that in some cases, it was the host who wouldn’t do the sketch.  “You do your thing, and then the meeting happens,” he said. “If your sketch isn’t picked—even if you did well—you don’t know the reasons why you didn’t get picked. And some of those reasons may be that some celebrity was like, ‘I’m not f**kin’ doing that.; There were people there trying things that were so funny, and so . . . I wouldn’t say outlandish, but different. James Anderson would write stuff that was so funny, and so good, and so weird.” 

In some cases, sketches are rewritten during Friday rehearsal, according to Business Insider. Friday is also when the network censors review the script.

‘SNL’ short video sketch that almost didn’t make it to air on time

In other cases, it’s the filmmakers who are racing to make it in time for air. SNL director of photography Alex Buono recounted the work put into creating the Wes Anderson spoof short, The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders. He offered the specific details put into creating the video short. But also the time crunch the crew were under and the race to make it to air in time.

He recalled in his blog that filmmakers were editing as the show went live. “It’s now well past 11:30 pm — but our spot technically wasn’t airing until after the 2nd commercial so we’re basically in penalty time,” he recalled.

“What none of us knew at the time is that the studio associate director, Matt Yonks, decided to roll the dice and play the fixed spot directly to the air. The spot was literally still loading into the switcher as it was being broadcast out. Holy crap,” he exclaimed. But what came across that night in 2013 was true movie magic.

RELATED: ‘SNL’ Director Reveals How They Created Wes Anderson’s Horror Trailer Short to Resemble His Real Films