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Saturday Night Live
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Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live (SNL) is a weekly late-night ninety-minute live comedy-variety show which has been on NBC since 1975. Each week, the show's cast is joined by a guest host and a musical act, forming a repertory company for the week.

The show usually follows a standard format. It opens with a sketch which almost always ends with someone saying "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!", the segue into the opening credits. Next is the opening monologue, often followed by a TV commercial parody. The rest of the show consists of more comedy skits, the Weekend Update news segment, and one or two performances by the guest musical artist. Sketches often feature recurring characters, running gags, and celebrity impersonations.

Table of contents
1 History
2 The process
3 Trivia
4 The cast
5 Frequent hosts
6 Hosts appearing as musical guests
7 Recurring characters and sketches
8 Catch phrases
9 Movies based on SNL skits
10 See also
11 External links


In 1974, Tonight Show host Johnny Carson wanted the weekend broadcasts of "Best of Carson" to end. To fill the gap, NBC drew up some ideas for shows, and decided to bring in young Canadian producer, Lorne Michaels. He was given studio 8H, which was built in the 1930s for performances by Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

When the first show aired on October 11, 1975, with George Carlin as its host, it was called NBC's Saturday Night, because ABC featured a program at the same time titled "Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell." When the ABC program went off the air, the NBC program changed its name to Saturday Night Live.

The original (1975-1980) repertory company was called the Not Ready for Prime-Time Players; this was a reference to Cosell's show, which featured "The Primetime Players," a group which included future SNL cast member Bill Murray.

The first cast included Second City alum Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, and Garrett Morris. Bill Murray replaced Chase in 1977, after Chase left to pursue a movie career. Paul Shaffer, who also appeared in many sketches, was the musical director for the show from 1975 to 1980. Other regulars on the show included writer Al Franken, who later became famous as a political author and satirist, and Harry Shearer, who later acted in several films and television series, including The Simpsons. The show also featured frequent guest appearances by comedians Steve Martin and Andy Kaufman.

Aykroyd and Belushi departed after the 1978-1979 season. Lorne Michaels quit the show at the end of the fifth season and the rest of the original cast, along with the entire writing staff, followed.

Jean Doumanian took over the show for the 1980 season, hiring a completely new cast and writers . The new show was plagued by problems from the start, and was deemed disastrously unfunny by both critics and the viewing audience. Symbolic of the problems faced by the show, cast member Charles Rocket realized the network's greatest fear when he used a four-letter word at the close of an episode in early 1981. NBC, which had had enough, fired Doumanian.

It looked as if NBC might cancel the show (indeed, many nights the NBC aired sketch comedy show SCTV in its place), but SNL was given one more chance when Dick Ebersol was hired to replace Doumanian. Ebersol had been involved with the creation of the show, and fired all of the Doumanian cast save Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo. Murphy had rarely been featured during Doumanian's tenure, but became a break-out star under Ebersol, and his popularity helped restore the show's ratings. Ebersol left the show after the 1984-1985 season, at which point Lorne Michaels returned.

The process

The following is a summary of the process used to produce the show. It is based in part on an August 2000 Writer's Digest article and an April 2004 Fresh Air interview with Tina Fey: The status of the show during the week is maintained on a bulletin board. Sketches and other segments are given labels which are put on index cards and put on the board in the order of their performance. The order is based on content as well as production limitations such as camera placement and performer availability. Segments which have been cut are kept to the side of the board. As the broadcast approaches, often the writer/producer discovers the fate of his or her segment only by consulting the bulletin board.


Over the years SNL has almost always been broadcast live on the east coast, in spite of the expletive spoken by Charles Rocket in 1981. The exceptions were shows hosted by Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, and Andrew Dice Clay, which were broadcast on a five-second delay.

The cast

See Saturday Night Live cast.

Frequent hosts

The following performers have hosted SNL at least five times:

Hosts appearing as musical guests

Michael McKean is the only performer to appear as cast member, host, and (as David St. Hubbins of Spinal Tap) musical guest. Those appearing as both host and musical guest include:

Recurring characters and sketches

The most enduring segment is
Weekend Update, which has been part of every show (though under varying names during the Doumanian/Ebersol years). Other recurring characters and sketches include:

Catch phrases

Movies based on SNL skits

This is a list of movies based on Saturday Night Live sketches.

See also

External links