If you think 11:30 p.m. is way too late for Saturday night sketch comedy to start, you're in luck.
Fox's Party Over Here premieres this Saturday, and it's going to make the wait for Saturday Night Live just a little bit shorter by airing at 11 p.m., instead of 11:30. You're welcome, people with no patience!
The half-hour sketch show comes from executive producers Paul Scheer and The Lonely Island, a.k.a. the guys who revolutionized SNL's digital shorts. It stars comedians Nicole Byer, Allison Rich, and Jessica McKenna in a combination of recorded video sketches and live audience bits.
While Party Over Here may share the night with TV's longest-running sketch show, it's nothing like Saturday Night Live, which is totally on purpose.
"[Sketch comedy] is always evolving, especially stage sketch comedy," Scheer explained to reporters during a rehearsal. "[Party Over Here] is always to the audience, it's including the audience. There's no fourth wall sketches, so it's not like oh, we're in a kitchen. It's not that SNL style."
Even the audience itself is created specifically for the show.
"What we wanted to do was shoot in a real space. This is a real hotel and not a set, and we wanted to get the audience to have drinks before and come into this small little audience, not like people who were just off the bus like, we're from Kansas, we want to see a live show," he continued. "To me, it was about creating the audience we see in LA and New York and Chicago of these real comedy shows."
Many of the people involved, including the cast, studied at comedy and improv schools like UCB, and the show does feel like something you might see at a small comedy club on a Saturday night, as opposed to what you might normally think of in terms of sketch comedy on network TV.
The sketches cover pretty much anything you can think of: ghost sex, yogurt sex, pizza sex, animal sex, sex on The Bachelorette, transvaginal mesh, Uber but for planes, and even the inconvenience of voting. The show can do pretty much anything it wants—as long as nobody drops an F bomb or gets too close to simulating actual sex.
"I wouldn't say it was specifically a mandate," Andy Samberg said when asked about the edgy or "progressive" nature of some of the sketches. "I kinda feel like we were just like, these are really funny comedians, and these are really funny writers. We kinda just trust that momentum."
"I think because the show has no ultimate structure, like we don't have to worry about talking about what's going on that week, we can do really evergreen stuff so it allows the writers to really go in all different directions," added Scheer. "There's TV parodies, there's a thing about suffragettes. It's just kind of whatever they were finding funny."
The cast consists of three comedians who also happen to be women, though that casting decision wasn't entirely intentional. Producers saw both women and men when they were casting, but not only did Rich, McKenna, Byer stand out, but the show was being put together around the time that the all-male Vanity Fair feature about late night hosts was released, so Party Over Here was an opportunity to bring something to late night that did not involve dudes in suits.
"If we're going to do something, let's do something different," Scheer said. "Let's have it led by three amazing female comedians, but let's not make that the thing."
Rich, McKenna, and Byer had all worked together at UCB, so they feel like a ready-made sketch group.
"I really do respond to when you feel like people now each other, there's a vibe on set, the cast are clearly friends with each other," Jorma Taccone said. "I feel like we ended up picking three people who actually do know each other and who work really well together."
The show does have an entire writing staff, but the cast was also encouraged to bring their own stuff to the table.
"They said, bring characters, bring impressions, whatever you want to do," said Byer. "There will never be another time in my career unless I blow the f--k up where someone will be like, do whatever you want!"
Since the Lonely Island is involved, you can definitely expect some musical sketches, often coming from Jess McKenna, who is one half of the musical comedy duo The Zach and the Jess.
While their influence is definitely present, one thing you won't be seeing much of is The Lonely Island themselves. They are mostly behind the scenes for this project, though they will briefly appear once or twice, according to Samberg.
"We read everything, we watch everything, we give our thoughts, and we admire the talent of the people who are working harder on it than us," he said of their involvement.
As for the SNL connection, getting Lorne Michaels' approval was the first thing the guys had to do before saying yes to the timeslot that Fox was offering them, so the very first thing they did was get him on the phone.
"We wanted to be asked back. That's still our home and our family. We wanted to do something new and exciting and fun, but we didn't want there to be any conflict," Samberg said of getting Lorne's blessing. "In fairness it was like during a session where he was blessing a lot of stuff. Like he was blessing some wine for us, he was blessing some bread, and then we were like, what about this sketch show?"
Needless to say, Lorne approved.
You can watch three of the show's sketches above, and then you can watch the Party Over Here premiere Saturday at 11 p.m. on Fox.