Waiting for Scorsese

Article taken from The New Yorker.

One Saturday early this summer, five members of the cast of the sketch-comedy show “SCTV,” Canada’s answer to “Saturday Night Live,” which aired between 1976 and 1984, assembled at the London Hotel, in midtown. They were there to meet Martin Scorsese, who is making a documentary about “SCTV” for Netflix. The plan was for an on-camera conversation, to be conducted in the hotel’s penthouse suite, but when the cast arrived, at 7 p.m., Scorsese hadn’t yet shown up. They were escorted to a small sitting room, where they lounged on hotel-style furniture, drank wine, and picked at a spread of M&M’s and charcuterie.

“What are you thinkin’, honey?” Andrea Martin called over to Martin Short, who was stretched out on a sofa.

“Me?” Short said. “I can’t wait.” He rubbed his hands together impishly. “Martin Scorsese. He’s a fan.”

This was the first of two conversation scenes that Scorsese was planning to film. The second would take place five weeks later, before an audience at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre, and would be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. Andrew Alexander, “SCTV” ’s producer and the longtime C.E.O. of the improv-comedy theatre the Second City, suggested that the cast might actually have two onstage conversations with Kimmel, so that Scorsese could gather more material.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Martin said.

“I think it’s insane,” Short said, taking a sip of white wine.

“Will we be showing the same clips?” asked Dave Thomas, who was sitting on a tall chair by a window.

“Yes,” Catherine O’Hara said from the sofa, next to Short. “But in one take Eugene might have a story about a particular clip, and in the next Dave might have a story about it—”

“But here’s the problem,” Short said. “Dave will forget he told the story in the first one.” He did an impression of Thomas: “ ‘I’ve got something to say!’ And then we’ll all have to pretend we haven’t heard it before.”

Eugene Levy said he didn’t see the point of having two conversations in Toronto. “If that’s the whole show”—meaning the Netflix documentary—“onstage with Kimmel, I could see doing it twice, to cover your ass. But it’s not.”

“What is the show?” Martin asked, anxiously.

“We don’t know,” Short said. The room agreed that they did not know.

“Wait!” Short said. “If my plane goes down on the way home, it’s really going to be about my journey. Don’t you think?”

“Don’t joke like that!” Martin said.

“Yeah,” Levy murmured. “Don’t joke like that, Marty.”

“You’d sacrifice your life just to be heavy in the show?” O’Hara said.

Conversation turned to other times the cast had reunited onstage: Aspen, in 1999; Chicago, in 2009. “And in L.A. years ago,” Short said.

“Really?” Martin said. “I didn’t do any of those.”

“You were there!” O’Hara said. “At the Paley Center!”

“I remember literally nothing,” Martin said, slumping in her chair.

“Remember?” Thomas said. “We were walking in, and you were very excited, because they were honoring ‘SCTV,’ and then we saw a big billboard. Next night: ‘ “Wheel of Fortune” Will Be Honored.’ ”

“Rabbi, what do you think?” Short said, addressing Levy.

Levy furrowed his eyebrows and did an impression of a lugubrious rabbi. “What a place to lose a cow,” he said.

Short turned to Martin, who was primping her hair. “Aunt Andrea, you look fabulous!” he cried.

“Thank you, honey!”

A producer stuck his head in and announced that Scorsese was arriving in ten minutes. The chatter stopped.

After a beat, O’Hara spoke. “What do you think about ensembles?” she asked. “As one of the things to talk about tonight? Ensemble work, and do you still feel like you’re part of an ensemble? And were we ever an ensemble?”

“I like that,” Short said.

“Well, let’s talk about that kind of thing, then,” O’Hara said. “What else? Maybe satire? Did we do any satire?”

Martin, who had been in the bathroom, threw open the door and proposed another topic: “What is this show going to be?”

O’Hara’s eyes widened. “I think that’s dangerous territory,” she said.

“I think we should talk about anything,” Short said. “It’s a documentary. Let him shoot a billion hours, and maybe we’ll get five minutes out of tonight.”

“But there’s no harm in talking about what we could talk about,” O’Hara said.

Alexander attempted to reassure the group. “It’s just going to be a conversation,” he said.

“Yeah,” Levy said. “That’s all.”

“A conversation,” Short added. “With Martin Scorsese.”

Finally, word came that Scorsese was ready. The cast members put down their drinks and took an elevator to the fifty-third floor, where they found the director standing at an enormous window, looking out over the city. “So,” he said. “What are we going to talk about?”

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