Directing live television often requires split-second decisions. In the case of “Saturday Night Live,” director Don Roy King, the Pittsburgh native deals with actors who have improv skills -- but woe to anyone who breaks from the script.
“The overriding [rule] is that Lorne [executive producer Michaels], as a writer himself, believes this is a writers’ show, and what’s written comes first...
“When an actor breaks character, it might be funny. It might even be funnier. But it undermines the purpose and the thread, the flow line of the sketch.
“Lorne is very strongly opposed to those moments and discourages anyone from breaking.”
Still, there are exceptions.
Jimmy Fallon, notorious for cracking up on camera when he was a cast member, hosted the December 21 Christmas show. In a spoof of “Family Feud,” he played "The Big Bang Theory's" Sheldon, with musical guest Justin Timberlake doing the “Late Night” version of Jimmy Fallon.
Watching Timberlake-as-Fallon, Fallon began to laugh as he ducked behind a prop.
Despite the policy not to point a camera at such offense, Mr. Fallon’s good-natured reputation for giggling allowed him to get away with it. King ordered a quick shot of the real Fallon, bent over with laughter.
There also was a practical aspect to his decision: “If you’re sitting at home and hear the audience laughing... clearly laughing at Jimmy Fallon breaking up and sliding behind a lectern, then that’s the time you’ve got to break away from the sketch and let the people at home in on what’s happening in the room,” King said.
"It's based on my vision to put the home audience in the studio."
Emmy Award-winner King was honored Jan. 24 with a Directors Guild of America Award in the category of Variety/Talk/News/Sports -- Regularly Schedule Program. The win was for "SNL" with Justin Timberlake as host. He will be speaking Feb. 5 at the University of Pittsburgh's Frick Fine Arts building as part of the Steeltown Spotlight Series.