Lauren Holt ’13 joins the cast of “Saturday Night Live”
Interviewed by Brittany Cameron • Illustration by Ash Mohan ’19
Q What’s it like being a new cast member?
When I first started, I wanted to do everything right. I’m a perfectionist to my very core. I put a lot of pressure on myself. But I had to snap out of that quickly because things move too fast there to dwell. I think (new cast members) Punkie, Andrew, and I were lucky, in a way, that we started during the pandemic. We’ve been learning the ropes while everyone else has been getting used to the new COVID protocols. So it’s kind of like we’re all newbies together.
What’s made it special is how lovely the cast and crew have been. So many people have gone out of their way to check in and make me feel welcome. I just can’t wait until we can all finally hang out! There’s only so much you can talk about six feet apart and with masks and shields on.
The writing and performing side is a whole different world as well. You must have a strong sense of self and be willing to put yourself out there. It’s a self-propelled system, and it’s up to you to make your voice heard. It’s daunting to pitch a silly idea you had in the shower to some of the greatest comedic minds in the world. But you’ve got to do it if you want to get your material on the air.
Q Have you helped write any sketches – or develop your characters?
I’ve helped write/written lots of sketches that haven’t made it onto the show. But I’m still new to the game, and I fully expect it to take a while before I can get things on air. I’m learning so much every week, though, and getting better at writing sketches for television. It’s different from writing for the stage, which was the bulk of my experience before SNL.
Q You joined the show last fall as they did six straight weeks, during the pandemic?
Those first six weeks were crazy. Not only was I adjusting to being on the show, but I was also adjusting to being around people again. I hadn’t been around anyone since the initial lockdown in March. So it was pretty wild being thrown into the deep end, especially when my heroes and idols were swimming around me. My social skills were rusty, and I was just hoping everyone didn’t think I was a total weirdo. Overall that first block of shows was incredible and overwhelming, and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.
Q So how did you come across this opportunity?
After a few years of taking improv classes and performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade (in Los Angeles), I had the opportunity to do the theater’s showcase for performers without agents or managers. From that performance, I landed some managers who had me put together a tape to send to SNL.
From that tape, I was invited to do an SNL showcase – essentially an audition to audition. That showcase was …dun dun dun … the very next day. About a month later, I found out I was moving on to the next round. They flew me to NYC to do the big audition, called a “screen-test,” on THE STAGE … you know the one.
Later that year, they flew me out to screen-test again with all-new material. On that trip, I met with some writers, producers, and Lorne. But it wasn’t the right time yet.
The following summer, I submitted another tape, did another showcase in LA, flew to NYC to test for the third time, and had more meetings.
They actually didn’t tell me the tape was for SNL when I was doing it, which I think was a good call because I probably would have fussed over it much more than I did.
Q Tell about those auditions in front of Lorne Michaels for SNL.
The first time was a blur. But I remember the feeling I had when I walked into Studio 8H and stepped on the stage that first time. I’ve never experienced anything like that moment. And I got a few laughs, so I felt great about that. The second time was less scary since I’d been there before, and I was excited to do some new characters and show what else I could do. The third time was different again because it felt like it was all or nothing.
Q What would be your ideal career over the next 20 years?
Well, I’ve been working towards this for my entire life. Getting on SNL is literally a dream come true for me. For now my focus is doing my best at the show, growing and learning as much as I can. Eventually I’d love to go on and make movies and television that make people happy. Comedy has been like a well for me providing joy, inspiration, and comfort whenever I need it. I want to pay that forward to as many people as I can for as long as possible. Strange but cool.
Q What is your favorite episode?
I really don’t have a favorite episode. Each one is so special, unique, and fun for different reasons. I laugh so much and I learn something new with each episode.
And my favorite sketch to be in didn’t make it on air. I really hope they bring it back so no spoilers, but it was very silly and involved throwing soaking wet bathing suits around. We could not stop laughing! I try not to break (laughing during sketches), but when other people start to giggle, I lose it.
Q What’s the most memorable moment so far?
Wait, one is not enough! Can I do three? One: Getting the call from Lorne that I was going to be on the show was the most memorable moment of this experience and my entire life. Two: Adele singing “Rolling in the Deep” about two inches from my face was earth-shatteringly cool. She is one of my favorite singers of all time, so that memory still gives me chills. And three: Getting to say my first “Live from New York.” I got to say it with Kate and Cecily, which was a dream come true because I’ve looked up to them since their first “Live from New York’s.” T’was truly an out of body experience.
Q When did you get the call?
In the fall of 2020, my number came up, and I got the call from Lorne. I had been dreaming of this day since the first time I got to stay up late and watch “Saturday Night Live” … live. I sobbed tears of joy and was on a plane to New York a couple of days later.
Q How was your transition from North Carolina to LA?
My transition to living in Los Angeles was challenging at first. I think for anyone moving to LA, the first year is the hardest. It takes a while to get used to the city, and a long time and a lot of work to make friends. You really have to go out of your way and try new things to meet people.
My one saving grace was my sister, Jamie Holt ’10, who is also a UNCG graduate. She was one of the reasons I went to UNCG. She was already living in LA, so we lived together for my first couple of years there. She introduced me to some of her friends and got me some production assistant jobs when I first arrived. Those gigs helped me pay for classes at The Upright Citizens Brigade and establish my LA network.
Q Been recognized on the street yet?
Ha! Not yet. Granted, anywhere I’ve gone I’ve been wearing masks and lots of layers for my first New York winter. But I’m looking forward to the first time it happens! It’ll probably be strange but cool.
Q Your intro at December’s online commencement was a hit! How did it feel coming back as the guest speaker, just seven years after earning your own degree in studio art?
I was honored and extremely nervous. I don’t often do videos like that, especially those meant to inspire the world’s next generation of greats! Talk about pressure. But I wanted them to know that I understand what it’s like to achieve something so significant, only to have it happen during this pandemic …
But I hope I got the point across that even though it was a very “2020” graduation, it was still a momentous occasion and an important achievement in the graduates’ lives. They should be very proud of themselves. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have attended UNCG and for the education I received there, and it was a joy to welcome the Class of 2020 to the alumni family.
Photography courtesy SNL and Lauren Holt; interviews conducted via email; some responses have been lightly edited or condensed for length.
Weekend Update: Mackenzie Taylor-Joy on Valentine’s Day – SNL
Relationship expert Mackenzie Taylor-Joy (Lauren Holt) stops by Weekend Update to discuss Valentine’s Day date ideas.
Latest News Stories