Putting together an episode of Saturday Night Live involves a six day work week involving the host, cast, writers, and producers. The week begins at 9:00am Monday with a sketch pitch meeting and ends at 1:02am Saturday Night with the live production.
A production week begins at 9:00am Monday with a free form pitch meeting between the host, cast, writers, and producers. The meeting takes place in Lorne Michaels's office in the second floor of the studio. In this meeting, the cast pitches sketch ideas to the host, who gives their opinion on the sketch and decides if they want it to be written into the show's lineup. The host is also invited to pitch sketch ideas, too. The meeting takes a little over two hours, and about 30-40 sketches are pitched and put into a cold lineup of the schedule posted on Michael's wall.
Tuesday is the day purely dedicated to writing scripts for the sketches. This is longest day in a week. Extending from 9am all the way through the following morning. Sketches may not be written until 8pm, depending on the time to brainstorm the sketch.
At 5pm on Wednesday, the cast reads the sketches in a round-table meeting in the writer's room attended by the writers and producers. The lead pianist for the Saturday Night Live Band may show up to accompany music for any sketches involving singing. Around 40 sketches are read, lasting upwards 3 hours. After the read-through is completed, the host, head writer, and producers move to Michaels' office to decide the layout of the show and make a decision on which sketches make the cut. Afterwards, the cast and writers are invited in to see the layout of the show and to see which sketches made the cut.
Thursday is the day to develop the sketches. Sets are built, costumes are made, makeup is done, and sketches are rewritten. More sketches are cut late-Thursday; any sketch surviving past Thursday will make it to Friday and Saturday rehearsals, and will be performed in the 8pm dress rehearsal.
Friday & Saturday
Friday and Saturday are pure rehearsal days. Pretaped sketches are rehearsed and taped first on Friday, and may take up until 4pm until the live sketches are rehearsed.
At 8pm on Saturday a Dress Rehearsal is performed in front of a live audience. The live audience is used as a test monkey to determine which sketches and jokes are funny enough to make it to the live show later that night. The Dress Rehearsal takes about two hours, and the sketches and Weekend Update jokes that received less grace are cut until the show meets the 90 minute length.
At 11:29:30pm the live show begins broadcasting on live TV. The show runs approximately 92 minutes, ending just before 1:02am. All Cast Members are clocked out after 1:02am, though many head to after-parties in New York City that last throughout late Sunday Morning.
Throughout the week, three to four writers are dedicated to write Weekend Update jokes for the week. On Thursday Evening, they are read by the anchors of Update, who contribute to the script if necessary. Cast Members must pitch their characters for Update on Monday, who then write the monologue for their character on Tuesday with everyone else.