Quebec gets its own Saturday Night Live

We speak to SNL Québec cast member Virginie Fortin about the new Télé-Québec show.

The cast of SNL Québec

After Spain, Korea and Japan, it’s Quebec’s turn to take a crack at adapting Saturday Night Live. Two 90-minute specials are set to air on Feb. 8 and March 22 on Télé-Québec.

fortinThis new incarnation retains the format of the American show, with live sketches, pre-recorded digital shorts, two performances by a musical guest (Radio Radio is slated to play the first episode) and a celebrity guest host. “It works the exact same way as the original,” says Virginie Fortin, one of six up-and-comers of the Quebec comedy scene that make up the cast of SNL Québec (Phil Roy, Léane Labrèche-Dor, Pierre-Luc Funk, Katherine Levac and Mathieu Quesnel round out the cast).

It’s been a while since Quebec had a prime-time variety show like SNL; Fortin posits that the closest thing was most likely Samedi de rire, a show that stopped broadcasting in 1989 and focused almost entirely on onstage comedy skits.

The format hasn’t been seen much in Quebec, which is why production has brought out the big guns: the February show is hosted by Louis-José Houde and the March show by Stéphane Rousseau. Both could arguably be called the biggest francophone stand-up comedians in the province (though Rousseau splits his time between here and France these days) and seeing them work with a talented cast of up-and-comers in a live setting should prove interesting.

snl2The show was produced with the full cooperation of SNL grand poobah Lorne Michaels, who has also given the SNL Québec team full access to the entire 39 years’ worth of sketch backlog to use as they see fit, although the nine-person writing team has been creating sketches for the performers for months. “I think the long-term goal would be to have a team. A family, where everybody can do anything. Actors work on the sketches, writers act in them,” explains Fortin.

The first two episodes are meant as a way to test the waters; if all goes well, the series will go on to have a more regular production schedule and, one assumes, propel the young cast into the world of Quebec comedy. In any case, they might get the highly sought approval of the notoriously prickly Michaels. “Hopefully he watches it, and thinks we’re so good that he’ll invite the whole cast to see a NYC taping. But that might just be me dreaming!” says Fortin. ■

SNL Québec airs on Télé-Québec on Saturday, Feb. 8, 9 p.m.


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