Saturday Night Live, now known simply as SNL, is celebrating its 40th season this year. The program debuted on October 11, 1975, which means Jimmy Fallon was a mere three weeks old when the show first hit the air. The original SNL cast consisted of eventual comedy legends such as Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and Dan Aykroyd.
Turns out Steve Martin, who seems somehow connected to the show, was never part of the cast. He merely hosted 15 times. He is not the most frequent host: that honor goes to Alec Baldwin, who’s steered the broadcast 16 times.
Laurie Metcalf, unlike Martin, was part of the ensemble — for one episode. Before she began a long tenure as Roseanne Barr’s sister in the sitcom Roseanne, and even longer before Metcalf was the mother to Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, Metcalf was on SNL. Her time was cut short because of a writer’s strike.
Metcalf might not have been fired, but the show does not shy from shutting down its welcome to hosts and musical guests, as it’s proved over the last 40 years. Milton Berle, Steven Seagal, and Adrien Brody have all been banned. Brody reportedly went off-script. Sinead O’Connor was banned for famously tearing up a picture of the pope during a musical performance. Ashlee Simpson’s botched attempt at a lip-sync in 2004 resulted in a ban on the practice.
Twelve million people tuned in to watch Betty White, at age 88, host the show in 2010. Her appearance was the result of a Facebook campaign to get her the hosting spot. The episode brought in numbers and comedy. The New York Times asked, “If Facebook could successfully campaign to make Ms. White an ‘SNL’ host, can it now begin the movement to make her a permanent cast member?”
Although White is not, as of yet, a permanent cast member, she is set to appear on the 40th anniversary program. The guest list for the three-and-a-half-hour special is massive, with many returning hosts and former cast members. Long-time producer Lorne Michaels, who has run the show for 35 of its 40 years, told Variety this will be different from past SNL anniversary specials, offering fans more original content and a heavy mix of old and new.
“More live performance, not so much clips. All the generations are coming, and so there’s a little bit of a mash-up between different casts, people who have never really worked together before. I think we’re going to do ‘The Californians,’ but we’ll do it with different people. We will also have some live music performances: Paul McCartney, Kanye West, Paul Simon, two or three other big numbers. Everything is subject to change. … Most (cast members) from over the years are coming back, and an enormous number of people who hosted. It’s like any other reunion. It’s both (a feeling of) dread and ‘You know what? This is happening.'”
Eddie Murphy said in a recent interview that he does not expect to perform in a sketch, although he will be back. Murphy was part of the cast during the period in the early 1980s when Michaels was ousted and Dick Ebersol served as executive producer.
The anniversary special airs 8 p.m. Sunday on NBC. Red carpet coverage begins at 7 p.m. On Saturday night, viewers can watch the very first episode of SNL, hosted by George Carlin.