I came upon the SNL: The Experience purely by accident. I was walking along North State Street when I spotted the huge banner on a building advertising SNL: The Experience inside. Then I remembered hearing about the opening at the Museum Of Broadcast Communications (360 N. State Street) at the corner of Kinzie and North State Street some weeks before when I was listening to WGN on the radio in my mail vehicle delivering mail. When I heard about this I made a mental note that the next time I was in Chicago, I had to see this. Only to (as in typical midlife fashion) forget about it until I was lucky enough to be walking past!
Since I was by myself and had already toured the Driehaus Museum and had my Nutella crepe at the Nutella Cafe, (two things on my must do list) I crossed the street and paid my fee ($25) and promptly joined another group of fans (it was a timed group entry) for the tour.
I don’t know about you, but when Saturday Night Live began in the 70’s I was a teenager who became hooked watching this off the wall, show every Saturday night. It was funny, controversial, and appealed to me in ways no show did at the time. Not everyone I knew found it funny, but I didn’t care. I guess at the time I had zero social life, cause for years I sat home on Saturday nights watching the quirky cast in skits that would later become classics. Watching Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd as “Two Wild and Crazy Guys” and “Rosannerosannadanna” kept me in stitches although I tried not to laugh too hard for fear of waking my parents asleep in the next room.
Throughout the years I watched on and off. My favorite years were the beginning and then during the “Church Lady” and “Wayne’s World” era.
The tour began with a short introductory video. Once inside, you could wander and stay in any section as long as you wanted. This was good, then you could take as little or as much time as you wanted as there were MANY artifacts and things to see.
Next came the room with informative panels, video screens, and Lorne Michael’s desk from his first office at 30 Rock. We learned about where and how it all began in 1975. The whole experience goes in chronological order that takes you through the whole weeks process of how the show comes together ending with the live show Saturday night.
So each set of roomsin SNL: The Experience is dedicated to a day and process during the week. As a viewer, I never thought about all the work that goes into the show and I had no idea how they can come up with ideas, write sketches, build sets, get costumes ready, work with the host and musical guests, and rehearse all in only a weeks time. Learning about each step, I realized it requires a well oiled and time tested machine. Both of which Lorne Michaels, the writers, regulars, and all others behind the scenes obviously excel at.
What I most enjoyed about the SNL: The Experience was the hundreds of items of memorabilia and interactive things. How many chances will you get to take a selfie on the Wayne’s World actual basement couch? How about the Jeopardy set? As a fan, seeing the Church Lady’s costume and Steve Marten’s Kig Tut get-up was so much fun! How about the Bass-O-Matic blender, or the original Land Shark. How about from those more recent sketches, the Dick In A Box costumes? Plus all along in the tour you can watch those classic sketches that were so much apart of my teenage years. It’s fun stuff!
After the first level, you ride an elevator to go up to the next level. The last room features a huge control panel where you can see, listen, and be apart of the behind the scenes coordination in the control room. It was very hot in this room and I had to shed a couple of layers. After that, you entered the final room where you were able to actually watch a short version of the actual show featuring a huge video screen with Tina Fey as the host and a replica set of SNL’s home studio 8H. There were 3 actual stage set-ups. I won’t give too much away, but I will say, I thoroughly enjoyed the snippet of past musical guests since U2 was among them!
Also apart of this huge room the Weekend Update desk was available for the opportunity to get your photo taken with your favorite regular imposed in the photo. If I wouldn’t have been by myself, I would have been all over doing this!
And of course there was a nice sized gift shop with all kinds of SNL things. ornaments, book marks, bobble heads, and of course, apparel. I couldn’t resist and bought myself a t-shirt.
The cost to enter was $25, and as I said, you can spend as much time as you’d like (I spent about 2 1/2 hours inside) and with over 500 items such as original sets, authentic artifacts, and props, any SNL fan past and/or present will find it a fun and unique experience.
Museum of Broadcast Communications
360 North State Street Chicago
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