According to a new exposé, the long-running sketch show enabled a dubious culture that preyed on young female staffers.
Saturday Night Live was a treacherous place for young women, according to a new exposé. Business Insider reports that multiple former female staffers from the early aughts of the long-running sketch show described an environment that was routinely uncomfortable and at times unsafe.
One young staffer said she would be hard-pressed to find more than two women who "had a great experience or felt valued" at SNL: "It was an incredibly sexist environment,” she said. The staffer described a situation in which she said former cast member Horatio Sanz, who is currently facing a lawsuit alleging he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old in 2002, followed her into a room and asked to touch her breasts. In another instance, a producer brought her into his office and showed an unsolicited nude photo of himself.
At 30 Rockefeller, racy jokes were seemingly used to justify inappropriate comments. The same young staffer alleged about a producer telling her to put a Listerine strip on her vagina. “I bet it would feel good,” he said, according to the report. She also claimed that her supervisor would throw a bottle of pills labeled “Cum Delicious” and tell her to “Take your medicine.” Former SNL writer Tony Daro referenced a scenario where even Tina Fey, then the head writer for the show, would push boundaries:
Daro said he once brought his teenage son and his son's girlfriend to an “SNL” show. The next time he saw Fey, he said, she asked Daro whether he had “finger-popped” his son's 14-year-old girlfriend on the drive home.
"I wasn't amused," he said. Fey did not respond to a request for comment.
For female interns specifically, SNL was, at best, a place where they were treated with little legitimate consideration and “made to feel like you are here to just absorb the experience but not truly learn anything,” one former intern said. At worst, the environment was a space where they were objectified and often preyed upon.
Male cast members would ask after “new pretty female interns and invite them to the after-parties,” the piece claims. Additionally, “several former staffers said male members of the cast and staff would hook up with female college-age interns at post-show parties.” Despite their reputation for debauchery, SNL’s post-show parties were also a place, apparently, where young girls were regularly present:
Jerry Minor, a cast member on the 2000-2001 season, said he remembered being "disturbed" by seeing people he described as "obviously teenage girls" at "SNL" after-parties. Some appeared to be fans, while others were wealthy socialites. "The Hilton sisters would show up," he said. "I remember knowing they were underage. They'd get a table. I know they're rich, but this can't be right. Nobody gave a shit. Nobody cared."
This dubious culture ostensibly enabled Sanz’s alleged assault of the 17-year-old “Jane Doe.” The girl states in a lawsuit that before the alleged incident took place, Sanz and Jimmy Fallon, who both shared an office at SNL, sent her an email; she was only 15 at the time, she says, and was a superfan of the show who was active on online message boards. Her lawsuit says that Sanz messaged her “asking for photos of her and talking about masturbation and sexual fantasies.” She would often come to SNL tapings and attend the after-parties as Sanz’s guest. Eventually, “Sanz sexually assaulted her at one party in May 2002 in sight of other NBC employees by kissing her, groping her, and digitally penetrating her, according to the lawsuit,” the piece details.
None of this widespread culture was checked, according to these former staffers, because there existed an implicit understanding that there would be nowhere to turn. “I just knew this was the biggest fucking deal in the entire world. Do not fuck this up,” a former intern told Insider. “So I think the whole thing is keep your mouth shut and do whatever you can to keep participating."
“He didn't abuse me in a vacuum,” the woman suing Sanz told The Daily Beast in a February report. “He abused me all over 'Saturday Night Live.'"