Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live Title Card.jpeg
The Saturday Night Live inter-title season 37
Also known as NBC's Saturday Night (1975–1977)
Saturday Night Live '80 (1980)
Format Sketch comedy
Stand-up comedy
Created by Lorne Michaels
Directed by Dave Wilson (1975–1986, 1989–1995)
Paul Miller (1986–1989)
Beth McCarthy-Miller (1995–2006)
Don Roy King (2006–present)
Starring See Saturday Night Live cast members
Narrated by Don Pardo (1975–1981, 1982–present)
Bill Hanrahan (1981)
Mel Brandt (1981–1982)
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 37
No. of episodes 707 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Lorne Michaels
(1975–1980, 1985–present)
Jean Doumanian
Dick Ebersol
Location(s) NBC Studios
New York, New York
Running time 90 minutes (including commercials)
Production company(s) Broadway Video
SNL Studios
Original channel NBC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original run October 11, 1975 – present
Related shows TV Funhouse
Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday
External links

Saturday Night Live (abbreviated as SNL) is a live American late-night television sketch comedy and variety show developed by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol.[1] The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title of NBC's Saturday Night.[2]

The show's sketches often parody contemporary American culture and politics.[3] Saturday Night Live features a two-tiered cast consisting of repertory members, also called the "Not Ready For Prime Time Players" (the name used by the show's original cast), and newer cast members who are known as "Featured Players."[3][4]

Each week, the show features a host who delivers an opening monologue and performs in sketches with the cast. A musical guest also performs. With the exception of season 7, the show has begun with a cold open sketch (usually based around politically-themed current events) that ends with someone breaking character and proclaiming, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"[5]

For all but five seasons[6][7] (six through ten), the show has been overseen by its creator and current executive producer, Lorne Michaels. Broadway Video, SNL Studios, and NBC jointly manage production.[3] Saturday Night Live is one of the longest-running network television programs in the United States with over 700 episodes broadcast over the span of 37 seasons as of 2011. A number of the show's sketches have been developed into feature films, while many of the show's cast have gone on to independent film and TV stardom, both in front of and behind the camera.

Throughout its three decades on air, Saturday Night Live has received a number of awards, including 21 Primetime Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and three Writers Guild of America Awards. In 2000, it was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. It was ranked tenth on TV Guide's "50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time" list, and in 2007 it was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME."[3][8] In 2009, it received 13 Emmy nominations bringing the show to a total of 126, giving it the most Emmy nominations in television history.[9][10]



See also: history of SNL by season: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37
History of Saturday Night Live series:

(seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
(seasons 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
(seasons 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
(seasons 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
(seasons 21, 22, 23, 24, 25)
(seasons 26, 27, 28, 29, 30)
(seasons 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
(seasons 36, 37)
Weekend Update

From 1965 until September 1975, NBC ran The Best of Carson reruns of The Tonight Show, airing them on either Saturday or Sunday night, at local affiliates' discretion, (originally known as The Saturday/Sunday Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson). In 1974, Johnny Carson announced that he wanted the weekend shows pulled and saved so that they could be aired during weekdays, allowing him to take time off.[11]

Creator Lorne Michaels in April 2008.

NBC president Herbert Schlosser approached his vice president of late night programming Dick Ebersol in 1974 and asked him to create a show to fill the Saturday night timeslot. Schlosser and Ebersol then approached Lorne Michaels, wanting to create a variety show that would push the boundaries with its edgy style of humor. Ebersol knew Michaels was capable of creating a show since he had worked on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. The show was set, and Michaels searched for people to join the staff. He hired Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, George Coe, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Michael O'Donoghue, and Gilda Radner to the cast. Originally, the show was called NBC's Saturday Night, as the current title was in use by rival network ABC. NBC purchased the rights to the name in 1976 and officially adopted the new title on March 26, 1977.[12]

The show was an instant hit following its debut, and as a result, the cast members became suddenly famous. Chase left the show during the second season and was replaced by a new and upcoming comic named Bill Murray. Aykroyd and Belushi left the show after season four. The following season, Michaels chose to leave the show and explore other avenues. Michaels' departure led most of the cast and writing staff to leave the show as well.

