Saturday, April 21, 2012

Live, From New York

I've been watching Saturday Night Live every week since I was in high school, minus a hiatus in college when I didn't have a VCR or DVR and actually had things to do on Saturday nights.  I have to completely disagree with everyone who says that it's not that funny anymore (and for some reason, lots of people say that without actually watching it).  I think the cast in recent years has been incredible (hello?!  Tina?!  Jimmy?!  Amy?!) and my favorites on the current cast are the fabulous Kristen Wigg, the adorable Seth Meyers, and my future husband, Andy Samberg (seriously, if anyone knows how to set this up, I'm down).  Every August, you can (and should) enter the Saturday Night Live lottery because SNL is such an essential NYC experience.  Somehow the odds were in our favor this year and Aubrey and I went to see the dress rehearsal last week.  

The week we went, Josh Brolin was hosting and Gotye was the musical guest.  I had to google both these guys, Josh is an actor in No Country for Old Men, True Grit, and the new MIB movie.  Gotye delivered a very poignant performance of his song, "Somebody That I Used To Know":

Jason Sudeikis came out in the beginning of the show and talked to us all about how the show was going to work and how to get out in case the studio caught on fire.  He suggested if that happened to start grabbing things off the wall since studio 8H is a historical place at this point.  He also showed us the television screens everywhere and said that with these, everyone had a good seat in the house, even though our seats (as he pointed to us) were actually not that good.  Aubrey and I were on the side, but we were more toward the middle of the side, so I didn't think our seats were that bad, but of course we couldn't see everything.  But they film skits on all sides of the studio so we definitely could see some of them pretty well.

The dress rehearsal is at 8 pm and is about a half hour longer than the actual show because they are trying out some extra skits to see what works with the audience.  I think because of this, it is actually cooler to go to the dress rehearsal than the live show, unless you are lucky enough to sit in the front area which sometimes get shown on tv, because everyone needs to get famous somehow.  It also is really neat to watch the live episode and see what they changed or what was cut.

For example, some things that changed from the dress rehearsal to the live show:
  • The skits were in a different order and of course some specific jokes were changed or perfected, just by rearranging the words or changing the way the actor said it - I thought it was interesting that even some of the prerecorded clips were edited further before the live show.
  • On Weekend Update, Andy was a guest as a high school bully to discuss the movie "Bully" - this part was cut.
  • Another part on Weekend Update that was different was the singers Garth and Kat (Fred Armisen & Kristen), who are never prepared and make up songs on the spot and sing them together - since the actors really are making them up on the spot too, this part changed.  Sidenote - The whole next day, Aubrey and I pretended to talk like that - trying to talk at the same time - and it was ridiculously hilarious to the two of us and perhaps no one else.
  • One of the skits which was actually in an odd corner of the stage so that none of the audience could see it was cut - Kristen and Josh were wedding singers and mostly just singing about the salads that were being passed out.
  • The last skit they did was a really unfunny one where three people were out to eat and one was babbling on about how he used to work with Mickey Rourke and it turned out that the other people were parents interviewing for a babysitter - it totally didn't work so that was cut as well.
  • A skit about a few guys in the southwest talking about the crazy stuff someone could hypothetically do in NYC (like dance in a dress on the top of the Empire State Building if they wanted to) was cut.
  • A prerecorded skit about an Underground Festival for Arbor Day was cut.
  • In one skit about a high school prom, in the dress rehearsal, one character was pregnant and not having a good time, but in the live show this character wasn't pregnant and was happy to be partying at the prom.
I've been to The Daily Show and to Letterman, but this show was an entirely different production.  It's really amazing to watch them put up and take down each different set and watch the camera guys and the cue card people.  It's all really impressive, especially considering how much changes in the hour and a half between the rehearsal and the live show.

If you can't get lucky with the lottery, there also is an opportunity to get standby tickets.  I don't know exactly what it entails, but it seems as long as you get to the NBC studio early enough Saturday morning, you can get in pretty easily.  I'm basing this on eavesdropping as this woman nearby said she had tried and succeeded six times in the standby line.  She's just somebody that I...used to know.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Big Wheel Keep on Turning

There are three main things that I’m really proud of that I’ve done for myself since moving to the city.  1 is this blog.  2 is the guitar lessons I took last year (I promise to pick up my guitar again up soon!).  3 is the pottery classes I’ve been taking.  Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, I’ve just realized all of these deal with creativity which is probably hinting at something.  Two years ago, when I was still commuting from J Wowww’s & Snooki’s new digs of Jersey City, I signed up for a 10-week pottery class in Hell’s Kitchen at Mud, Sweat and Tears.  I really loved it, but I didn’t quite ‘master’ it.  Something about it didn’t click completely.  Also, it took about an hour for me to get home from class so I would pack up a little early and only went into the studio for ‘workshop’ time a few times over the weekend.  I didn’t take the second course of classes because I decided to start playing soccer in Hoboken which was not as good a decision as expanding my creativity.  I was quite the soccer star as an 11-year-old, but my ankle is still messed up, two years later from that last season.

