Video Secret: How to End Your SNL Skit

What was the best season of SNL you can recall? Wait let me ask it a different way: which of these years did you like best and why:

  • the Belushi years
  • Eddie Murphy
  • Dana Carvey
  • Chris Farley
  • Tina Fey

And why is it that 85% of the best potential comedy fail one one singular account? What’s the missing ingredient that could have made a funny bit a “Cowbell” moment? The fuckin’ ending. The same is true with speeches, movies, books, television, human interactions and online video.

Good people know how to start and carry a conversation. Great people know how and when to end one.

That ends today’s abbreviated lesson. But if you want to read one of my most important and stream-of-conciseness posts, click “more”

5 years ago online video was a small audience of amateur performances, and we’d share tips like it was corn and grain among early American settlers and Indians. At this point it’s the “wild wild west” and I’m not terribly surprised when I go outside to chop some wood and some lunatic passes by on a horse-drawn wagon with a basket of scalps, madness in his eye, and an unconscious prostitute hanging off the side. I distract the kids by urging them to collect some eggs, finish their breakfast and get to school before the bell rings.

What I should do is keep new insights to myself in this increasingly competitive market, capitalize on them, or at least use them like barter material (chickens and goats) in quiet YouTube creator taverns. Actually Ambien and Adderall may be a better trade asset there.

Alas, while an ameba learns by repetition… I do not.

Okay check this out (writer looks to right and left stares into reader’s eyes and begins whisper). I know you’ll think this was obvious, but you’re full of crap. Here are a few random marketing insights drawn together into a salient online-video tactics applicable to entertainers and brands. I probably hinted about this in Beyond Viral, but frankly I’ve lost all sight of what’s new and what’s in the book. If I’m being candid I’m afraid to read my own book and haven’t read a page since it was in print.

  1. I saw a Facebook presentation that reminded me that interactions (comments/likes) drive a “wall post” higher on someone’s increasingly busy interface. I’m close personal friends with thousands on Facebook, so it’s “dealer’s choice” what will appear on my infrequent logins. The same has long been true on YouTube. You want views? Get them engaged. That’s not new, but important to this setup.
  2. We humans do not like as much choice as we have or believe we want. This is the key ingredient and you’ll perhaps reject it. Confronted with countless options we freeze. I’ve seen study after study, and it’s well documented that if I present you 25 jars of jelly you’ll buy 30% less often than if I present you six. Google it because I can’t find the name of the book by the nice blind lady that drove that home to me at Mars (chocolate company not planet).I’ll digress here because my brain seems to be pulling a Sheen… I asked her how she so skillfully advanced her Powerpoint deck in unison with her voice without touching a remote or the computer (I checked her sleeves too). She smiles and says “I didn’t.” Then her assistant raises his hand and smiles from a seat in the audience. Nice Kevin. You’ve been duped by the oldest trick in the book… the magician’s plain clothed assistant. The con-man’s ally why appears as a fellow pedestrian.
  3. I’d even make an extreme provocation. We do a lot in our lives to strategically limit our choices — some going as far as getting imprisoned. We think we long for complete freedom, but we deeply want boundaries as part of our humanity. Too much choice is stressful because we’re pulled too many directions. It explains the “lotto curse” (where lottery winners piss away their cash quicker than I lose a beer buzz).
  4. I’m involved in about 8 market research programs now, and the target market is so incredibly specialized… every question needs to be thunk and rethunk. We know survey participants vary in whether they prefer multiple choice and open end. I realize “it depends” on the question and objective. But I’d like to suggest that “open ended” people are one discreet segment on YouTube that will innately comment without much provocation. I’m looking at you my WVFF peeps. There’s another segment of “fence sitters” who rarely or selectively comment, and our efforts should be on inviting/activating them. (editorial note I’m adding just before hitting publish: it will be interesting to see how/whether people answer my first SNL question or find themselves too distracted by this way-too-long and sleeplessness-induced directionless but vital blog post)
  5. MrSafety taught me about putting black at the end of the video — this would guide people away from YouTube’s default “related videos” and toward YOUR videos that are normally aside a video. We later saw Sxephil and CharlesTrippy putting “yesterday’s video” and “next video” to invite people to binge. I later noticed MysteryGuitarman (and now most people) putting a video thumbnail (small highlight video at end). Daneboe has had AnnoyingOrange as a question at the end of the video, and they’re irresistible to the target audience. His response rate is remarkable.


I have a strong theory I’ll eventually prove out. Provide a choice at the end of the video, but narrow it. Don’t show 20 video thumbnails or give seven options. A multiple-choice answer will attract “fence sitters” and the “open-end natural commenters” will unlikely be turned off by it. Why? They’ll instinctively answer the question with no regard to your options. But if you provide a final choice that’s open ended you’ll freeze the “fence sitters.”