Although SNL was still popular, Michaels thought NBC would cancel the show upon his departure. However, NBC had already planned to replace him with Jean Doumanian, an associate producer during the first five seasons. NBC wanted to build up a new cast and continue on with the show, leaving Doumanian with full creative control. After disastrous reviews and behind-the-scenes turmoil, Doumanian was fired after one season. She was replaced by Dick Ebersol, who had originally hired Michaels to create the show.[13]

"He [Lorne Michaels] put me on TV, and no one else would have done that. Lorne created a show that's impacted culture for over 35 years. No one has ever really successfully been able to replicate it."
-- Tina Fey on how Michaels' has been influential in comedy.[14]

Ebersol fired most of the people Doumanian hired except for a few people including unknown comics Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo. Ebersol remained with the show until 1985. In the fall of 1984, Ebersol departed from tradition by adding several cast members with established comedic careers, including Billy Crystal, Martin Short, and Harry Shearer. After that season, Ebersol wanted a more significant revamp, including departing from the show's established "live" format. After Ebersol's departure, Michaels returned at the helm.

Michaels returned to the show for the 1985–86 season. The entire cast from the previous season did not return, causing Michaels to rebuild the show. He hired then unknowns Joan Cusack, Robert Downey, Jr. and many others. The season was disastrous, and the show was almost cancelled. However, Michaels was given one more chance to save the show. He fired most of the staff and brought in a new set of people he hoped would save the show including Dana Carvey, Nora Dunn, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Victoria Jackson, Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller and Kevin Nealon. Dunn, Lovitz and Miller were the only three cast members retained from the disastrous 85–86 season.

"Lorne has had a seismic impact on comedy, but in my opinion his legacy, very simply, is that he has good taste. All producers want success, but it's rare to find one who wants success on his own terms. He's a very well-read, good-mannered man who doesn't want his work to embarrass him."
-- Conan O'Brien on how Michaels' has been influential in comedy.[14]

After a slow start, the show was saved as a result of high ratings and improved critical reception. Michaels' return restored an association with NBC that has lasted nearly 30 years. As head of Broadway Video and SNL Studios, Michaels has profited from the talent he's helped introduce, producing the TV series Late Night (during the eras of Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon - both SNL alumni), 30 Rock (a comedy created by former SNL head writer Tina Fey, and loosely based on her experiences in that role), and Up All Night, starring fomer SNL cast member Maya Rudolph. Michaels also produced the TV film All You Need Is Cash, and a lengthy list of feature films based on SNL sketches; the most commercially and critically successful of these was Wayne's World.[15]



The original 1975 cast was officially known on-air as "The Not Ready For Prime-Time Players" at the show's beginning (a term originally devised as a takeoff of the "Prime Time Players" moniker for the cast of the ABC show). This term has since been often used unofficially.

The cast is currently divided into two tiers: the more established group of repertory players; and newer, unproven cast members known as featured players, who may eventually "graduate" to the regular cast laminate. The show's current cast[16] is listed below:

Repertory players
Featured players
  • Vanessa Bayer (2010–present)
  • Paul Brittain (2010–present)
  • Taran Killam (2010–present)
  • Jay Pharoah (2010–present)

bold denotes Weekend Update anchor


Head writer: Seth Meyers

  • James Anderson
  • Alex Baze
  • Jessica Conrad
  • Jim Downey
  • Shelly Gossman
  • Steve Higgins
  • Colin Jost
  • Zach Kanin
  • Chris Kelly
  • Erik Kenward
  • Rob Klein
  • Lorne Michaels
  • John Mulaney
  • Christine Nangle
  • Michael Patrick O'Brien
  • Paula Pell
  • Marika Sawyer
  • Sarah Schneider
  • Pete Schultz
  • John Solomon
  • Kent Sublette
  • Bryan Tucker


Don Pardo served as the announcer for the series when it first began, and has performed as the show's announcer for all seasons except for season 7, when Mel Brandt and Bill Hanrahan filled that role. Pardo, who was 57 when the show debuted, and after retiring from NBC in 2004 at age 86, continued until 2010 to fly in from his home in Tucson, Arizona to introduce the show.[17]

Pardo announced in 2010 that for the 36th season, at age 92, he would pre-record his parts from his home in Arizona rather than performing live in New York City.[18]

