Ever wondered why most TV shows, particularly comedy shows like Saturday Night Live (hereinafter ‘SNL’), do not start with the theme song or opening credits first? There is of course an important reason why the writers write an opening sequence that precedes the introduction or the monologue in the cast of SNL. What Is A Cold Open? There is a lot to know about such small but vital scenes, which are called cold opens.
A Cold open, also known as a teaser sequence, is a scene that is used to engage viewers in the story right from the first shot. In a television series, a cold open involves major plot details to keep the viewers hooked. In a live comedy show, such as Saturday Night Live, the cold open is a funny sequence involving the main characters, which gives the audience a good laugh before following up with the rest of the episode. It usually precedes the opening credits of the show. In Saturday Night Live, the cold open is a skit that is generally influenced by current events.
The skits in SNL always end with the show’s tagline: “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”. The writers work hard to make this specific scene more engaging as it is used to attract an audience, as even the ones who are not too familiar with the show can easily tune in have a laugh and continue watching the episode since all the skits are completely unrelated to each other and follow varied comedic genres meant to cater to a large demographic. These openings have been a major part of SNL over the years, it’s interesting how they’ve portrayed it.
Cold Open and SNL
The Cold openings in SNL are usually different from the ones seen in other comedy shows. These cold openings are longer and usually include all the comedians/cast members we see in SNL. These are prepared with all the current happenings of the United States and the rest of the world in mind, for example, the 2020 presidential debate was parodied by SNL. The opening sequences from the show are one of a kind as they are different from what follows. They do, however, keep the viewers hooked. It is one of the major things SNL is known for, a lot of Americans are interested in SNL’s take on the important events of the country. The viewers connect with the way writers manage to highlight all the funny details of an occasion as it usually includes every major detail, often picked out from mass media and social media, that was a subject of humor in the event concerned.
Satire plays a big part in the cold opens of SNL, and this makes it different from the other skits in the rest of the episodes which include a wide variety of sorts of comedy. Sometimes an SNL cold open can be a direct parody of an event from the weekly news, or it can satirize current events by showing a completely fictional story as played out by various actors in the current ongoing political debate, mostly focused on the happenings within the USA but sometimes also parodying much-publicized events from across the globe. Many of last season’s opening skits were a satire on the then-ongoing presidential election and change of presidency.
Then and Now
Over the 45 years of the show, the delivery of cold opens has undergone slight changes. Back in its primal days, the cold open sketch used to end with someone breaking character and yelling, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” on the microphone. From there, it evolved to a point where now all the characters of the skit come together and say the famous catchphrase.
Not Just Satires
SNL’s style of cold open doesn’t always restrict itself to parodying politics and current events. In these years spanning 4 and a half decades, the show has adopted different formats to present the cold open which include incorporating a song and dance sequence featuring the host accompanied by the musical guest(s) which might or might not be satirical. SNL recently celebrated Mother’s Day in a cold open, where the musical guest: Miley Cyrus was performing while the cast members were seen with their mothers, wishing them on the occasion.
What Makes SNL Cold Opens So Different?
It is called a “cold open” simply because it starts at the beginning of the show, even before the opening credits, presented as an opening sketch rather. This is very different from the general understanding of the term “cold open” seen in the context of its contemporary TV shows which mostly follow a storyline where the audience is hinted at some part of the plot by introducing one or more characters essential to the plot of the story in the cold opening. Also, it should be noted that SNL is amongst the first of its kind to present such kind of cold opens in the mid-1970s which were eventually reciprocated in the variety of shows that we see today including many talk shows.