Live from New York, it’s the SNL 40th anniversary bash
Saturday Night Live, which has never shied from selfcongratulation with countless best-of, holiday and anniversary shindigs, is doing it again, big time.
The SNL 40th Anniversary Special — three hours of it — will air live Sunday at 8 p.m. on NBC and Global.
Everyone who has ever been an SNL regular, guest host, musical guest or behind-the-scenes creative force has been invited. Indeed, it seems every boldface name who ever tuned in to watch might be showing up at fabled Studio 8H.
Attendees announced so far range from Dan Aykroyd, Alec Baldwin and Robert De Niro to Kanye West, Betty White and Kristen Wiig. And to welcome them all, the Today show anchor team will host The SNL 40th Red Carpet Live at 7 p.m.
“We waited to see who RSVPed, then we started thinking about what we could do with the people we knew were coming,” said Lorne Michaels last week. “We’re still working on it, as more people reply.”
The show will include sketches and other comedy bits employing what Michaels calls “a mash-up of different generations, so you’ll see people working with people they never actually worked with” as SNL regulars.
SNL was born as the brainchild of Michaels, then 31, who today, at 70, remains very much hands-on. He’s also very much in charge of Sunday’s retrospective.
He pointed with special satisfaction to the expected return of Eddie Murphy, among the series’ biggest discoveries whose SNL tenure fell during Michaels’ absence between 1980 and 1985.
“Eddie Murphy coming is a huge thing,” says Michaels, adding that his role in the proceedings “is still being worked out, but he’s been very open to different ideas.
“I know this sounds weird, because we’ve been working on the show for eight months, but we still have nine days.” That’s an eternity, as SNL has demonstrated for decades with its breakneck six-day cycle.
SNL was born into a world where there was nothing much to watch on TV other than a trio of broadcast networks. Topical comedy was almost nonexistent.
No wonder each week of SNL was greeted as a TV godsend by its first generation of disciples, who, powered by 60-cents-a-gallon gasoline and $15-an-ounce marijuana, flocked to one another’s living rooms for smoky viewing parties, gathering around the TV set to live the live-ness of SNL along with its performers. Whatever else was happening at 11:30 came to a halt. It had to. Home VCRs weren’t on the market yet.
SNL premièred Oct. 11, 1975, with comedian George Carlin as host, and Billy Preston and Janis Ian its musical guests. (NBC and Global will repeat this debut program on Saturday at 11:30 p.m. EST.)
Weekend Update, of course, would become the show’s most enduring fixture, the forebear of such fake-news ventures as The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
No one at the time could have predicted all that, but in a remarkably few weeks, SNL had settled into a creative groove. Sunday night will be an opportunity for viewers to survey how it got from there to here — and for Michaels to see 40 years of his life unfold.
“I’m sure it will be very emotional,” he acknowledges. “But right now, I’m trying to just think about it as a show, and how to get it on the air.”