The SNL Band

The Saturday Night Live Band (also known as "The Live Band") is the house band for SNL. Academy Award-winning composer Howard Shore served as the first musical director, from 1975 to 1980, appearing in many musical sketches, including Howard Shore and His All-Nurse Band and (backing a U. S. Coast Guard chorus) Howard Shore and the Shore Patrol. Over the years, the band has featured several New York studio musicians including Paul Shaffer (1975–1980), Lou Marini (1975–1983), David Sanborn (1975), Michael Brecker (early 1980s), Ray Chew (1980–1983), Alan Rubin (1975–1983), Georg Wadenius (1979–1985), Steve Ferrone (1985), David Johansen (performing as Buster Poindexter), Tom Malone (who took over as musical director from 1981 to 1985), and G. E. Smith (musical director from 1985 to 1995). The band is currently under the leadership of Tower of Power alumnus Lenny Pickett and keyboardists Leon Pendarvis and Katreese Barnes. The number of musicians has varied over the years, but the basic instrumentation has been three saxophones, one trombone, one trumpet, and a rhythm section featuring two keyboards, a guitar, bass, drums, and an extra percussionist, not a permanent part of the band until Valerie Naranjo's arrival in 1995. The 1983–1984 and 1984–1985 seasons featured the smallest band, a six-piece combo. The band plays instrumentals leading in and out of station breaks; affiliates who run no advertising during these interludes hear the band play complete songs behind a Saturday Night Live bumper graphic until the program resumes.[19]

Hosts/musical guests

A typical episode of SNL will feature a single host, who delivers the opening monologue and performs in sketches with the cast, and a single musical guest, who will perform two or occasionally three musical numbers. In some cases, the musical guest will also be the host and fill both duties. It has become custom that the host of the show ends the opening monologue by introducing the musical guest for the night. George Carlin was first to host the show; Candice Bergen was the first female to host the show a few weeks later and again hosted only six weeks after that. Guests that have hosted five or more times are sometimes referred to as belonging to the Five-Timers Club, a term that originated on a sketch performed on Tom Hanks' fifth episode. Alec Baldwin holds the record for most times as an SNL host at 16.[20]

Production facilities

GE Building (30 Rockefeller Plaza, or "30 Rock") where the show is filmed


Since the show's inception, SNL has aired from Studio 8H, located on floors 8 and 9 of the GE Building (30 Rockefeller Plaza, or "30 Rock"). Due to the studio originally being a radio soundstage for Arturo Toscanini and his NBC Symphony Orchestra, the layout of the studio floor and the audience positioning causes some audience members to have an obstructed view of many of the sketches. According to NBC, the 8H studio has almost perfect acoustics. The offices of SNL writers, producers, and other staff can be found on the 17th floor of "30 Rock."

During the summer 2005 shooting hiatus, crews began renovations on Studio 8H. With its thirty-first season premiere in October 2005, the show began broadcasting in high-definition television, appearing letterboxed on conventional television screens.

Three of the first four shows of the 1976–77 season were shot at the former NBC Studios in Brooklyn, due to NBC News using Studio 8H for Presidential election coverage.[21]

Mary Ellen Matthews—the photographer responsible for the celebrity portraits used as commercial bumpers on the show—usually takes photographs of the SNL guest host in the studio while the musical guest practices their set.[22]


With onsite facilities housed on floors 8 and 17 of Rockefeller Plaza, post-production duties on live broadcasts of Saturday Night Live include the mixing of audio and video elements by the Senior Audio Mixer, coupled with additional audio feeds consisting of music, sound effects, music scoring and pre-recorded voiceovers. All sources are stored digitally, with shows captured and segregated into individual elements to reorganise for future repeats and syndication. The production tracking system was migrated from primarily analogue to digital in 1998, with live shows typically requiring 1.5 Terabytes of storage, consisting of audio elements and 5 cameras worth of visual elements.[23] Elements of Saturday Night Live that are pre-recorded, such as certain commercial parodies, SNL Digital Shorts, and show graphics are processed off-site in the post-production facilities of Broadway Video.[24][25]

Filming and photography

Studio 8H production facilities are maintained by NBC Production Services. Video camera equipment includes four Sony BVP-700 CCD cameras, and two Sony BVP-750 CCD handheld cameras, both using Vinten pedestals. A GVG 4000-3 digital component production switcher, and GVG 7000 digital component routing switcher are used to route visual feeds to the control room, with multiple digital and analogue video recorders used to store footage. Graphics are provided by a Chyron Infinit! character generator and a Quantel PictureBox. Audio facilities consist of a Calrec T Series digitally controlled analogue mixing console, and a Yamaha digital mixing console used for tape playback support and utility audio work.[26]

As of the 35th season, the opening title sequence and opening montage of Saturday Night Live is shot using Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon EOS 7D digital SLR cameras. Typical elements are recorded at 30 fps, with slow-motion sequences shot at 60 fps, both in full 1080p high definition.[27]

Production process

The following is a summary of the process used to produce the show. It is based in part on interviews with former SNL head writer and performer Tina Fey in 2000 and 2004.[28][29]


  • The day begins with a topical meeting, identifying the biggest story for the show's opening.
  • This is followed by a free-form pitch meeting with Lorne Michaels and the show's host(s) for the week. The official name is "The Host Meeting" but all the writers and cast members call it "The Pitch Meeting".
  • Throughout the week the host(s) has much influence on which sketches get aired.


