Here’s How ‘SNL’ Got Big Bird

The New York Times‘ Bill Carter was allowed rare behind-the-scenes access for this past weekend’s SNL, to see for himself how the writers, cast members, and Lorne Michaels prepare for a politically-charged episode. Carter writes that originally Michaels wanted book Barack Obama and/or Mitt Romney for the Daniel Craig-hosted episode, but once they fell through, he went a different route. To a certain street, if we’re being cloying.

Mitt Romney had mentioned [Big Bird] while discussing his planned cuts to financing for PBS on Wednesday, so Mr. Michaels had his writers create a Big Bird segment for the show’s “Weekend Update.” But executives at the Children’s Television Workshop were reluctant to have their beloved character in anything that could be construed as political commentary.

After Mr. Michaels made a personal appeal to some friends at the company and let them look at the script, they signed on Friday night. Caroll Spinney, the only actor to play Big Bird since 1969, was told to get his eight-foot yellow-feathered costume ready.

“There’s always all this swirl,” Mr. Michaels said, describing the build-up to the show, “and then you’re fighting to get Big Bird on the phone.” (Via)

Well, that explains why the sketch was so lame: SNL had to make a series of concessions to the Children’s Television Workshop to get him, not unlike when The Simpsons snagged Johnny Carson for “Krusty Gets Kancelled” but only under the provision that he be rewritten as a supernatural strongman, not a moocher, or when Mila Kunis’s lawyers agreed that I could be 450 feet from her at all times, but NOT 449.

The rest of the Times piece is worth reading, especially for the NUGGETS on Jim Downey, who’s been the writer of SNL‘s debate parodies since the 1970s.

This one, he said, was the hardest he had ever dealt with.

“I can never remember one that didn’t have something,” said Mr. Downey, who watched the debate by himself at home. “Some kind of thing that was odd or weird.” (Via)

The Daily Show didn’t seem to have a problem.

(Via NY Times)