Some of the funniest parts of Saturday Night Live are its commercial and film parodies… these are shot by the show’s film unit and edited by Adam Epstein. They include the show’s Justin Beiber Calvin Klein parody ads, starring Kate McKinnon and its series of Lincoln car “commercials” with Jim Carrey channeling Matthew McConaughey. Check out his reel here.
Epstein is taking his comedy editing talent to creative editorial boutique P.S. 260, where he will be working on real spots for agencies and brands.
Epstein says he’s making the move to P.S. 260 as a way to increase his presence in the advertising community and add more brand content to his portfolio. “They’re really plugged in to the ad scene, particularly in New York,” he says of his new home. “I’m looking to find more balance in the work I’m doing, which is what appealed to me about P.S. 260. I like having a mélange of projects to work on, and I got my start with advertising work. As far as I’m concerned, good work is good work, no matter the format. And it allows me to say ‘mélange’ from time to time.”
Epstein’s comedic touch with SNL commercial parodies should come as no surprise. He came up through the ad biz, starting on the West Coast as a producer and editor at Stun Creative before moving to the iconic post house Red Car and then Hybrid Edit, where he was lucky enough to work with some of the best editors, directors and creatives in the industry.
During his career he’s cut commercials and long-form ad content for a range of clients, including Adobe, Google, Hampton Inns and others, as well as broadcast promos (many of which he also writes and produces) for networks such as Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, SundanceTV and BET.
Recent projects includes his first feature, a Paramount Pictures comedy that was directed by SNL Film Unit director Rhys Thomas called Staten Island Summer, as well as the IFC show Documentary Now!, which stars former SNL talents Bill Hader and Fred Armisen.
“Adam is a comic genius who works under incredible deadlines,” says P.S. 260 managing partner Zarina Mak. “He’s a well-rounded creative talent with a broad insight into what makes things work from a comedy standpoint.”
Epstein’s connection with SNL grew out of his friendship with director Rhys Thomas, a P.S. 260 alum, who invited him to work on a short for the program when Thomas was producing for the show’s Film Unit. Together with DP Alex Buono and producer Justus McLarty, the team has elevated the look and feel of the show’s parody ads, making them at times almost indistinguishable from more traditional broadcast ads in terms of production value and finish.
“We purposely wanted to get away from the fake look that you often see in commercial parodies,” Epstein explains. “Our belief was that the ad parodies should look and feel as professional as something we had a lot of time to work on.”
“Adam is a profoundly sharp and funny guy — the type of editor you look forward to being locked in a room with all day,” says P.S. 260 editor and partner Maury Loeb. “Besides being technically solid and having an amazing understanding of comedy, his great talent as an editor is his ability to establish the perfect overall tone of a piece. Whether it’s creating a pitch-perfect parody or inventing a particular feel for original material, Adam does a masterful job of establishing a brilliant look and feel for everything he does. It’s a testament to his creativity and wonderful sensibility.”
Epstein likes to share his love of editing and techniques with the industry. For example, he was a guest at this year’s NAB Creative Masters series, where he sat for a one-on-one Q&A, and in 2014 conducted a two-month, 32-city tour called “The Cutting Edge Post Production Tour,” where he ran full-day seminars on the finer points of post. He also points out that he may be one of the only editors working in advertising today to have lost on Jeopardy — he appeared 14 years ago.
In honor of Adam’s new job, we reached out with just a couple of questions:
Will you continue editing the SNL shorts? If so, how will you split your time?
Yes, I’m still planning on continuing to work on the shorts. As we don’t shoot those pieces until the day before the show, I’m normally only in SNL land on Fridays and Saturdays of show weeks. And as it is, the show is not every week, so between the down weeks and the first half of show weeks, there should be plenty of time to spread around.
Did you cut this past Saturday’s Thanksgiving dinner segment?
I actually didn’t work on that one! Our team was assigned the Star Wars/Force Awakens Auditions. The Thanksgiving piece was cut by wonderful Kelly Lyon and directed by Matt & Oz.
While at P.S. 260 will you only focus on comedy spots or all spots?
I love working on comedy spots as it tends to mean I get to work with funny, humor-centric people. But that being said, I definitely would love to work on as many styles and vibes of spot as possible. Good work is good work, and mixing it up is always a good idea.