  • Between 9:00 p.m. Tuesday night and 7:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, anywhere from 40 to 50 scripts are written, most of which will not be broadcast.
  • Once a writer's scripts are complete, he or she will often help other writers on their scripts.
  • Meanwhile, Lorne Michaels has another "Pitch Meeting" with the musical guest(s) and discusses which of their current songs, two to three, they should play in the show for their music act.


  • All scripts get a read-through from the cast, writers, producers, Lorne Michaels and the week's host(s). Read-through is usually held in the afternoon and lasts about two and a half to three hours.
  • After the read-through, the head writer(s) and the producers meet with the host(s) to decide which sketches to work on for the rest of the week, with Lorne Michaels and the host(s) having the final say.


  • The surviving sketches are reviewed, word-by-word, by the writing staff as a whole or in two groups in the case of co-head writers.
  • Some sketches which survived the cut because of their premise, but are in need of work, are rewritten completely. Others are changed in smaller ways.
  • The Weekend Update crew starts coming together, starting with the news items written by writers dedicated all week to the segment.
  • The crew comes in for rehearsal, and the music act is rehearsed as well as some of the larger, more important sketches.
  • The host(s) and musical guest(s) and usually some cast members shoot two to four promos to play for NBC.


  • The show is blocked.
  • The writer of each sketch acts as producer, working with the show's set designers and costumers.
  • Special music is recorded for the show.
SNL's main stage, seen during rehearsals


  • The Saturday Night Live Band does a mid-morning rehearsal.
  • At 1 p.m., with the show still far from completed, the day begins with a run-through, with props, in front of Lorne Michaels.
  • This is followed by a dress rehearsal performed in front of the studio audience, which lasts from 8 p.m. - 10 p.m. (or sometimes later) and contains approximately twenty minutes of material which will be deleted from the final broadcast.
  • Lorne Michaels uses firsthand observation of the audience reaction during the dress rehearsal and input from the host(s) and head writer to determine the final round of changes, re-ordering sketches as necessary.
  • Following dress rehearsal, Lorne has a meeting with the writers to discuss the final changes and gives notes about changes that could be made for the live show. The cast is updated about sketches cut after dress rehearsal and final rundown of sketches for live show on a bulletin board outside of Lorne Michaels' office.
  • The show then begins at 11:29:30 p.m. Eastern Time Zone [3]
  • After the show comes the after-party which is located at various "hot-spots" in New York. Everyone involved in the show, including the host and musical guest(s), is invited with exception of some background performers and interns.

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 order of their performances. 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 or producer discovers the fate of his or her segment only by consulting the bulletin board.

A 60 Minutes report taped in October 2004 depicted the intense writing frenzy that goes on during the week leading up to a show, with crowded meetings and long hours. The report particularly noted the involvement of the guest host(s) in developing and selecting the sketches in which they will appear. Similarly, there has been an A&E episode of Biography which covered the production process, as well as an episode of TV Tales in 2002 on E!.



The show usually begins at 11:29:30 p.m. Eastern Time (10:29:30 p.m. Central Time)[3][not in citation given], unless a delay occurs. The show broadcasts for one and a half hours, ending at 1 a.m. For the Mountain (except for KSNG and KSNK because even though they are counties in Kansas in the Mountain time zone, they are in the Wichita Market, they air at 9:29:30 p.m. Mountain Time) and Pacific time zones, NBC airs the prerecorded live show usually unedited, mistakes notwithstanding. After the intro skit, the show always starts with the words: "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"


