Earlier this year, Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th anniversary with a three-hour live special on NBC, a star-studded affair with appearances from numerous cast members and hosts from throughout the show’s run. To further mark the occasion, an immersive exhibit packed with SNL memorabilia recently opened in New York City, and its creative director, Mark Lach, offered Rolling Stone a behind-the-scenes tour.
As Lach notes, the SNL exhibit was designed to chronicle the show’s history, while taking visitors through its notoriously hectic weekly schedule. On Monday, Lorne Michaels and the writers meet the guest host; sketches are written on Tuesday and read aloud on Wednesday; Thursday morning, final selections are made, which kickstarts a two-day sprint to build sets, rehearse, and conceive costumes, hair and make-up. Finally, it’s Saturday and the exhibit captures the energy backstage and in the control room, before concluding with a full scale replica of SNL‘s longtime home, Studio 8H.
The memorabilia includes actual props and showpieces like Chevy Chase’s land-shark head, Dana Carvey’s Church lady costume and Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri’s Spartan cheerleader outfits. The exhibit also houses heaps of behind-the-scenes photographs, original scripts and a recreation of the Wayne’s World set. (Yes, visitors can have a seat on Wayne Campbell’s beloved couch.)
“I think the expectation is to laugh when you go into an exhibition like this,” Lach says. “But I also think you’ll learn a lot, if I can say that about something so funny. You’ll learn about the process and next time you switch on the show at 11:30 on Saturday night, you’ll realize ‘Wow, what did it take to put this show together?’ That’s all explained and celebrated here.”