Forty Years of Saturday Night Live

by Alex Cole

For forty years, SNL has been one of the most watched programs on the American television station known as NBC. It started as an hour and a half live sketch comedy show and even today it has kept the same format. The show was conceived in 1975 by Lorne Michaels, who just so happens to be Canadian. Since that time, he has been able to keep the show alive despite many setbacks and questionable casting decisions.

When the show first started, cast members included Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Gilda Radnor, just to name a few. The original cast is still to this day highly regarded as one of the best of all time. One just has to watch the chemistry between Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray in the film Ghostbusters to understand what I mean. In terms of sketches, “The Samurai Deli” with John Belushi and an offensive game of word association between Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase became instant classics. This era of SNL also introduced “Weekend Update”, the satirical news sketch that is still going today on every broadcast.

Source: MGN
Source: MGN

The shift into the 1980s was probably the darkest time in the show’s history. Lorne Michaels left SNL, and with new execs running the show, Saturday Night Live was almost canceled. Throughout the early 80s, Eddie Murphy was the only star on the cast and almost every skit was written around him. Things got worse when Murphy left the show. The mid 80s saw the likes of Julia Louis Dreyfus (otherwise known as Elaine from Seinfeld), Anthony Michael Hall, and even Robert Downey Jr. grace the SNL stage. Despite these actors having decent and even great careers afterwards, their tenure on SNL was underwhelming.

However, by the late 80s, the show found itself rising once again with cast members such as Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Jon Lovitz, and Phil Hartman. They were a breath of fresh air that brought a whole new dynamic to the show, a dynamic that would eventually carry all the way through the nineties with a cast that included Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, and Chris Farley, among others.

The 90s were an incredible time in SNL’s history. Skits such as “Wayne’s World” and the “Herlihy Boy” were becoming audience favorites. Even the characters were becoming memorable again. Adam Sandler’s Operaman and Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World were extremely popular.

Since then, stars like Will Ferrell have made names for themselves thanks to the show and even in 2015, the show is producing incredible talent. The culmination of 40 incredible years was displayed two weekends ago during SNL’s 40 year anniversary special. It saw many former cast members grace the stage to become the characters they made famous for one last time. It was an incredible event that celebrated a show that could very well go another 40 years.

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