  • The show was forced by the network to run on a five-second delay on three separate occasions when Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, and Andrew Dice Clay each hosted.[citation needed]
  • The episode scheduled for October 25, 1986, hosted by Rosanna Arquette, was not aired until November 8 due to NBC broadcasting Game 6 of the 1986 World Series; the game entered extra innings, causing that night's broadcast of SNL to be canceled. The show was recorded for the studio audience starting at 1:30 a.m. Eastern Time, and broadcast two weeks later with an "apology" by New York Mets pitcher Ron Darling. (He explained that the Mets players had all been happy and excited to win the World Series game, but of course they all had become upset and glum when, in the locker room afterwards, they found out that they had caused the first-ever cancellation of SNL. Footage showed the depressed players sadly staring at the locker room floor in shame.)
  • The episode scheduled for February 10, 2001, hosted by Jennifer Lopez, aired 45 minutes late due to an XFL game. Lopez and the cast were not told they were airing on a delay.[30]
  • During Eddie Murphy's last season, he negotiated to record a number of extra sketches in September 1983 that featured him and were broadcast in episodes for which he was not available. His last live show was with host Edwin Newman on February 25, 1984.[31]
  • The January 9, 2010 show hosted by Charles Barkley was delayed for 36 minutes when NBC's coverage of an NFL Wild Card playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys ran late.
  • The January 8, 2011 show hosted by Jim Carrey was delayed for 16 minutes when NBC's live broadcast of the NFL's AFC Wild Card playoff game between the New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts ran late.


SNL reruns are aired out of their original broadcast sequence, usually determined by which episodes have not yet been repeated, but had high ratings or acclaim for their live broadcast. Shows usually air twice during a particular season, but often the highest-rated shows of the season have a second encore show toward the end of the off-season, or episodes will be repeated a second or third time to coincide with a new event connected with the person who hosted. For example, the Natalie Portman episode aired in March 2006 to promote V for Vendetta was repeated August 5, 2006, before the film's DVD release August 8. Similarly, Jeff Gordon's episode reran following NBC's coverage of the Pepsi 400.

NBC and Broadway Video both hold the underlying rights, while the copyright to every episode of the show made thus far lies solely with NBC. From 1990 until 2004, Comedy Central and its predecessor Ha! re-aired reruns of the series, after which E! Entertainment Television signed a deal to reruns.[32] Abbreviated thirty and sixty minute versions of the first five seasons aired as The Best of Saturday Night Live in syndication beginning in the 1980s and later on Nick at Nite in 1988. In September 2010, reruns of most episodes post-1998 began to air on VH1.[33]


From time-to-time, SNL airs compilation shows. Such shows will feature selected sketches from the previous season; of a particular cast member or multiple-time host; or centered on a particular theme (e.g., Halloween, Christmas). Political sketches are typically culled for a special in presidential election years; the 2000 special was notable for having self-deprecating (though separate) appearances by candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore. During the 2008 presidential race, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani, and Sarah Palin all made appearances on the show.

Replaced/altered sketches

Encore showings are not always identical to the original broadcast.

Successful sketches aired later in the show during the original broadcast may be reedited to appear earlier. In the earlier years of the show's history, reruns occasionally replaced weaker sketches with segments from other episodes, usually from episodes that did not have an encore showing at all.

Controversial acts by a host or musical guest can be altered or removed.

  • A portion of Martin Lawrence's February 19, 1994 monologue concerning feminine hygiene has been removed from all repeats, replaced with a voice-over and intertitles stating that the excised portion "...was a frank and lively presentation, and nearly cost us all our jobs."[34]
  • Sinéad O'Connor's October 3, 1992 live performance, during which she tore up a photograph of Pope John Paul II, was replaced with the dress rehearsal performance from earlier that evening where she holds up a picture of a starving Balkan child.[35]
  • When Sam Kinison delivered a comic monologue in 1986, NBC removed his plea for the legalization of marijuana from the West Coast broadcast and all subsequent airings.
  • The song "Bulls on Parade" was performed by Rage Against The Machine in April 1996. Their planned two-song performance was cut to one song when the band attempted to hang inverted US flags from their amplifiers ("a sign of distress or great danger"), a protest against having Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes as guest host on the program that night.

