Somerville Gets Its Own ‘SNL’

SNLPhotos courtesy of Kenny Gray.

The opening lines of the first-ever “Somerville Night Live” give viewers a good idea of what to expect from the makeshift sketch comedy show that borrows the format of its famous predecessor.

“Folks, welcome to alt-comedy. This is what it’s all about—crafting material all through the night, without any institutional support, or even legality. Setting up a bunch of folding chairs, in some guy’s basement, next to a bridge.”

The “SNL” format—crafting, memorizing, and rehearsing a show in the span of a week—works well with the lifestyle of local comedians, Head Producer Kenny Gray explains. Each week of “Somerville Night Live” offers a brand new set of sketches and a new cast. The time commitment is intense but temporary, and gives comedians the chance to write and perform sketches in a metro area that typically focuses on stand-up and improv.

Gray is an MBA student at Boston University, and hopes to work full-time making and marketing art and comedy. He wanted to give Greater Boston a chance at a “Saturday Night Live”-style show, letting comedians try their hand at something they’d usually have to move to a comedy hub like New York or Los Angeles to do.

“This is offering a really intense and really professional sketch option,” Gray says. “It gives them the chance, if they aren’t looking to be professional comedians but they’re very talented, and they just love doing this, the chance to do something like ‘SNL’ in their hometown.”

Gray was pushed to find creative space in Union Square after losing his Cambridge studio when the EMF building closed. Having established a 2,000-square-foot “creative playground” in Union dubbed Mess + Finesse, Gray reached out to friends he’d made at ImprovBoston to see whether they’d want to help put on a show in the space.

Monday is pitch day for “Somerville Night Live,” and the cast writes the sketches on Tuesday. Wednesday’s a table read, and rehearsals happen Thursday and Friday. On Saturday there’s a dress rehearsal before the nighttime show.

With different writers in each show and a different cast each week, Gray expects the style of humor to vary, but says that overall “Somerville Night Live” showcases alternative comedy.

“It’s a lot of big characters, absurd premises, that area of comedy,” Gray says. “Alternative, modern comedy. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s young, it’s absurd. Some of it’s very smart, some of it’s very dumb.”

The first show of “Somerville Night Live” ran on July 14, and two more shows are scheduled for July 21 and 28 from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Due to space limitations—and to further emulate “SNL”—the show itself isn’t open to the public, but livestreams of the shows, and recordings afterward, will be up on the Mess + Finesse Vimeo page.

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