Aidy Bryant on Performing on ‘SNL’: “You really are tracking things on, like, four different levels”

“I really thought, ‘OK, I auditioned for SNL and then I’ll go home, and what a cool experience! That’s it. It’s over now.’ And then it wasn’t.” – Aidy Bryant

Comedian Aidy Bryant has been starring on Saturday Night Live since 2012 when she was only in her mid-twenties. Now a veteran of the series (as well as the star of the Hulu series Shrill), Bryant looked back in an interview with NPR to discuss her audition for SNL, as well as one aspect of the production of the show that people may not know about that the cast members must contend with.

There have been many legendary stories about SNL auditions — both successful and unsuccessful — throughout the series’ forty-year history. Not surprisingly, Bryant — like many who have auditioned — didn’t think it would amount to anything. Of course, she was wrong. She explains:

“It’s incredibly nerve wracking, and I honestly I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I was so nervous. I was really fortunate in that [SNL Executive Producer] Lorne [Michaels] and a few of the other producers had come to Chicago and they had seen my Second City show. And so that’s where they saw me and so they had seen me do two hours of comedy, so I felt really lucky going in, knowing I only had five minutes. I was like, ‘Well, they’ve seen me in front of an audience and they’ve seen me do the stuff I’m most proud of.’ It is really intimidating. You stand in the spot where the host does the monologue, kind of center stage. We call it “home base,” and you just do your five minutes. I had really been warned like, “They’re not going to laugh, just expect no laughs. Just sort of plow through it.’ I got some laughs, and so I was like, ‘OK, I can, I can make it through this!’ It’s just over in a blink of an eye. And then you walk off and you’re kind of like, ‘I guess I did it. It’s over.’ I really thought, ‘OK, I auditioned for SNL and then I’ll go home, and what a cool experience! That’s it. It’s over now.’ And then it wasn’t.”

For a weekly live series, SNL has managed to survive with very few on-screen mess ups. While on-air talent have sometimes broken character and musical acts have hit bad notes, the production on the show has had few blunders in over forty years. Bryant gives credit to the cast for understanding the dynamics of performing on stage in front of live cameras, saying, “One of my favorite things about SNL is how technical it is. And I think people underestimate, like, when you see the greats of SNL, part of what makes them great is they have a huge technical understanding of what’s happening, because it really is about [how]you have to hit your marks and [how]you have to look at the right set of cards, and then for this shot you’re looking at a different set of cards, so that it looks like you’re looking at the person. You really are tracking things on, like, four different levels, which is your comedy performance, but then knowing that you’re on camera in the right camera, and then you’re reading things and tracking your eye line. It’s extremely, extremely technical. And I love that part of it.”

About Author

In college, overachiever Christopher McKittrick double-majored in Film and English because he loves to read, write, and watch movies. Since then Chris – who was born and raised on Long Island, New York and currently lives in Queens – has become a published author of fiction and non-fiction, a contributor to entertainment websites, and has spoken about literature, film, and comic books at various conferences across the country when he’s not getting into trouble in New York City (apparently it’s illegal to sleep on street corners...) For more information about Chris, visit his website here!

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