Occasionally, sketches originally performed in the dress rehearsal (which is recorded as a backup) have replaced the live version in reruns because of errors (either technical or by the actors) in the live broadcast. Examples include:

  • In 2009, during the season premiere, Jenny Slate was in a "Biker Babe" sketch where she, co-star Kristen Wiig and host Megan Fox used the word "frickin'" repeatedly. Slate accidentally slipped and said "fuckin'" instead, which was later overdubbed with "frickin'" for subsequent repeats.[36] Slate actually looks shocked upon realizing what she has just said.
  • A Peter Sarsgaard sketch from his January 21, 2006 appearance, involving Rachel Dratch's fake newscast, met with technical difficulties during the live broadcast when the in-sketch TV stopped working and a stagehand was seen fixing it.[37]
  • A sketch involving "butt pregnancy" during the first broadcast of the November 12, 2005 Jason Lee episode was replaced with a musical sketch about cafeteria food during the repeat.[38]
  • A Debbie Downer sketch featuring Ben Affleck was pulled from later rebroadcasts and replaced with the dress rehearsal version. In this case, the replacement is referenced by a title card, explaining that the dress version "worked better".
  • In 1980, Paul Shaffer became the first person to say "fucking" on the show.[39] SNL parodied The Troggs tapes with a medieval musical sketch featuring Shaffer, Bill Murray, Harry Shearer, and a "special guest appearance" by John Belushi. In the middle of a long tirade using numerous repetitions of the word "flogging", Shaffer inadvertently uttered "fucking" instead. This was not removed by the censors in the live broadcast and the West Coast taped airing, and reappeared in the summer rerun and the syndicated versions of the show for several years.



Currently, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Lions Gate Entertainment hold video rights to the series. Universal has issued complete season DVD sets to the first few seasons, while Lionsgate's share of the rights are a result of prior contracts with NBC struck before the NBC Universal merger. A majority of Lionsgate's SNL DVDs are "Best Of..." compilations.


  • The first authorized book for the series was published by Avon Books in 1977. Saturday Night Live (ISBN 0-380-01801-2) was edited by Anne Beatts and John Head, with photography by Edie Baskin;[40] all three worked for Saturday Night Live at the time the book was published. The oversized illustrated paperback included the scripts for several sketches by the Not Ready for Prime Time Players, as the repertory cast was known at first.[41]
  • In 1994 the second book about SNL was released, it is called: Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years (ISBN 0-395-75284-1). The book was written by Michael Cader. The First Twenty Years provides info on the cast, characters and other notable moments seen on the show up until 1994.[42]
  • Another book about the show was published in 2002. It is called Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests (ISBN 0-316-73565-5). The book was written by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller. The book consists of interviews (done by the authors) from people who have worked on the show. The interviews reveal personal experiences from what happened back stage and the difficulty of getting the show on air each week.[43]

Other notable books about SNL include: Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live (ISBN 0-688-05099-9) a behind-the-scenes book about the first ten seasons, Gasping for Airtime: Two Years In the Trenches of Saturday Night Live (ISBN 1-401-30801-5) which detailed Jay Mohr's struggles during his two seasons on the show


Films based on SNL sketches are listed below with their release, budget, gross, and ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. The gross is from Box Office Mojo.[44] A Rotten Tomatoes score of 60% or higher indicates the film is "fresh" (well-received);[45] Metacritic scores from 81–100, 61–80, 40–60, 20–39, and 0–19 indicate near-universal acclaim, generally favorable reviews, mixed reviews, poor reviews, and overwhelming dislike, respectively.[46]

Film Release
Budget Worldwide gross Rotten Tomatoes
The Blues Brothers June 20, 1980 $27 million $115,229,890 84% - Universal
Wayne's World February 14, 1992 $20 million $183,097,323 83% 53 Paramount
Wayne's World 2 December 10, 1993 $40 million $48,197,805 59% - Paramount
Coneheads July 23, 1993 N/A $21,274,717 27% - Paramount
It's Pat August 26, 1994 N/A $60,822 0% - Touchstone
Stuart Saves His Family April 14, 1995 $15 million $912,082 29% - Paramount
A Night at the Roxbury October 2, 1998 $17 million $30,331,165 10% 26 Paramount
Blues Brothers 2000 February 6, 1998 $28 million $14,051,384 45% - Universal
Superstar October 8, 1999 $14 million $30,636,478 33% 42 Paramount
The Ladies Man October 13, 2000 $24 million $13,616,610 11% 22 Paramount
MacGruber May 21, 2010 $10 million $9,259,314 47% 43 Universal

The early days of SNL spawned several films, including the successful The Blues Brothers (1980). However, it was the success of Wayne's World (1992) that encouraged Lorne Michaels to produce more film spin-offs, based on several popular sketch characters. Michaels revived 1970s characters for Coneheads (1993), followed by It's Pat (1994); Stuart Saves His Family (1995, with the Stuart Smalley character); A Night at the Roxbury (1998, with the Butabi Brothers characters); Superstar (1999, with the Mary Katherine Gallagher character); and The Ladies Man (2000). Some did moderately well, though others did not—notably, It's Pat, which did so badly at the box office that the studio which made the film, Touchstone Pictures (owned by The Walt Disney Company, which also owns NBC's rival ABC), pulled it only one week after releasing it,[47] and Stuart Saves His Family, with the latter losing US$15 million. Many of these films were produced by Paramount Pictures. The films based on The Blues Brothers were produced by Universal Studios, which merged with NBC in 2004 to form NBC Universal (Universal also has a joint venture with Paramount for international distribution of the two studios' films).

