Skit Ideas Not Even Good Enough for Saturday Night Live

Thanks for the welcome, Mark. It's good to be back. I hope to deliver posts with substance. This, though, won't be one of them.

The Internet loves lists and it loves witnessing people get embarrassed. So let me start my stint with a list about a failure of mine.

I recently got a new Mac at work, and since I'm one of those losers who needs to have everything he has on a local hard disk (you never know when you're going to have to watch a scene from This Is Spinal Tap right now), I ported everything over from my Mac (now my son's) to the new one. But the new one has a slightly smaller hard disk than the old one, so I had to go through some directories to purge some files. A few big files were easy to get rid of (I am never going to listen to Metal Machine Music again), but I wound up looking at some directories I hadn't seen in a long, long time. How long ago? Before Axl Rose started recording Chinese Democracy long ago. In one such directory, there was a file called SNL.DOC. What could that be? I double-clicked.

In the mid-90s, I worked for Delphi, an early proprietary online service. We were Rent-a-Wreck to AOL's Hertz. We had some significant firsts (one day I'll tell the story of how we talked the Rolling Stones' reps into making us the band's official online service for free) and we were briefly overfunded (News Corp. bought us during one of its intermittent sessions of new-media panic), but the venture failed. For a brief time, before I went solo, I was living in Massachusetts (where I still am) while my job had migrated to Manhattan, so I went back and forth from home to job a few times each week. This went on for only a few months, but it felt like a long time at the time. Hey, that is a long time to be away from your family.

snl logoAnyway, from my hotel I could see the NBC building, and one gets bored sitting alone in a hotel room at night, so I started writing ideas for NBC shows. (Then as now, I didn't watch much TV, so I got most of my story notions from the ads for the shows I saw around Times Square.) One night, after a session of Coca-Cola and sushi, I scribbled several dozen ideas for Saturday Night Live. Fueled by insomnia, homesickness, caffeine, sugar, and probably mercury, I thought so much of my ideas that the next day I snuck into the floor at 30 Rockefeller Plaza where the show's offices were and dropped off a package. I returned to the Delphi office, certain that the phone would ring … right … now.

The file SNL.DOC contained my proposal to Saturday Night Live. It sketched out 36 skits. Most of them were sub-mediocre at best. The worst involved the viewers' knowing what McHale's Navy was, a dubious proposition. Here are the least bad of the pitches:

Much like a driving test, a teen couple that wants to become sexually active has to pass a test with a tester in the bed with them, grading and commenting on their every move.

Hollywood executives convene a pitch meeting for the Speed sequel, with ridiculous concepts, such as Sloth, in which the bus must stay under 10 mph.

Folks sit in a movie audience and their entertainment is not the film itself, but trying to guess who on the screen is gay.

Chris Farley is a Mary Kay salesman. (Hey, this was a long time ago.)

A couple eats lunch at a McDonald's set up like a high-end eatery; they ask the waiter questions like "How is the root beer today?"

A Schindler's List parody called Schneider's List, based on the character from the sitcom One Day at a Time

An ATM dispenses items other than money, such as taxis, advice, and photos with NBC celebrities

Folks watch absurdly interactive TV, where viewers can do wild things with a remote.

A bona-fide emergency happens on the set of ER and disasters ensue.

The joke, if there was one, was on me. I hadn't watched SNL regularly since Emily Litella was a recurrent character, so I had no idea whether these ideas for skits would have made any sense for the show. I was surprised the day after I dropped off the package when I didn't hear back. I was disappointed the second day. By the third day, I was on to the next scheme.