Who’s Behind All Those “Saturday Night Live” Fancam Videos on Twitter?
Young fans of the sketch comedy series have taken to sharing their homemade clips on social media
Chances are when you think of “stan culture,” the first things that come to mind are the passionate and fiercely loyal fan armies devoted to popstars and boy bands. Taylor Swift has her Swifties, Beyoncé has her Beyhive and BTS has their Army. But Top 40 artists aren’t the only ones who have managed to build up huge communities of highly devoted supporters on social media. A 47-year-old sketch comedy show might not seem like the kind of pop cultural institution that’d be able to rack up a slew of enthusiastic Gen Z fans, but a new generation of Saturday Night Live stans — many of whom are teen girls — have carved out a niche for themselves online.
Scroll through the replies on any tweet from the official SNL account, and you’ll find hundreds and hundreds of “fancams” — homemade videos in which fans edit together clips from interviews, sketches and other TV appearances by their favorite cast member and set them to music as a way of expressing their appreciation. It’s a practice that originated in the world of K-pop fandom, where it’s a much more involved process. (As Refinery 29 points out, “[K-pop fancam creators] follow the artists to their varied appearances, and use high-quality equipment to capture photos and videos and upload them online. The practice has become so popular in Korea that TV broadcast stations sometimes upload their own high-quality fancams after posting a full performance on YouTube.”) But here in the States, it’s become a way for some young fans to combine their love of comedy with their passion for editing video while fostering a tight-knit community on social media.
“I think I’ve always really liked video editing,” Hayley, 20, tells InsideHook. She’s been making fancam videos since she was 13, and she sees a future career path in it. “I’m in college right now,” she says. “I’m a film student, so I think it’s always been a really fun way for me to do what I love to and I want to make a career out of, but it also combined my interests. So for me it was kind of just like, ‘Oh, this is really fun, but also I spend all my free time doing it.’ I love doing it.”
Though she’s been making fancams about other shows or actors for seven years, it’s only been in the past year or so that she’s shifted her focus to Saturday Night Live — and specifically Pete Davidson.
“I think kind of like everyone, you just grow up watching it because it’s been here for so long,” she explains. “I would say that I became a big fan last season where I was actively watching it and not like, ‘Oh, this sketch is funny, let me watch it on YouTube.’ … But I’ve been watching it since I was a kid because my parents watched it and put it on at night. It’s kind of my big interest, so I’ll make them for other things that I’m a fan of, but right now I’m just really interested in SNL, and obviously you can tell Pete is my favorite. I love him. I think he is so funny and so talented.”
Like Hayley, 16-year-old Emma Higton grew up with Saturday Night Live as a constant presence in her home. “SNL has always been around,” she says. “Growing up not too far away from New York with a mother who watches every week, I always knew what it was, but it wasn’t until last summer that I fell into it myself. A few months before Season 46 started, I fell into the YouTube rabbithole, as most do, and it all spiraled from there. I watched almost all of every episode live. Occasionally work would interfere with catching the beginning of episodes, and I was also lucky enough to miss the April 10 episode to go to the SNL barricades with some friends for my birthday. I promise I did watch it afterward. I was able to meet some of my favorite cast members, including Kate McKinnon, and it was really nice to share that experience with two of my best friends.”
Not every Saturday Night Live stan grew up watching the show, however. Some are new viewers who have rapidly gotten hooked. Laura, 15, has been watching for less than a year. “I started watching some sketches last August on YouTube, and then I started watching it on NBC around last December,” she says. “I couldn’t sleep, and SNL airs in the early morning in my country, and I thought that there are some cast members who are not appreciated enough, so I started making and sharing fancams about them, hoping that they would see them.”
And for Riley, 16, making Saturday Night Live fancams was a way of coping during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was just bored during quarantine, and so I started making them because I saw them all over Twitter,” she says.
Just like their entry points into SNL fandom are different, each fancam creator has their own process for creating them — though most agree that choosing a song with a good beat to play behind the clips is key.
“I edit on my phone now because I do it everywhere and I don’t bring my computer out,” Hayley says. “Usually what happens is I’ll hear a song that I really, really, like. Sometimes I can hear a song and it’ll remind me of something. I’ll be like, ‘Oh, that’ll be fun. That would be really cool to make a video to. I think that could be really nice.’ So I’ll save it, but also if I watch an episode or there’s a sketch or there’s an interview or something like that, I’ll just do that one as well. So it goes two ways.”
While Hayley edits on her phone, Higton prefers to use a more traditional approach. “I’m kind of old-school, so pretty much everything I edit is on iMovie,” she says. “Depending on the length of the edit, I’ll typically spend about an hour or so looking for clips to use. That can be anything from Instagram posts to interviews to sketches. Then I screen record them and throw them all into iMovie, cut roughly to the specific part I want to use. Then I find an audio. A lot of people use edited audios made by other people specifically for use in edits and fancams, but I usually just use a snippet from a song I like at the moment. After I cut down the song clip, I have to try to make all of the video fit. This is the most tedious part, and it is definitely what took me the longest with the most recent Kate McKinnon edit I made. I try to edit it so the clips change on beat with whatever the audio is, mostly for aesthetic purposes.”
Like any internet fandom, SNL Twitter is not without its internal squabbles. “My friend just had drama with a few of [the other stan accounts], so I don’t interact with the majority of them because I don’t want to be in the middle of this drama,” Riley says.
But for the most part, it’s a way for young fans to bond over their shared love of the show.
“The SNL twitter community has some of the kindest people I’ve ever spoken to,” Higton says. “It actually just so happens that this week marks one year of me joining the SNL fandom on Twitter. Previously I was involved in various other fandoms, but I never quite felt like I had found my niche. After becoming more involved in the SNL side of Twitter, I can truly say I felt like I found a virtual home. I’ve been super lucky and have made some amazing friends through SNL Twitter. It is really awesome that a shared interest through social media can make for such meaningful relationships.”
“My close friends never watched SNL and I can’t talk with them about it, and everyone on Twitter is so friendly most of the time,” Laura adds.
But while they’ve fostered a sense of community, ultimately making fancams about their favorite sketch comics is a way for young Saturday Night Live fans to feel connected to the show while scratching their own creative itches.
“It’s really fun once you start building on things and taking concepts and getting inspired from other people who are really good at it as well,” Hayley says. “Sometimes you just have to love what you’re doing, and if you love it and you have this artistic drive for what you put out, it’s going to be good and hopefully people recognize it and enjoy it. I know mine, I don’t do it for other people, I definitely do it for myself, but it’s nice when someone watches it and they’re like, ‘Oh, I just keep watching it.’ It’s so nice when people also enjoy what you’re putting out, even if they’re not a huge fan.”
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