In addition, Office Space (1999) originated from a series of Mike Judge animated short films that aired on SNL after appearing on several other programs.[48]

The character Bob Roberts from the Tim Robbins film of the same name, first appeared on SNL in a short film about the conservative folk singer.

The group The Folksmen first appeared on SNL, performing the song "Old Joe's Place" before later appearing in the film A Mighty Wind. The three members of the Folksmen were the same three comedians: Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, and Christopher Guest, who also appeared on the same episode as the rock group Spinal Tap. At the time of the appearance (the 1984–85 season), Shearer and Guest were cast members.

Actor James Franco made a documentary entitled Saturday Night, detailing the intensive day-to-day process of creating an episode.


Saturday Night Live has won numerous awards since its debut, including 21 Primetime Emmy Awards,[49] 2 Peabody Awards,[50] and 3 Writers Guild of America Awards.[51]


SNL is aired in The Middle East and North Africa on OSNComedy every Saturday night, one week after it airs in the U.S.[52]

Because SNL has been a huge success in America, other countries have created their own versions of the show, including Spain, Italy and Japan.[53]

Spain's version of show was short lived, only lasting a few episodes which aired on Thursdays and not Saturdays as the title suggested. This version copied heavily from the American version, in that they did their own versions of sketches that were already done on the original series.[53]

Unlike Spain's version, Italy's was a success. Saturday Night Live From Milan, as it is called, is currently airing its fourth season. SNLFM follows the original format, but uses new material not done already on the American version.[53][54]

In June 2011, Japan's version debuted. Saturday Night Live: Japan was created in part with Lorne Michaels' production company, Broadway Video and broadcast on Fuji TV networks. The show follows the same format with a few minor differences. SNLJ is only 45 minutes long and (for now) is hosted by a permanent host. The cast is made up of seasoned comedians who take center stage and newcomers who play the background roles.[53][54][55][56]

In Nobember 2011, South Korea's Saturday Night Live KOREA will broadcast on TVN.[57]

Praise and criticism

In 2002, the show was ranked tenth on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time,[58] while in 2007 it was honored with inclusion on Time magazine's list of "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME."[3][8]

Electoral impact

SNL has also had an effect on elections. Voters had reported that political sketches that were shown on the show, had influenced them in the voting booth. The media dubbed this as the The SNL Effect. The so-called SNL Effect was observed during the 2008 presidential campaign according to Mike Dabadie. Two-thirds of voters who responded to a poll said they had seen a broadcast of politically charged content on SNL, with ten percent saying that it had made a difference in their decision. Barack Obama was the beneficiary of the political content, with 59 percent saying they did in fact cast a vote for the then-Democratic nominee.[59]

However in the Democratic presidential primary campaign, Hillary Clinton received more favorable treatment than Barack Obama. During the campaign Tina Fey famously quipped about the then-Senator that "bitches get stuff done" and that "bitch is the new black." [60]


In some cases, a sketch was censored in repeat broadcasts.

  • In a November 21, 1992, "Wayne's World" sketch, the characters Wayne and Garth (portrayed by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, respectively) made fun of Chelsea Clinton (the then 12-year-old daughter of the then President-elect Bill Clinton), implying that Chelsea was incapable of causing males to "Schwing!". This joke was subsequently edited out of all repeats and syndication rebroadcasts of this sketch.[61]
  • The 1998 Robert Smigel animated short film "Conspiracy Theory Rock", part of a March 1998 "TV Funhouse" segment, has been removed from all subsequent airings of the SNL episode where it originally appeared. Michaels claimed the edit was done because it "wasn't funny". The film is a scathing critique of corporate media ownership, including NBC's ownership by General Electric/Westinghouse.[62][unreliable source]

