Behind the scenes: MVSNL

Examining the process behind producing Monta Vista Saturday Night Live

Nameek Chowdhury and Anna Jerolimov

MV Drama is set to hold its annual student-run sketch comedy show, Monta Vista Saturday Night Live, on Friday, Feb. 17. Modeled after the hit NBC show Saturday Night Live, MVSNL features a similarly light-hearted mix of short, comedic skits — the difference being that MV Drama’s version has topics more relevant to teenagers.

This year, MVSNL faced a big change: rather than having some sketches borrowed from the “real” SNL, like in previous years, this year, all the sketches are completely student written. This saddled the producers and directors in charge of SNL with the responsibility of not only managing groups of students to execute sketches but also writing the sketches themselves. 

Senior and producer Jiya Singh says the reason for the change to fully student written sketches was originally due to copyright concerns. The producers had run through multiple iterations surrounding the structure for SNL (one of which was a one-week intensive session where students would meet after school from Monday through Thursday until 10 p.m. before performing on Friday) before settling on the final plan.

“A difference this year is that [SNL] is completely student written,” Singh said. “Last year, I didn’t direct, I was just an actor because it was my first year doing SNL. This year, I wanted to go all out. So I’m writing, directing and producing. It’s a lot of work that I have to do.”

Sophomore and director Aayushi Ayalasomayajula also emphasizes the amount of behind-the-scenes negotiation that goes into putting on a production like SNL. She says that to ensure enough support for the implementation of student-written sketches, a group of students founded the Playwriting Club. 

Ayalasomayajula also points out the amount of work that goes into being a director for the play. She says that in addition to the planning that is involved in writing, editing and blocking sketches, being a director entails extensive communication with the cast.

“What do you need, and what can be possible with the time and materials we have?” Ayalasomayajula said. “It’s really important for each director to take that into account. Once your cast is your cast, are they going to listen to you? Are they gonna show up for rehearsal? It’s a lot of work because you’d like to make sure that everyone shows up.”

Singh and Ayalasomayajula say that while MVSNL is no-cut — everyone gets a part — they employ a long process for auditions and casting to ensure that sketches are balanced. Senior and producer Dillon Huang states that when making casting decisions, he and the other producers and directors look to place people in the role that best suits them.

“For me personally, for each actor, I had them read lines for roles that I thought they would be fit for,” Huang said. “Depending on their voice volume, volume control and emotions, afterwards, based on the notes I took at the audition day, I would sort them by the roles that they would fit for. During the actual casting meeting, I would try to just get as many as two people that I think work best for my role. We try to just get as many of them as possible.”

Huang adds that his main goal when writing sketches and managing actors is to make SNL as enjoyable as possible. He says a major task when writing sketches is crafting the perfect joke — striking the delicate balance between making jokes appealing to MVHS students and not making them overwhelmingly MVHS-related.

“You have to go through the thought process of making things relatable for everyone — can’t have too many inside jokes,” Huang said. “How to make things a little bit funnier, so people can enjoy the show. It’s finding a balance between how many Monta Vista jokes you tell and how many outside of school [jokes]. There’s a proportion of Monta Vista jokes to non-Monta Vista jokes, and also just things in general that people can relate to. I think that’s the most important part.”


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In general, Ayalasomayajula, Huang and Singh all agree they have enjoyed the planning process and are looking forward to the show.

“[SNL] is really fun because it gives everyone an opportunity to act in something, and they can show up and not be afraid of whether or not they will make it,” Ayalasomayajula said. “It’s really easygoing.”