Live from Studio A: ‘SNL’ director speaks to Herbert School
Photo Courtesy of IMDB
Don Roy King, director of “Saturday Night Live” (“SNL”), offered career advice, shared anecdotes and fielded questions at a Lawrence Herbert School of Communication (LHSC) event on Monday, April 22, in Studio A.
As a former director of “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning,” along with additional experience directing “Survivor” and various sports broadcasts, King has won nine Emmy awards (eight Primetime and one Daytime) and five Directors Guild of America awards. As only one of four directors to ever man the “SNL” control room, King drew on a wealth of varied experiences in the television industry to offer a unique perspective to Hofstra students and faculty.
“I thought everything Don Roy King said was truly remarkable. To be able to hear from one of the most experienced live television directors in history is something not to be taken for granted,” said Leah Lane, a junior video/television major and one of the head writers for the LHSC sketch comedy show, “Thursday Nite Live.”
King opened his talk by discussing what he viewed as misconceptions about working in the television industry. King addressed several attitudes that he referred to as “fallacies” about finding entry-level jobs.
Among the topics addressed was the classic idea that getting a job in the television industry isn’t about what an applicant knows, but who they know.
“If your roommate’s mother is an executive producer, she might get that job sooner than you,” King said. “Well, that first big leap isn’t always the best leap. If she gets a job before she’s ready for that job, it can set her back – a big, giant leap backward.”
King’s advice was well received by students in attendance, especially those about to graduate and begin their careers.
“I think being in the TV program, we all get so caught up in getting the best connections or getting the best internships,” Lane said. “But he reminded us that if we work hard, we can land on our feet regardless of who we know.”
“His advice on patience really resonated with me,” said William Faber, a sophomore television production major. “It’s better to get the job once you’re ready for it, as getting your ‘big break’ before you have the skills to back it up can set you back all the way to where you started.”
King also stressed the importance of education throughout his career. “Broadcasting came easily to me; theater came easily to me; and when I had the chance to take electives, I took things like makeup for television or basketball for short guys,” he said. “But I wish I had learned a little bit more about economics and philosophy and psychology and pre-law. I would have been a much better producer and director and writer, for sure, if I had learned a little bit more about a lot of different things.”
King shared stories from his time at “SNL,” as well as an inside look at how each show comes together.
One thing he really stressed was the learning curve, specifically navigating the intense number of changes to the show throughout the week and even between Saturday’s 8 p.m. dress rehearsal and 11:30 p.m. air time.
“That first week’s tough,” King said. “I had done a lot of live television.” He also acknowledged the sheer effort from everyone involved – from the writers to the crew – required to get “SNL” on the air each week. “This is the only show of its type left, so people who are good at that come and stay ... it’s also because it is so much fun to do it.”
“I really appreciated Don Roy King coming to speak to all the students,” said Victoria Murphy, a junior television production and studies major. “I thought it was really beneficial to hear what it’s like to work in the professional world, and particularly in the comedy world on such a big platform like ‘SNL,’ and I think we all really took something from it.”