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“This could really f– up, or this is gonna be so magical,” Saturday Night Live‘s sketch music adaptations lead Hal Willner says in a new behind-the-scenes video.
Joining Leon Pendarvis (music director and band conductor), Eli Brueggemann (music director), and Lenny Pickett (music director and band leader), Willner shines a spotlight on the music department from the late-night sketch comedy series in the latest installment of the making-of digital series called Creating Saturday Night Live.
“One of the interesting things about our show is that it’s live,” Pickett, a saxophone player, says. “There’s a live audience and they’re hearing us play the opening theme live. It’s Howard Shore’s piece of music.”
He explained, “Originally, Howard and [SNL creator] Lorne [Michaels] had the idea that the saxophone would be the musical voice of the show. Every time we changed the opening titles, we changed the opening theme. It’s the same song but with a different interpretation.”
As the video turned to SNL‘s massive roster of musical guests, Willner focused on the two “disaster appearances” he booked: Miles Davis and Captain Beefheart.”Miles has his back to the camera, which was driving them nuts, and Captain Beefheart has tones that a lot of people can’t handle,” he recalled. “And when he finished, not one person in the audience clapped, and one guy from the balcony yelled, ‘S—!'”
Continuing their walk down memory lane, Brueggemann tells the story of how Kristen Wiig’s Thanksgiving monologue and Peter Dinklage’s “Space Pants” song came to be. In addition to sharing voice memos, he recalls how a “tone deaf” Colin Jost hummed the lyrics to Wiig’s bit, while writer Streeter Seidel and cast member Mikey Day pitched “Space Pants” at 4 a.m. one morning with “synth-y” and “’80s” vibes.
Previously, the series focused on the hair and makeup team, photo department, SNL producer Steve Higgins performing live sound effects for a fart sketch, and the unseen set change after the opening monologue to Casey Affleck’s hosting turn.
Watch the latest in the video above.
SNL returns this weekend with first-time host Octavia Spencer.