‘SNL’ director Don Roy King talks reality of TV industry at Berkeley Forum event

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Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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Don Roy King, director of “Saturday Night Live,” or “SNL,” and recipient of nine Emmy awards, spoke about what happens behind the scenes of “SNL” at a Berkeley Forum event Thursday evening.

More than 140 people came to Cheit Hall to hear King share the day-to-day challenges of putting together a show in less than a week as well as his experiences from working in the entertainment industry for his entire life.

The event was divided into two sections. In the first half, King gave a speech, and the second half was dedicated to a question and answer session.

Throughout the event, King had the audience laughing with his “SNL” anecdotes, sharing stories about various hosts and sketches that appeared on “SNL” over the years.

He also shared the realities of the casting process of “SNL.” Most of the casting process is primarily handled by a creative team that scouts out comedy and improv clubs, theaters and the internet for comedians, according to King.

“I feel for those kids — they get five minutes to put together their best material,” King said during his speech. “Their lives could change, they know that they have the opportunity to join that amazing list of former ‘SNL’ cast members if those five minutes click, and those five minutes don’t always click. In fact, they don’t often click.”

King has directed more hours of live network television than anyone else in the history of television, according to president of the Berkeley Forum Michael Chein.

King began by offering a few “caveats” about the realities of his job, citing the fact that he has no role in the writing or sketch selection.

“All of (the sketches) already have incisive political humor — wry, witty — and most of them have at least one fart joke,” King said during his speech. “And it’s my job to bring them to life.”

King also spoke on the realities of working in television, particularly on a fast-paced show such as “SNL,” when members asked for advice on how to break into the industry during the Q&A.

According to King, many writers “burn out fast” from the quick pace and rigor of “SNL.” He also discouraged against the NBC page program or the “SNL” intern program as a way to “get your foot in the door,” as people are unlikely to move forward.

This message struck a chord with campus sophomore Fischer Heimburger, who said he loved the event because of how “real” King was.

“His role as a director is really targeted on helping the screen come alive, and … he knows his little niche, and he knows what he’s doing,” Heimburger said. “And for me, who’s a little lost on what I’m doing with my life when it comes to academics, I’m ready to find my niche.”

Contact Mani Sandhu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ManiSandhu24.