Saturday Night Live: Late Night Comedy Is No Joke.

Lorne Michaels has helmed “Saturday Night Live” for 40 years, but in the entertainment business that might as well be an eternity. So how has Michaels kept ‘SNL’ current and fresh after all these years?

Lorne MichaelsOne way he’s accomplished this is by having complete control over the show. Except for an absence in the early ‘80s—when the show was nearly cancelled—Michaels has been the main decision maker for the duration of SNL. Whether it’s who is chosen as a cast member, whether or not a joke works, or who gets let go, ultimately Michaels has that decision.

Saturday Night Live first aired in October 1975, becoming a shining star in the dark landscape of television at the time. Its premise was simple: a late night sketch comedy show broadcast live across the United States once a week. Expectations for the show lasting past its first season weren’t set particularly high, especially by Michaels himself. In an interview with The New York Post, he said, “At the end of the first season I’d written everything I’d wanted to write several times over. I thought of it as ‘That Championship Season.’ I didn’t know what I would do for a second season.”

But SNL survived a second season, then a third and a fourth, and last month it celebrated its 40th season on the air. An anniversary special was aired for this occasion, which brought back cast members from the last four decades.

Michaels uses a specific formula for his show, and will combat anyone who tries to change it. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Michaels describes a few instances when a guest host or the network tried to change that formula. When a network exec tried to cut music from the show, Michaels relented for a few episodes, but ultimately Lorne got his way. Another issue he’s run into is hosts trying to push the envelope of what’s appropriate, but Michaels and his crew have been through it all before, and know when something works and when it doesn’t.

SNL40Ratings for this show were the best SNL—or NBC for that matter—has seen in years. According to Variety, Nielson ratings garnered 23.1 million viewers from 8 to 11 PM for the February 15 celebration. That’s the highest number of viewers for an NBC primetime show since the Frasier finale in 2004. This is clearly a huge success for the network as well as the show, and proves that to this day SNL has remained a relevant television staple.

When asked if SNL should go on without him, Michaels—who will be 71 this year—replied, “I don’t know. I’m going to keep doing it as long as I possibly can because I love it and because it’s what I do.”

Lorne Michaels has kept SNL alive by keeping to a strict formula and maintaining control of his production by overseeing all parts of it, from casting to writing to the format of the show. Saturday Night Live is truly a Lorne Michaels production.

What will the future hold for Michaels and SNL? Do you think the show will celebrate a 50th anniversary?

– Kyle Flathers

3 thoughts on “Saturday Night Live: Late Night Comedy Is No Joke.

  1. I think it is truly amazing that Michaels has been able to run so many aspects of SNL for such a long time. It seems like it is very uncommon for individuals to work in an organization for 40 years, let alone run the show! I feel that approving so many different aspects of the show is very risky and he deserves a lot of credit for the amount of success he’s had. As a fan of the show, I hope he continues running SNL. However, it would be interesting to see if a new person would be able to continue down the track Michaels chose. Only time will tell.

  2. Obviously Lorne can’t do the show forever. I suspect that he will try to hold out for a 50th anniversary and then retire, if he is still alive. He has done an excellent job selecting cast members over the years but I don’t know if SNL is what it used to be. We have seen several actors create successful careers from their start at SNL but the I don’t know if the show possesses the same winning formula that it used to. Besides the 40th anniversary episode, I cannot think of the last time I watched the show. Today’s cast members do not seam as strong and it makes me wonder if people are watching the show purely based off the celebrity host.

  3. I’m sure the show will continue on without him. At this point in time, snl is a piece of pop culture that everyone is familiar with. While I don’t think the show is particularly that good most of the time, it has a large enough following to continue on if his predecessor can continue his formula.

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