Onstage & Backstage: More "SNL" Secrets! Why Did Christina Ricci Punch Ana Gasteyer in the Face?

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: More "SNL" Secrets! Why Did Christina Ricci Punch Ana Gasteyer in the Face? A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

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Many times I begin this column from a far away location; London, Tahiti, Nova Scotia, etc. Well, today I'm completely out of my comfort zone; yes, I'm in Queens. I'm basically one of those people who will take a plane anywhere, but if it's a subway or cab, I avoid going more than 4 blocks out of my neighborhood. It's a combination of laziness, snobbery and a strong non-stop desire to sit in my apartment and drink coffee while reading a book. So, a trek to Queens is a big deal for me (even though, PS, I was born in Queens and lived here until I was four.)

Why am I in a 718 area code, you ask? Because Juli has yet another audition for high school. If you don't know, high schools in New York City are like colleges anywhere else in the country. Every child has to apply and you're told to have 12 choices (!). Some schools are just based on grades and attendance, which, PS, would have been devastating for me as a kid since my grades tanked and my attendance was colored by my mother insisting I stay home from school for at least two days if I had a cold and then another three days to make sure I was definitely still not sick. The "specialized" high schools in New York require an audition, and Juli has been trekking all over the place with her two monologues (for drama programs), audition song (for music programs) and portfolio (for art programs). She's really good at all three, and if you look at the side of this column you'll see a self-portrait she did and one of her recent drawings. It's of someone named "Lana Del Ray." I've never heard of her, but not since "Tessie Tura" have I heard a name more appropriate for a verse in "You Gotta Get A Gimmick." Anyhoo, while Juli is auditioning, James and I are now at a nearby coffee place doing some writing.

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Speaking of writing, I've been really happy/proud that my new book "Seth's Broadway Diary" is selling great. Of course, Jewish-style, I shouldn't have felt so proud because it immediately led to being busted. Around two weeks ago, I was on a plane with WiFi, looking on Amazon, and saw that not only was my book number one in Broadway/Musicals, but it had also been chosen as an Amazon Editor Pick for "Best Books of 2014"! Ah! I was so excited! I told James and immediately posted it on Facebook, Twitter and wrote to my publishers and publicists! Yay! Then James emailed to say that he started researching and saw that "Broadway Nights" was also an Editor's Pick for Best Books of 2014... his point being it seemed odd that my book was a pick from 2014 considering it was released in 2008.

I decided to think the editors had A.D.D. like me and were just getting around to reading my 2008 book in 2014. Then he emailed me a photo of another Editor Pick from 2014 which was a random book about music theory called "The Chord Wheel: The Ultimate Guide for Musicians." While informative, it seemed less likely to make a Best Book of 2014 list and more likely to top a Best Substitute for Ambien list. Yes, James opened my eyes to the fact that every book on Amazon had a logo next to it saying "Best Books of 2014" because it was a link they wanted you to click to find out what actually was a Best Book of 2014. Suffice it to say, it was definitely not my book. This letdown was not only depressing but also mortifying because I had posted the news that my book was a "Best Book of 2014" within seconds on both of my Facebook pages, my Twitter feed and I sent a proud email to both my editors and my publicist! I then had to send an email retracting what I had just sent and I had to delete all the posts I put up including all the many comments underneath congratulating me. In conclusion, if you get good news that could possibly be false, stay away from a WiFi connection. Last Saturday, I went to the Pocono Community Theater and did a show with Ana Gasteyer which was, as usual, so much fun! I asked her about various "SNL" hosts and she told me that the best hosts are sports stars. I was miffed until she continued by saying they don't do that much in scenes so all the regular actors get to shine, they take direction very well because they don't have any experience and therefore trust all the people involved with the show and they're totally used to being under pressure so they're not nervous. The most nervous host she remembers is... Christina Ricci. Ana said that Christina didn't begin like most of us. She didn't start with plays in elementary school, junior high chorus concerts and big musicals in high school. No, she started as a professional at a young age and had never performed in front of a live audience! She therefore drank two (!) bottles of champagne before the show began.

Ana Gasteyer
Ana Gasteyer

Ana told us that there was a Sally Jessie Raphael sketch where Christina was supposed to be an out-of-control teenage girl who punches Ana in the nose. During the dress rehearsal, Christina's fake punch was really far away from Ana's face. Right before the show began, Lorne Michaels was giving notes and asked head writer Tina Fey, "Did you tell Christina about the punch?" Tina said they had spoken and Ana remembers briefly thinking "Hmm...maybe we should rehearse it…" Cut to, the show began and suddenly they were in the scene and Christina's punch was much closer to Ana's face. It was actually directly into Ana's nose!! I actually found the clip, and it happens around 2:00. Ana remembers the time when she walked in on Molly Shannon doubled over laughing; she was watching a video loop that someone at "SNL" had made of Christina punching her. All you saw over-and-over again was the punch and the impact making Ana's red Sally Jessie glasses flying all the way up and down.

I had Douglas Sills at my "Chatterbox" last Thursday and we started with his childhood and he mentioned growing up in a very Jewish household. It's always bizarre for me when he reminds me that he's "one of the tribe" because I look like Motel the Tailor and he looks like Fyedka. PS, I'm not the only one who thinks so; when he was first starting out, he tried out for a play all about Jews directed by Jack Gilford. Doug walked in and Jack told Doug he was in the wrong place. Doug assured him he knew what he was auditioning for. Jack then explained the show was about Jews. Doug told him that was perfect! Jack calmly and clearly told him the show featured only Jews. Doug told him he was indeed Jewish and could still sing his Bar Mitzvah parsha. Jack then told him whether he was Jewish or not, he "looked like white bread and should go down the hall and audition for a meatball commercial." Well, Doug's non-Jewish looks paid off when he got cast as the lead in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Let me say, he was brilliant in that show; amazing dramatic/romantic leading man acting, crazily high singing and so funny. He was nominated for a Tony Award opposite Brian Stokes Mitchell and Peter Friedman (Ragtime) and Alan Cumming (Cabaret). He did the Scarlet Pimpernel (watch his Tony Award performance here)  and right after the number, the leading actor award was read.

Douglas Sills
Douglas Sills Photo by Robb Johnston

He was in the wings in his full costume, panting up a storm from having just performed up a storm and, although he didn't hear who the winner was (Alan Cumming), he knew it wasn't him because no one went up to him. He collected himself after a while and got on the elevator. As the door closed and he took in the fact that he indeed didn't win, he realized someone else was in the elevator with him… Alan Cumming! Alan very kindly said that Doug's name was on the Tony and the committee had made a mistake. It was very sweet! Doug was then mortified when the elevator stopped and he stepped aside to let Alan out. Alan politeley informed him that he wasn't going to the dressing room area, he was going to the winner's room. And scene.

Doug is about to star at the York Theater for their Musicals in Mufti series where they're doing My Favorite Year. He's playing the Tim Curry part, Adam Chanler-Berat is Benjy Stone and my SiriusXM co-host Christine Pedi is playing his Mom! Get tix here. That was the very first Broadway show in which I played in the orchestra but the run was so short that I called it My Favorite Week. Anybody?

OK, have a great Thanksgiving and come see guest star in (cutie) James Snyder's new act at 54 Below! (Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)

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