I always promised myself that I would return to the studio, especially when I moved just a few blocks away a year and a half ago.  I had no excuse - if I could do this class when I lived an hour away from the studio, I could absolutely take this class when I live a ten-minute walk from it.  When I finally signed up, I did so for the beginner’s course again since it had been a while since my last class and since I hadn’t officially mastered it, I figured I could use the extra practice.  This time around, my lovely roomie, Nicole, decided to take the course with me.  Our class was on Thursdays and we made sure to take advantage of the workshop time and went in on Friday nights, over the weekends, and I even visited on a Wednesday when I had taken the day off from work.

There is just something really relaxing about pottery.  When you are in the studio and on the wheel, you think of nothing else in life but that big hunk of clay that you are going to try and make into something awesome.  And sure, just as in anything, there are some frustrating moments, but you can recover from them pretty quickly and just start with another piece of clay if all goes completely wrong.

Some parts of the process are definitely easier / more fun than others.  One of the things that Nicole and I seem to dread each time is actually the first step, called wedging, in which you have to take a lump of clay and throw it down hard on a canvas about a thousand times to make it the same consistency all the way through and remove air bubbles.  I mostly dislike it because, despite my pilates classes I've been taking all year, I'm not very strong and sometimes the clay is just way too rough.  But, if you have clay that is not wedged properly, it won't do what you want it to when it's on the wheel.

After wedging the clay, you are ready to put it on the wheel and get to work.  The first step on the wheel is to make sure you have the clay on the wheel evenly so that your piece is not all wobbly and misshapen and can be consistent all the way around.  You have to work the clay up from the bottom, bring it up really tall, and then push it down really firmly.  This step is called centering and is really hard to master.  I think this was the main reason I would not have received an A two years ago when I took this class.  It finally clicked for me though one Friday night when Nicole and I were in the studio.  I suddenly was able to put everything together at once: having my foot down on the floor, bracing my arms, and moving my hands in just the right way.  I was all set. 

The next step is definitely fun, when you are actually shaping the piece into what you want it to be and where you are really digging your hands in the clay.  In the beginner's class, we learned how to do cylinder shapes, bowls, plates, and pitchers.  There are lots of general steps to follow, for example, when making cylinders, bowl, and pitchers, you need to drop a hole, compress the floor, lift the walls and repair the rim, but there is also a lot of freedom with the pieces.  You can lift as high as you'd like, you can tilt your body while you are lifting for a wider piece, and you can add curves in different directions.  And, let me tell you, at least at this stage in my progress, nothing ever ends up looking how I actually envision it.  I just let the clay do what it wants.  If you force the clay to do something it doesn't want to, it won't do it well.  As my friends from home and I used to say, Just Let It Happen.

Once the piece gets a chance to dry for a little bit, it is on to trimming.  We usually trim our pieces a week after we throw them on the wheel.  A lot of people in my class didn't like trimming, but I actually do really enjoy it.  It's one of the things I "get" and I enjoy being able to make my pieces suddenly look a lot better just by putting them on the wheel upside-down and carving away at them.  

Case-in-point, this bowl, nothing special:

But with a little bit of trimming, it looks completely different:

After trimming, the pieces are fired in the kiln and then it is ready to glaze them.  Some of my glazed pieces didn't turn out exactly how I wanted them to (one of my bowls that I wanted green all the way through is not a consistent color green - probably because I didn't mix it well enough) and I experimented with different glazing techniques, but now I think I have it down to get what I want.

If you want to do pottery (and you should), I definitely recommend Mud, Sweat and Tears with all my heart.  The studio is a good size, everyone who works there is just lovely, and the instructors have incredible patience and will work with you through all of your problems.  Nicole and I just started the "Advanced Beginners" class yesterday where we will perfect our skills and learn how to work with a lot more clay and bigger bowls and plates, but also learn new projects like casserole bowls and lids, mirror frames, and vases.  There will also be a students show in the studio this summer where we can show off our pieces, which I am looking forward to.  Until then, here are some more pictures of my masterpieces:

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