Sinéad O'Connor incidents

Sinéad O'Connor was scheduled to be the musical guest on the May 12, 1990 show. Andrew Dice Clay was the host, and O'Connor boycotted the show in protest of his misogynistic humor, forcing the producers to find musical replacements. Nora Dunn also boycotted that week's show, and was not included in the next year's cast.[63][64] Reportedly, Andrew Dice Clay was heckled during the opening monologue, and the dress rehearsal monologue is shown in reruns.[65]

O'Connor rips a picture of Pope John Paul II

On October 3, 1992, Sinéad O'Connor appeared on SNL as the musical guest. She was singing an a cappella version of Bob Marley's "War", which she intended as a protest over the sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, by changing the lyric "fight racial injustice" to "fight child abuse".[66] She then presented a photo of Pope John Paul II to the camera while singing the word "evil", after which she tore the photo into pieces, said "Fight the real enemy," and threw the pieces towards the camera.[67][68]

Saturday Night Live had no foreknowledge of O'Connor's plan. As of 2011, NBC still declines to rebroadcast the sequence with the exception of an interview with O'Connor on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, which aired on 24 April 2010 when MSNBC aired the full clip during the interview. NBC replaced the incident with footage from the dress rehearsal where O'Connor holds a photo of a Balkan child before bowing and leaving the stage. The dress rehearsal version is also used for 60-minute syndicated rebroadcasts (seen on Comedy Central and E! Entertainment Television). However, the original episode is available on volume four of the SNL DVD special Saturday Night Live - 25 Years of Music, with an introduction by show creator/executive producer Lorne Michaels about the incident. Though on February 20, 2011, the clip was reaired on the SNL special "Backstage" showing footage of the dress rehearsal and live performance side by side. In the two performances, two different photos are held up; one where O'Connor is holding the picture of a starving child and the other of her holding a picture of the Pope — but with a cut to interviewees during the moment the photo was ripped.

The incident is referenced in 30 Rock, a comedy show loosely based on the production process of SNL, in the episode "Season 4".

Rage Against the Machine incident

On April 13, 1996, the band Rage Against the Machine were the musical guests, and were scheduled to perform two songs. The show was hosted that night by ex-Republican presidential candidate and billionaire Steve Forbes. According to RATM guitarist Tom Morello, "RATM wanted to stand in sharp juxtaposition to a billionaire telling jokes and promoting his flat tax by making our own statement."[69] To this end, the band hung two upside-down American flags from their amplifiers. Seconds before they took the stage to perform "Bulls on Parade", SNL and NBC sent stagehands in to pull the flags down.[70] Following the removal of the flags during the first performance, the band was approached by SNL and NBC officials and ordered to immediately leave the building. Upon hearing this, bassist Tim Commerford reportedly stormed Forbes' dressing room, throwing shreds from one of the torn down flags. Morello noted that members of the Saturday Night Live cast and crew, whom he declined to name, "expressed solidarity with our actions, and a sense of shame that their show had censored the performance."[69]

Ashlee Simpson incident

Ashlee Simpson, younger sister of pop-icon Jessica Simpson, appeared as a musical guest on October 23, 2004, and, as is customary for the show's format, she was scheduled to perform two songs. Her first song, "Pieces of Me," was performed without problems. However, when she began her second song, "Autobiography," the vocals for the song "Pieces of Me" were heard again—before she had even raised the microphone to her mouth. Simpson began to do an impromptu jig when she realized the embarrassing error, but then left the stage.[71] During the closing of the show Simpson appeared with the guest host Jude Law and said, "I'm so sorry. My band started playing the wrong song, and I didn't know what to do, so I thought I'd do a hoedown."[72][73]

On October 25, Simpson called in to the music video show Total Request Live and explained that due to complications arising from severe acid reflux disease, which had previously been seen bothering her in The Ashlee Simpson Show, she had completely lost her voice and her doctor had advised her not to sing. She said that because of the acid reflux, her father wanted her to use a vocal guide track for the performance. Simpson stated of the incident, "I made a complete fool of myself." According to Simpson, the drummer hit the wrong button, which caused the wrong track to be played.[74]


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Further reading

  • Cader, Michael (1994). Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  • Hill, Doug, and Jeff Weingrad (1986). Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. New York: Beech Tree Books. ISBN 0-688-05099-9.
  • Mohr, Jay (2004). Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches of Saturday Night Live. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 1-4013-0006-5.
  • Shales, Tom, and James Andrew Miller (2002). Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-78146-0.
  • Streeter, Michael (2005). Nothing Lost Forever: The Films of Tom Schiller. New York: BearManor Media. ISBN 1-59393-032-1.

External links

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