A Look Inside the Creative Process of FNL

Pali’s Friday Night Live (FNL) members gathered in Gilbert Hall to prepare for their annual Valentine’s Day Show on Feb. 10th. Laughter filled the room as members prepared sets, tried on glittery costumes and basketball jerseys backstage and rehearsed their lines.

Inspired by the late-night comedy showcase Saturday Night Live (SNL), FNL is a student-run comedy club that brings a variety of writers, actors and cinematographers together to create comedy shows for the Pali community. Led by co-presidents Toby Lehr and Max Cohen, FNL has four themed shows every year which display students’ comedic writing and acting abilities. 

Past FNL themes include the holiday season, Earth Day and Valentine’s Day. To wrap up the school year, FNL ends with a “Best of FNL” show, which consists of sketches that members voted the best of the year.  

Participants are encouraged to write sketches year round in order to prepare for upcoming shows.

FNL Vice President Sammy White, a junior, tries to frequently write sketches.

“I just try to write as much stuff as possible,” White said. “I don’t finish all of [the sketches]. Some of them I’ll just stop halfway. But the ones that I think are working, I’ll pay more attention to, and then I’ll share them with Max and Toby and all those guys, and read them in a meeting and try to get feedback.”

Sketches are then submitted to the presidents, who further review them with Theater and Drama teacher Nancy Fracchiolla. During their Thursday weekly meetings in Gilbert Hall, FNL members read through potential sketches for the show and provided the writers with feedback. 

According to White, the theme of the show is incorporated into some of the show’s sketches. 

“For something like Valentine’s Day, we might have a few themed sketches that have to do with either love or Valentine’s Day,” White said. “But, not every sketch is gonna pertain to the theme.” 

Members begin preparing for upcoming FNL shows four to five weeks in advance. 

“We spend a lot of time at those Thursday lunch meetings, pitching and reading different sketches,”  Fracchiolla said. “We’ll get on average about 15 to 20 sketches per show. Of those, we’ll put about 10 to 12 in rewrite, which is another one- to two-week process. And then we cut those sketches down to about eight for the show.”

Each FNL show has eight sketches, two digital shorts and ends with a Weekend Update, similar to the format of SNL shows. Auditions are held after seventh period and consist of actors reading a selected script twice and playing each character. 

“I feel like if someone has written a sketch, I want to give them the opportunity to play whatever part they want to play in the sketch they wrote,” Fracchiolla said.

Leading up to the show, Fracchiolla explained that she works with the club presidents to select what sketches will be performed live or filmed as a digital short.

About a week prior to the show, preparation ramps up as rehearsals are held after seventh period and over the weekend, digital shorts are filmed and sketches are continuously rewritten. 

Rehearsals are held numerous times before the show and entail one-hour sessions of blocking and memorizing lines. The short amount of time forces actors to quickly adjust to their characters.

“It’s a very fast turnaround,” Fracchiolla added. “Actors have about a week from the day they’re cast to memorize [lines]. And there’s always rewrites coming at them, sometimes up to the day of the show, so it can be a lot of pressure.”

Although the environment can get stressful, FNL actress Maddy Suddelson, a senior, said that she enjoys the time spent preparing for the show. 

“It’s really fun,” Suddleson said. “We all get super close. During show week, the library becomes our dressing room, so we’re all just in there, and we’re hanging out, we’re talking and I’ve gotten really close with a lot of people just by a lot of sitting around while other people are rehearsing.” 

Suddleson said that she strives to implement her own comedic voice into the characters she plays in order to make the sketches more entertaining.  

“There’s something called the ‘world of a play,’ which is the environment that your character is in,” Suddleson said. “I kind of think about, OK, who is this character? What is the scenario and how can I make it funny, whether it’s just my reaction to something or a face I make or the way that I say a line.” 

White echoes Suddleson’s thoughts on the rehearsal process. 

“It’s fun, but it’s intense,” White said. “A lot of people are bouncing around a lot of jokes, especially as it gets closer to the show and we’re doing rewrites. And then obviously, when you get close to the shows, the environment gets really electric, and that’s really fun.” 

On the day of the show, FNL has two performances with two musical guest intermissions in each show.

For this year’s February Show, Gilbert Hall was decorated with red and pink hearts to set the love scene. Musical guests Healy H and Anna Pados, seniors, sang “Something Stupid” by Frank Sinatra and “This Love” by Maroon 5. 

“Breakfast!”, a sketch about a family who gets really excited about breakfast, and “Coach of the Year,” regarding a brutally honest girl’s basketball coach, were popular sketches among the audience, according to White.

White said that out of all of the sketches, he doesn’t have any favorites.

“I love them all equally,” he added. “That’s my lame, milquetoast answer.”

Other sketches performed at the February Show were “Bad Cheater,” a self-explanatory sketch with a twist at the end, and “Paul,” which was about an odd roommate who can’t take a hint. The “Fragrance” digital short advertising perfumes for “all the lovers out there” also earned many laughs from the audience.

Overall, White thinks that the February Show was a success, with both shows selling out.

“We got some laughs, and I think that most of the sketches translated pretty well,” White said.

White added that with every show there are some obstacles to overcome, but the cast and crew always end up pulling it together. He also said that he believes that there is always room for improvement.

“I think we can always be a little funnier than the last time, and that’s what we strive towards,” White added.

While FNL pertains more to actors and sketch writers, the comedy club is welcome to everyone.

“If you’re interested in acting and comedy, absolutely give it a try,” Suddleson said. “Even if you just want to hop on the stage crew, there’s so much you can do that it’s definitely worth a shot looking into.”