Saturday Night Live may be known for its hilarious timeless sketches, iconic SNL cast ensembles, and long-running structure, but many don’t always highlight the impressive production design and VFX work that make the entire show come together within a week’s time. The award-winning crew is tireless, working day in and day out to make the dreams of comedy writers a reality, and create the best show possible. Some sketches are more complex than others, and SNL production designer Andrea Purcigliotti recently opened up about some of the most involved skits. She singled out the 2022 “A Christmas Carol” sketch with Martin Short and Steve Martin, two of SNL‘s Season 48 hosts, and explained why one Mikey Day shot was particularly tricky.
How The “Christmas Carol” Sketch Came To Be
The Christmas Carol sketch in question is essentially a gory, Monty Python-esque bit that depicts what would happen if Ebenezer Scrooge’s attempt at good deeds went terribly wrong. Every attempt at charity leads to a bloodbath, and is a horror-comedy take on the classic Charles Dickens tale. Purcigliotti told Variety that the sketch had been floating around Studio 8H for a while, but was always squashed because of how involved the sketch was. It wasn’t until the endlessly hilarious Short and Martin, some of the best SNL hosts ever, led the Christmas episode in 2022 that the production designer realized that she could repurpose one of her previous sets for the sketch. Then, they were finally able to make it happen.
The sketch begins with Short, as Scrooge, alongside Martin, as Christmas Present, on a window balcony tossing coins to needy people on the street. The coins lead to lots of violence, which required lots of work from the VFX team. To make the sketch a memorable success, multiple different departments were required to work in tandem. Purcigliotti said:
The balcony turned out great, but there was still work to be done with the VFX department to make the fallout from the coins appear as over-the-top as possible. Purcigliotti continued:
This ended up working perfectly, and you can hardly tell that the people falling are dummies. Clearly making something so intricate means an “all hands on deck” approach from creatives.
Why Mikey Day’s “Head” Could Only Be Kicked Off Once
The climax of the sketch comes when Mikey Day’s head gets kicked off by a horse in the sketch. Because so many elements were at play, choreographed just so all the horror and gore could happen on queue, this moment could only be pulled off once. The sketch is literally a massacre, and cleaning up the damage to be able to shoot an effect over and over was not possible. Therefore, the crew only had one chance to get the “decapitation” effect perfectly. As Purcigliotti explained:
This is a lot of pressure from both the cast and the crew to be on their A-game and get shot in one take. Thankfully, they were able to pull it off, and the moment is perfectly positioned, and disgustingly hilarious. Never underestimate the SNL crew’s ability to get things done even with heavy time constraints. It’s why the legacy of the show is so strong, and why it’s been able to continue to innovate even after 40+ years on the air. The sketch turned out great, and those with a strong stomach can check it out below:
You can revisit this particular episode, and other historic episodes of Saturday Night Live now with a Peacock subscription. Fans of Martin Short and Steve Martin can see the duo now on the third season of their comedy series, Only Murders in the Building, which is available to stream with a Hulu subscription.