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Behind SNL’s Camera

Decades ago, Saturday Night Live became a phenomenon and broke new ground as the only regularly scheduled show aired live. According to Jan Kasoff , it is the way television should be. As an NBC cameraman for 36 years and specifically a Saturday Night Live cameraman for 26, he knows what he is talking about. On Monday, Feb. 21, Rollins had the pleasure of hosting Kasoff as he spoke to fans about the show and people simply interested in television alike.

Kasoff knew want he wanted to do since he was eight years old. He was always interested in cinematography and had his first experience sitting in on Perry Como rehearsals. He eventually went to New York University and started working for NBC in 1965, where he filmed various game shows, soap operas, the Olympics and NBC Nightly. During that time only the “Big Three” networks reigned, with little competition and variety in programming. On Saturday nights there was especially little to choose from, as the networks thought most people would not be around to watch TV.

This changed with the creation of Saturday Night Live, and Kasoff was involved from the beginning. He said they broadcast live because they loved “the immediacy, and that anything can happen.” Kasoff also claimed there was so much disorganization in the first episode that it almost did not get aired He described typical preparation for SNL as “organized chaos,” with fighting right before, usually on what could be said on air, as SNL has always dared to push the envelope.

He recalled some of the most memorable moments as when Sinead O’Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope (much to the surprise of the whole SNL crew) and when Paul McCartney was a musical guest and played an exclusive hour of Beatles songs for the crew. He also noted that the crew became very close with the cast, particularly during the first season.

During his presentation, Kasoff shared a couple of video clips showing behind the scenes footage of the show. The audience viewed the production behind an opening sketch, a Rod Stewart musical performance, and a “subjective camera” scene with Christopher Walken (The Continental Man) where the camera represents the eyes of another person.

When asked how the show has changed most since he worked on SNL, Kasoff answered that the censorship rules have dramatically lessened (although they are still there), and the sense of humor and type of music has changed; the show appeals to a different generation.

While Kasoff agreed that the entertainment business is very difficult to get into, he would never discourage someone from trying because “the jobs are there.” The audience was fascinated with all the stories and information Kasoff had to offer.

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