Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th anniversary this past Sunday night, and my Facebook feed was full of people who worked at or near the show reminiscing about the good ole days. It’s hard not to; because being around that studio is incredibly intoxicating.
I heard about the 8H Desk Assignment at my very first Page interview, and I resolved then and there that it would be mine. Talk about putting the cart ahead of the horse; I hadn’t even been offered the Page job yet, and I was already planning to get the most coveted assignment within the program.
Let me back up for a minute. The “assignments” you get as a Page are like mini-jobs within the job. You have to apply, you and the other candidates are interviewed, and then one (or several) Pages are accepted to have that role for a specified period of time during their Page-ship. There’s a certain strategy to it, because one assignment that may be easier to get may mean that, timing-wise, you’ll be ineligible for another one that might be more up your alley. There are assignments that, historically, often lead to more permanent jobs. And then there are those that are just plain FUN.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that no other assignment holds a candle to the 8H Desk when it comes to fun.
I had set my sights on that assignment, and it became my sole focus. I wouldn’t even consider any other role that would interfere with it down the line. I started in late August, so I was ineligible for the first half of the season. My one and only chance was to get in for the January-May half of the season.
And while putting all your eggs in one basket can be a risky move, this time it worked out for me. I remember vividly when I found out that I had been selected for the job; I was so happy that I was jumping up and down in my boss’ office. Not exactly a professional reaction, but I couldn’t help it. I was just that giddy to learn that I was really heading to the 8H Desk.
The “8H” refers to the name of the studio, and the “desk” means that, quite literally, you work the desk directly outside the studio. There are three Pages assigned there, and you’re all essentially “go-fers,” making runs for coffee, lunch coffee, snacks, coffee, miscellaneous props, and coffee. (Did I mention the coffee?)
If that doesn’t sound glamorous, it’s because it’s not. Keep in mind that you’re also doing this while wearing a dorky looking uniform, complete with a name-tag. A name-tag that does not in fact guarantee that people will remember your name. Sometimes it felt like I was not an individual person, but just “one of you guys,” who existed solely to serve.
But believe me when I tell you that it was all worth it. The experiences and the stories I got from those five months are something I will always cherish. I don’t want to delve into shameless name-dropping at this point because, you know, eye-roll. But I will say that those Saturdays were always memorable.
We’d start at 10am on Saturday, and go straight through until the show ended at 1am on Sunday. They were long days, but never has a 15 hour work day gone so fast or been so much fun. I was cruising on youthful energy and adrenaline. And I needed both because, of course, things didn’t really stop when the show wrapped.
In fact, that’s when things really started.
Much has been made of the infamous SNL after-parties; and how they are bastions for uninhibited celebrities. But I gotta tell you, most of the ones I personally attended were actually fairly buttoned-up affairs, with everyone acting on their best behavior and celebrating in a polite and civilized manner.
The after-after parties, on the other hand… Now THOSE got wild.
Usually we wouldn’t find out any specifics about where they would be, or what the password was to get in (yeah – they almost always had a password) until 3 or 4 am. Us desk Pages would be some of the first to find out this information, which we then would pass on to the other Pages and any friends we wanted to invite. Keep in mind, this was in the days before Twitter, Facebook, and group texts, so getting the word out could be a bit of a process, but I have to admit that it was kind of a thrill being the gatekeeper of this privileged information.
Once again, I’m going to skimp on the specifics so as not to sound TOO douchey, but I lived for those after-after parties. They were always crazy, intense, and would sometimes go past 9am. I remember several occasions when I would leave a bar and be startled/blinded as the sunlight hit my face. If I had to make my way back to 30 Rock to pick up my belongings before heading home, I’d occasionally bump into well-rested tourists going on an early morning tour, which always served as a brutal reality-check that it was time to go home and sleep.
(My routine was to crash when I got home and sleep straight through to Monday morning, except for getting up for a few hours on Sunday evening to eat, and to watch Futurama, The Simpsons, and X-Files in bed.)
I certainly couldn’t do that sort of thing now, but that’s fine. It was a truly wonderful experience, and I am forever grateful for it.