It’s 5:30 in the morning on Sunday, October 26, 2008. I’m alone in the back of a taxi cab in New York City. After fumbling to pay the fare with a credit card, I stumble up six flights of stairs to my friend’s apartment, find my air mattress in the dark, and fall asleep with my clothes on. In two hours, I will get up to catch my flight back to Tacoma, Washington, feeling sick and exhausted the entire day. Was this suffering worth staying up to hang out with the cast of Saturday Night Live at their after-party? Well, sort of.
I’ve been an SNL fan ever since I was ten years old. I’d watch reruns on Comedy Central, and soon began sneaking into the living room to watch new episodes on Saturday nights. My sister and I would repeat entire “Coffee Talk” and “Pumping Up with Hans and Franz” sketches. When I was eleven, I revealed my aspiration to be an SNL cast member to my mother, which was a shift from my earlier dreams to be a pediatrician or an author of mystery novels, and she expressed great disappointment. Lucky for her, I grew up too shy, practical, and cocaine-free to be a successful comedian.
My dream of SNL stardom has diminished since my tween years, but staying home Saturday nights for the show and watching endless sketches on Hulu.com is evidence that my love for SNL has not entirely disappeared. I would still jump at the chance to see SNL stars up close.
On a visit to New York, I met up with one of my friends who was living in the city. She had a friend who was involved in the comedy circuit and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and had another friend who worked in the NBC page program.
After having dinner with them, I learned that one girl had recently dated a featured member on SNL and, through her connections with the UCB Theatre, knew Amy Poehler. Apparently it was a standard Saturday night for the NBC page to text the SNL after-party password to a select group of friends, and they would all hang out with the cast members. They mentioned knowing Will Forte, Amy Poehler and her beau Will Arnett, and Seth Meyers. One had been hit on by Chevy Chase, and another was on a first-name basis with 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer. I figured some of these were tall tales, but everyone exaggerates a little when it comes to stories involving famous people. Some of it had to be true. They did live in New York and work at NBC and the UCB Theatre; of course they might end up rubbing elbows with some famous people.
This was the plan: we would hang out at one of their apartments, watch the show, and wait for the password. I was warned that it would be a late night, and we probably wouldn’t get to the party until 2:00 a.m.
We hung around the apartment until 2:30. Some were drinking wine to keep their excitement up. I had an energy drink and felt like I would crash if nothing happened soon. On the wall was a framed thank you note from Amy Poehler. Why would you frame a note from a person you knew well? If they ever came over to your home and saw it, they’d think you were some kind of sycophantic weirdo. My confidence in their connections was beginning to wane.
But we finally got the password. It was “swordfish.” This was too ridiculous not to be true.
We soon left the apartment to visit a bar and collect more people before heading to what I finally learned was the SNL after after-party, which wouldn’t begin until four o’clock in the morning. I was beginning to feel rather drunk with tiredness, and I didn’t believe the solution to that would be more beer, despite the encouragement of the group.
Finally, we got in a cab and arrived at the back entrance of a closed club. “Swordfish,” we all said in succession as we entered the club. The bouncer was wearing a suit and had a radio earpiece, and I’m sure our insistence on using the password made it obvious that we didn’t belong.
We walked into the basement, and I tried to scan the area surreptitiously for a glimpse of a famous face. It was almost empty. We found the party upstairs. The place was packed, but it was just full of people like us—SNL groupies trying to blend in among famous people.
Waiting in a booth in the basement, the party finally picked up, and we saw a few cast members. Unfortunately, none of the cast that my group “knew” seemed to be in attendance. I did see Andy Samberg and sort of bumped into him by accident, then watched my friend try to hit on him. We soon made another sweep upstairs and found Kenan Thompson wearing sunglasses in a dark booth, smoking pot. No one was surprised.
The highlight of my evening was seeing Jason Sudeikis, one of my favorites. Instead of meeting him, though, I just stared at him for too long until he noticed and gave me the ol’ “please stop staring at me, you’re creeping me out” look. Par for the course.
Even with all the excitement, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open when 5:00 a.m. rolled around. My friend hailed me a cab, and we said goodbye. I watched her go back inside as the taxi drove away, no doubt saying “swordfish” on the way in.
In the future, I think I’ll be a little more wary of acquaintances who claim to hang out with famous people. I stayed up late enough to feel sick and gawk at three cast members. After a good night of sleep, however, I reconsidered the experience and figured I should enjoy it for what it’s worth. After all, I stayed up all night in New York City and used the password “swordfish” to get into a private party with Saturday Night Live cast members. Saying it like that makes me sound pretty damn cool.