As an avid Saturday Night Live (SNL) watcher, the news that comedian Melissa Villaseñor was holding a virtual show for UR thrilled me. The fourth out of five performances in a series hosted by Looped, the free student event was a live Q&A (moderated by Madison from East Tennessee State University and Victoria from Wilkes University) sprinkled with a few surprises.
The UR community was treated to an hour of fun last Wednesday, Feb. 24. Villaseñor kicked off the evening by describing the inner workings of SNL and walking the audience through a typical week in her shoes. She revealed that on Mondays, each cast member receives the opportunity to pitch a sketch idea to that week’s host, which serves the purpose of both calming the host’s nerves and getting brain juices flowing for the upcoming episode.
Hearing Villaseñor speak helped me enter into the behind-the-scenes world of SNL and learn more about the humans behind the amusing characters that grace my TV screen for an hour and a half every week. I arrived at the conclusion that Villaseñor and I are not all that different from each other — we both admire Nick Jonas (according to Villaseñor, “He’s really buff.”), we both focus on what brings us joy,and we both keep things simple. Her pre-show ritual demonstrates this — use the restroom, apply Aquaphor to avoid chapped lips, drink water, and do a happy dance in her chair.
Villaseñor’s down-to-earth personality was evidence that she doesn’t let fame rob her of her humanity. When speaking about her enjoyment of doing voiceover work in recording booths, Villaseñor said, “You don’t have to doll up […] I’m not saying I go in there looking like a slob […] but you can eat a cookie in there.” Villaseñor’s warm and bubbly personality made her feel more like a friend than an authority figure. She kept the conversation lighthearted by joking about her cat, Ella, playing (and pooping) in the background, and by discussing her lack of talent in the past and growth to her current skill level.
Throughout the night, viewers were treated to some of Villaseñor’s signature impressions: Dolly Parton, Björk, Lily Tomlin, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Pokémon’s Ash Ketchum, and Owen Wilson, the last of which is her personal favorite. The accuracy of these bits was impressive; a student who initially could not remember who Lily Tomlin was recalled the actress upon hearing Villaseñor’s voice alone.
Though advertised by Looped as a “LIVE humorous Q&A,” Villaseñor didn’t hesitate to take on a more serious tone when she was offering advice to the students about their own journeys, both comedy-related and not. Answering a question about her dream projects, she said, “I’m a firm believer in affirmations, asking out loud, closing your eyes and imagining it happening…that’s real stuff.” She personally pictured herself on SNL and manifested that dream into a reality, recommending that students do the same with our goals.
Villaseñor is currently working on a book and will soon be hosting the Independent Spirit Awards. She also hopes to someday receive enough vocal training to sing the National Anthem at a Los Angeles Dodgers game, Super Bowl, or Presidential Inauguration.
Observing such a casual conversation with a major household name humanized success and made it appear more attainable, and the event offered a welcome break from studying, constituting an escape into the world of comedy for an hour. Villaseñor concluded the evening with the parody she wrote of Jennifer Lopez’s song “Waiting for Tonight”: “Waiting Fart Tonight,” which nicely summed up the tone of the evening: light, funny, relatable, and filled with heart.