Well kids, Saturday Night Live is officially turning 40. Forty!! Anyone else wonder who Lorne Michaels will pass the buck to? My money would be on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, but that’s just my preference. Sunday the 15th at 8pm, tune your dial to NBC for the biggest anniversary show ever! (If you’re under 35, schedule a viewing party with someone who has TV channels.)
George Carlin (RIP) hosted the very first episode way back in 1975, playing to the generations to which he was most sympathetic. And it’s been a wild ride ever since. Saturday Night Live was a new concept back then, and offered adults a late-night outlet for raunchy, topical, and political laughs, sans the canned laughter of sitcoms. Without it, we would never have gotten the likes of Kids in the Hall, In Living Color, or MAD TV. SNL has had its ups and downs with writers, cast, and popularity over the years, but it’s weathered every comedic and political storm. What other show could give actors and comedians so much free reign to create characters and perform them on the spot in front of a live studio audience?
SNL has served as a perpetual time capsule of comedy for at least three generations. How else would we have even known of Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Gilda Radnor, Jane Curtain, Eddie Murphy, Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, Adam Sandler, Dana Carvey, David Spade, Chris Farley, Mike Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, Maya Rudolph, Kevin Nealon, Dennis Miller, Al Franken, Martin Short, Chris Rock, Kristen Wiig, Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and a veritable bevvy of underappreciated comedic gold? And, how would Alec Baldwin have stayed employed all these years?
Through it all, the show has given us some of the best “Not Ready for Primetime Players” New York City could offer (the very best being in that hole in the wall playing some undiscovered starving artist). The producers and directors never made distinctions in their performers based on race, color, creed, or sexuality. They have tirelessly worked to bring their comedy and art from a live stage into your living rooms. Remember when the campaign to get Betty White to host SNL won? And, um, and, and remember when Tina Fey was Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler was Hillary Clinton? And, um, and remember when Chris Farley did this bit where he hosted a talk show but he was too nervous? Yeah, that was awesome.
Growing up with SNL, I’m looking forward to seeing references to some of my favorite characters: Church Lady, Mr. Robinson, Linda Richman, Hans and Frans, Buckwheat, Gumby, Stuart Smalley, Pat, and the Cheerleaders. I only wish we could get one more showing of Frankenstein, Samurai Chef, Matt Foley, and Baba Wawa. Pretty sure we can expect a nod to Wayne’s World.
Lorne Michaels spoke with Variety, and says that this year’s anniversary special will be much more live entertainment, as opposed to escaping into clips. Good thing, because those of us who’ve seen it all would rather revisit favorite sketches on our own, rather than be disappointed with another look back. We’re promised about fifty former and current cast members and hosts, and skits will feature people who’ve never worked together on the show mashing their comedic geniuses and various talents. Three hours of laughing your ass off!
Grab the popcorn and beer, because we are in for a mid-February post-Valentine’s Day treat! We owe so much of our senses of humor to SNL. Raise a glass (or can) to another forty years of crazy characters, hilarious cartoons, and every new comedian worth a damn! More cowbell!