Justin Bieber and Tina Fey drew an estimated 9.2 million viewers to 'Saturday Night Live' over the weekend -- the second biggest audience for the show this season. (Basketball star Charles Barkley and musical guest Alicia Keys scored the biggest 'SNL' numbers this season with 10.4 million viewers.) PopEater spoke with Bieber and his team about what it took to land the coveted late-night gig.
While the payoff was a sweet one, casting Bieber was "a year in the making," Laura Swanson, EVP Media & Artist Relations for Island Def Jam, tells PopEater. Before the record company had even released Bieber's first single, 'One Time,' Swanson began e-mailing 'SNL' booker Brian Siedlecki to tell him about the rising pop star. In February, Bieber was finally booked as the musical guest -- becoming the youngest performer to grace the 'SNL' stage in the show's history. At 16, Bieber slid into the position, beating out competition that had been in the music business for years (and have numerous albums under their belts).
Bieber knew he had huge shoes to fill and admits he's still shocked about being cast as the show's musical guest. "'SNL' was an incredible experience. I'm still a little shocked I was on there," Bieber tells PopEater. "I grew up watching it, and being on the show I learned a lot and have so much respect for how hard they work. I was just honored they trusted me enough to take part," he says, adding a special thanks to Fey and the entire 'SNL' team for all their support.
While the 'SNL' demographic audience was ready for Fey to take on Sarah Palin, critics originally wondered if Bieber would miss the mark. "Tina Fey took a real liking to Justin and wound up putting him in three skits," in addition to his two performances, Swanson said. "It was a perfect storm. Justin had the time of his life."
Fey appeared in a sketch with the 16-year-old pop sensation in which she played a lonely teacher haunted by sexual fantasies of the young Bieber. The skit received mixed reviews, but one PopEater's Facebook fan admitted the entire episode "was one of the best SNLs I've seen since the '80s when the original prime time players (Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd) were on."
According to Swanson, who stayed with Bieber during the three days of rehearsals and live taping, Bieber took the acting seriously, improvising and studying his words to make sure he came off great. "He knew how big it was," she added. "The first thing new artists tell us is that their two goals are to be on the cover of Rolling Stone and be on 'SNL.' Those seem to be the two pinnacles of success to signify 'I've made it.'"
Following his appearance, Bieber tweeted late Saturday about the experience. "Will never forget 2nite. It was INCREDIBLE!! Thank u for the opportunity and thanks to everyone at SNL and Tina Fey for just being fun," he wrote.
He writes. He sings. He plays. He performs. He acts. And he's only 16. Bieber Fever has officially taken over late night. Next stop? We're guessing Rolling Stone.