  • Example: What’s your favorite vegetable?
  1. Carrot
  2. Tomato
  3. Potato
  • See your gut says I’d better put an “other” option, but don’t (And yes there’s a “sic” in the choices designed to spawn your comments on this blog). I may teach and apply entertaining persuasion but that doesn’t mean I won’t be using it on myself and you as we go. It’s a cost of doing bidness.
  • Don’t get stupid and ask questions that suck like the one above. Be creative. Just give people 3-5 choices.
  • Then provide some video suggestions for the 95% of people that will never ever ever comment. Just like you need to balance “general awareness” with “direct response,” you can’t lose sight of the more probable preference for your viewer. He or she probably wants to watch more crap and not comment.
  • When you present the video options, suggest a natural progression visually. Instead of a “callout” or “annotation” use an arrow as if to suggest they’re moving from one page of an eBook to another. Teach them to watch a series instead of one. Some creators are better suited to this naturally (daily vloggers or niche shows), but we can all do better at that.

So I’ll end on back on point. To be honest I never had a point until I wrote the following copy and then I revised my title and headline but not the rest. The video’s END has a few vital objectives, and those matter more than we realize.

  1. First, finish the story.
  2. Second provide an engagement prompt that’s deliberately fenced/limited.
  3. Third, point to next video like you’re inviting a reader to turn the page (but perhaps provide two or three different headlines/pictures). Finally (and don’t forget this) provide a “surprise” at the end of this so people don’t tune out. But since people will learn to wait for the surprise you’ll need to return back to the choice.

Oh shit. If I’m eating my own dog-food I better end this post in a way that illustrates my point. Ah, screw it. I never said I was great.

20 Replies to “Video Secret: How to End Your SNL Skit”

  1. SO, the ending was supposed to be the greatest part of the story? What was the fucking ending?

  2. All fruits are vegetables, in my opinion, so a tomato is both (as are squashes, peppers, peas, beans, etc.). In 1983 the Supreme Court decided to classify tomatoes as vegetables under customs regulations (Nix v. Hedden).

    I guessing SNL doesn’t mean Sandia National Laboratories in this context… are they a YouTube channel I’m not aware of?

  3. Good info Kev but back to the original question…The Belushi era cause it set the standard and put SNL on the map…and Eddie because he was just the reason people tuned in….period.

  4. Tina fey hands down. By the way, an interesting bit of trivia about the misogyny of early snl. On oprah this week, jane curtain said that belushi was so hostile to the notion that women could be funny that at table reads for skits written by women, he refused to read his lines in anything but a monotonous whisper. What a fucking asshole.

  5. @Alexis: I meant that surely you were jesting about not knowing what SNL stood for. Perhaps I did not make myself clear.

  6. I know now (Googled it). Apparently it’s a TV show. I don’t watch much TV. I’ve heard people talk about Saturday Night Live before, but haven’t seen it myself and wasn’t familiar with the abbreviation.

    If I referred to a LCH space would you know what I’m talking about?

  7. OMG Alexis had to google SNL. That’s f’ing awesome. Hey you want to go to the ATM? It’s an automatic teller machine. Did that make you LOL? That means “laugh out loud.” Oh shoot- those first three words? That means oh my gosh.

  8. Oh dear my sister who I keep forgetting to call… is reading my blog. I forgot. So she knows I’ve had at least enough free time to write… but not call.

  9. Ok, unless alexis lives outside the u.s., the notion that he didnt know what snl was is because he doesnt watch much tv is so, um . . . I better shut my piehole now to avoid the inevitable shitstorm that would follow if I didnt.

  10. I find it very hard to believe that you access the Internet and are unaware of SNL, regardless of how much or little TV you watch.

  11. Think of websites where one might read about SNL. Chances are I don’t visit those frequently and even if I did, what are the chances that I’d happen across something that makes the connection SNL = Saturday Night Live obvious and is interesting enough that I would notice and remember?

    Actually, I haven’t been online enough even to keep up with nalts videos for the last few weeks. Why am I wasting my time here arguing with you people? No idea, but I’m done for now. Back to being a hermit for the time being.

  12. Okay, now that alexis says hes done wasting his time arguing with ”you people” about not knowing what snl is, i’ll flap my piehole and risk the shitstorm. Alexis, you sound like an arrogant, pretentious, pompous and condescending buttplug. I wish you would extend your disdain or disinterest, whichever it is, for this blog and disappear into the ether.

  13. After all these years you would think SNL writers/actors would learn. But YouTube is the same way. Even my videos.

    It is all a learning process and figuring out what works best.

  14. This wasn’t one of the choices, but probably my fave SNL skit of all time was Jesse Jackson reading “Sam I Am” (Seuss) in high black-preacher oratory style. “I do-not-like-them, Sam …………. I am.” I saw him speak at a rally recently and even though the cause was serious, I could not shake that memory. “Sam ……….. I am.”

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