Recently, Saturday Night Live (SNL) celebrated forty years of broadcasting. The star-studded event on NBC lasted 3 ½ plus hours, but flew by like a stealth bomber at the opening of a major sporting event. It had live sketches, musical phenoms and plenty of hysterical clips from some of the best sketches in comedy history. The show ruled! It was funny, while being poignant (the “in memorial” was superb). It was sharp, while being full of surprises. Even Steven Spielberg was in the audience.
Regardless of whether you’re an avid fan, it’s hard to deny that our culture, evidenced through both TV and film, has been changed because of this show!
Saturday Night Live premiered Oct. 11, 1975. The variety/comedy show, created by Lorne Michaels, covers political satire, comedy sketches, news of the week and the latest musical acts. Each week a different celebrity host opens the show with a 10-minute monologue, and comedy ensues. All of this is packaged into a 90-minute, late-night TV show every Saturday. As a comic, writer and entertainer, the dream of being on SNL and uttering the “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night,” is forever etched on my bucket list.
The “Not Ready for primetime players” are the brilliant talents that started it all. John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, Jane Curtin and, after season one, Bill Murray re-shaped late-night comedy in so many ways. This eclectic group of “players” were responsible for turning SNL into what it is today, beginning remarkable careers that will stand the test of time. Sketches like Roseanne Rosannadanna (the late Gilda Radner), the Blues Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi) and Weekend Update, “I’m Chevy Chase, and your’e not” became instant classics. Note: There is no way to give justice to all the brilliant moments in the past 40 years SNL has brought, my apologies.
Hosts like Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Andy Kaufman, Paul Simon and George Carlin would change history. Never has a show that was only supposed to last about six episodes had such an iconic impact on television. The idea of a different ringmaster each week was unheard of at the time. When the show began, Johnny Carson was the king of the late-night talk shows, but SNL would prove to be the King of Saturday Night programming.
The ’80s to the present. Eddie Murphy (Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, James Brown), Martin Short (Ed Grimly, Nathan Thurm), the late Phil Hartman (President Reagan, Frankenstein) and RIP Chris Farley (Matt Foley, El Nino’) continue through reruns to flood our minds with genius performances. Whether the Sweeney Sisters were “clang, clang, clanging on the trolley” (Nora Dunn, and the late Jan Hooks) or “The Californians” ( Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen) were giving us bad directions each week, we all tuned in to forget about the trials and tribulations of everyday life and just be entertained.
How do I sum up 40 years of SNL? Without another three hours to read my blog, I am not sure I can. Yes, I missed “Wayne’s World” (Mike Myers, Dana Carvey), Jon Lovitz as the ‘devil’, Alec Baldwin’s “Schweaty Balls” and “We Need More Cowbells” (Christopher Walken & Will Ferrell) but I’m out of space. What else did I miss? What was your favorite SNL sketch of all time? Congratulations SNL and thank you for an amazing 40 years!