John Belushi it wasn’t.
An hour after the weekly 3:30 a.m. text message spread like spitfire across New York, interns and set crew and assistants arrived at Professor Thom’s, a sports bar in the East Village, with outfits assembled and the password for the door on the tips of their tongues. They had heard stories, of the cast members and guest hosts and the rockers who played the stage at 30 Rockefeller Center, and their assorted flashy pals, basking in drug cornucopia and cigarette smoke, a haze that lingered long after last call anywhere else in the city. It was the after-party for last week’s Saturday Night Live, but the wild past seems no longer the norm.
These things end earlier now. By the time the creative underclass showed up to that corner of Second Avenue and barked out the password–”Mr. Cluck’s Chuckle Shack”–The Observer had already endured the backstage antics of the show’s fleet of bedheaded writers, the encore Paul Simon performances, the madhouse that is 30 Rock as guests scramble around the labyrinthine studios, and a massive all-show dinner that took over McCormick & Schmick’s midtown digs.
A writer had invited us along, knowing that trying to get in as press would be impossible.
The narrow halls of 30 Rock’s ninth floor are such that The Observer had to physically dodge every person they had ever laughed at in their lives. Seth Meyers, pacing and going over lines. Kristen Wiig, her elastic gumby face stone-cold as make-up artists caked on the powder. Lorne Michaels, shifting his paunch from soundboards to dressing rooms, which stretch down the hall from the viewing parties and reek conspicuously of cigarettes and weed.
And also: Josh Brolin, why are you thumbs-over-lips making out with Zach Galifianakis? Maya Rudolph, bride in this weekend’s titular Bridesmaids, who knew you were very, very much expecting? And Morgan Spurlock, why are you here?
“I’m going to tap your leg,” said the SNL writer who ushered us in to the city’s most press-embargoed area, “whenever one of my jokes is coming up.”
The show began and those who write the jokes sat on beat-up couches with clutter wedged between the cushions, the screen airing the show they had written–or rather were still writing; they cut and revise skits as they air. The temperament is that of calibrated frenzy, a free-for-all of creative modes smashing against each other.
Fred Armisen ducked out of a room and into a corner, emerging in the green vest, ready to pop up on Weekend Update.
Snatching a beer from the well-stocked coolers required navigating through the cast of The Office. And naturally, when The Observer ran into Jack McBrayer, we came close to asking him which way to the writers room–was he not Kenneth, an NBC page?
Then the host, Ed Helms, called the cast back on stage for the final bow, saxophones wailing behind them, as The Observer took a spot downstairs between indie darling Greta Gerwig and the guy who played Hurley on Lost, to snag a spot to see Mr. Simon close his set with “Kodachrome.” iPhones went aloft, snapping pictures, and everyone decamped for the first of the parties.
“It’s kind of a corporate thing,” the writer announced as we walked into McCormick & Schmick’s with Aziz Ansari and Jason Sudeikis.
“Great story everybody–John Mayer‘s here,” the writer’s agent said.
“We were at dinner, but we’re gonna watch it later. I’m a late cat,” Mr. Mayer told The Observer at the bar in the basement.
The singer has been maligned for his over-sharing habits with reporters, and for a while he zipped it up, but tonight his head was almost swallowing the recorder, lest he not be heard.
“I’m a big fan of everyone! I love everybody!” he said.
“They wanted to give me a line and I was like ‘No! Don’t!’ It’s funnier if I don’t have a line!” said Chris Colfer, the Glee star.
“It’s a little distracting in the writers room,” said Mr. Galifinakis, whom had been watching the show with The Observer. He had foam-padding, outdated headphones strung around his neck. “I’m sure it translated well.”
“I was actually leaving,” said Andy Samberg, with his harp-plucking girlfriend Joanna Newsom.
To Professor Thom’s, for the after party?
Mr. Samberg paused.
“Thinking about it.”
He didn’t show up, leaving the eye-batting interns to chain smoke in a corner, but by that time it was well into Sunday anyway.