Comedy icons Maya Rudolph and Martin Short come together for a hilarious update of the classic variety show in “Maya and Marty.” Pentagram has designed the identity for the show, as well as the opening titles, created in collaboration with the brilliant “Saturday Night Live” photographer Mary Ellen Matthews.
Less a throwback than a reimagining, “Maya and Marty” offers a fresh take on the format, with comedy sketches and musical numbers performed by the leads—who also include Kenan Thompson—and a lineup of guest stars including Tina Fey, Drake, Steve Martin, and more. The show is filmed live in Studio 6A at Rockefeller Center, just across the hall from “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and two floors down from “SNL.”
Rudolph and Short are both “SNL” alums, and Pentagram also has a long history with “SNL,” having worked on several identities and title sequences for the legendary sketch comedy program over the past 20 years, including the current graphics, which launched with the show’s 40th anniversary season in 2014. Pentagram also designed the identity for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
Like the skits and musical numbers, the “Maya and Marty” graphics reference the look of variety and comedy shows, but with a contemporary spin. Pentagram worked closely with Rudolph as well as producers Erin David, Matt Roberts and Javier Winnik on the logo and title sequence. Everyone involved is a lifelong fan of the format and all its ephemera, and wanted something that felt authentic. The group looked at the graphics and opening title sequences of classics of the form like “The Carol Burnett Show,” “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour,” and “The Dick Cavett Show,” as well as album covers for Nichols and May.
Everyone was drawn to art-deco typography inspired by 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where the show is taped, and the Rainbow Room at its top. The designers distilled this sensibility into a wordmark that is simultaneously modern, fun and elegant, with just a touch of screwball. The custom lettering looks back to the spirited type of variety-show titles without being kitschy or dated, perfectly conveying the smart, witty tone of the program.
The logo has a starring role in the opening title, which features Rudolph and Short in a series of dynamic portraits by Matthews, who shoots the portraits for “SNL.” The designers built the sequence out of the photographs shot in bursts, creating a kinetic animation that captures the big personalities and comedic chops of the hosts. The high-contrast black-and-white photography of the stars in evening dress is juxtaposed with bright, surprising blasts of color, which amplify and extend the images and lend the animation a friendly Pop feel. The sequence is tightly synched with the theme song, which was composed by Jack White. The weekly guests’ names give the sequence a finishing touch of polish and sparkle by using a contrasting color and transparency as the typography is added over the picture.