SNL Turns 40
Posted on February 6, 2015 at 3:55 pm
“Saturday Night Live,” once the brash upstart whose cast billed themselves as the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” is now an established institution. Performers like John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Al Franken, Eddie Murphy, Martin Short, Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, Tracy Morgan, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristin Wiig, Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, and many more all had breakthrough performances as writers or members of the cast. Dozens of memes, characters, and catchphrases originating on the show have become a part of our culture.
SNL is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a book and a prime time TV special hosted by Eddie Murphy February 15, 2015, with many of the cast members and special guests including Sarah Palin, Kanye West, and Justin Timberlake.
Saturday Night Live: The Book includes over 2,300 images from SNL’s archives, many previously unpublished, an illustrated breakdown of the 6-day week at SNL through the years, with an expanded section for the live show, a seasons reference guide with complete cast, host, and musical guest lists, and an exclusive interview with founder and executive producer Lorne Michaels.
On October 11, 1975 at 11:30 p.m., NBC viewers who tuned in to the network’s new late night show saw a sketch featuring John Belushi repeating, in a thick foreign accent, nonsensical phrases about wolverines being read to him by head writer Michael O’Donohue. Abruptly, O’Donohue clutched his heart and collapsed onto the floor. Belushi paused, raised his eyebrow, and then did the same. Posing as the stage manager, Chevy Chase entered the set and feigned confusion before breaking character and announcing to the camera: “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”
In that instant, television, which had long been out of touch with the young and hip, experienced the first seismic tremors of a major paradigm shift. TV comedy as we know it today owes it all to Saturday Night Live, the show that dared to take risks (not least the fact that it’s broadcast live), challenge the censors, and celebrate the work of offbeat writer-performers. Hundreds of gifted and dedicated people have contributed to Saturday Night Live over the years, and this book pays homage to their groundbreaking work. The list of esteemed alumni, most of whom were complete unknowns when they debuted on SNL, reads like a Who’s Who of the past 4 decades in comedy: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Al Franken, Eddie Murphy, Martin Short, Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, Tracy Morgan, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristin Wiig, Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, and Bill Hader—to name just a few.
Now, as SNL celebrates its 40th anniversary, Tashcen brings you the ultimate tribute to the show. To research this book, editor and author Alison Castle was given not only full access to SNL’s archives, but also the rare opportunity to watch the cast and crew at work. She spent the better part of season 39 in the trenches, learning how everything comes together in just six days for the live performance. Part encyclopedia and part behind-the-scenes tour, Saturday Night Live: The Book covers both the making of the show and its remarkable history.
Fans of the show should also read Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller.
Glamour has a terrific, very candid roundtable with the SNL women, who talk about everything from their “terrifying” auditions to writing for themselves to avoid one-line waitress roles, to the ideas behind their most famous characters.