Newest// Older// GuestBook// Email Me// Diary Rings// Diaryland

2002-09-30 - 8:37 p.m.
Night Life: SNL's Facts, Figures and Funniest Moments

Prior to SNL, late night on Saturday was a TV wasteland, featuring repeats of The Tonight Show, old movies, wrestling and the odd test pattern.

Saturday Night Live debuted October 11, 1975, and was hosted by George Carlin, with musical guests Janis Ian and Billy Preston.

The first sketch featured John Belushi as a foreign student and Michael O'Donoghue as a professor who teaches useful phrases such as "I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines."

Billy Crystal was supposed to appear on that first show but got bumped. He'd later join the cast in 1984.

The show's oddly phrased opening, "Live from New York, it's Saturday night," came out of the fact that ABC already had a variety show called Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell.

Cosell's short-lived show featured a group of performers--including a fella named Bill Murray--called "The Ready for Prime-Time Players." Murray took the Cosell job after Lorne Michaels passed him over in favor of Dan Aykroyd.

Chevy Chase, SNL's first breakout star, was also the first to depart, which he did after the first season, to appear in terrific movies like Foul Play, National Lampoon's Vacation and Fletch, as well as his unfortunate late-night show in '95.

Toonces the Cat and Mr. Bill may be better remembered by SNL fans, but Jim Henson's Muppets also made regular appearances on the early shows.

Despite the fact that he did 17 sketches in his "Bees" outfit, John Belushi hated doing it. According to Lorraine Newman, at least part of the problem was that the costume made it difficult to go to the bathroom.

Steve Martin and Blondie have the honor of appearing on the highest-rated SNL, which aired in 1979. The lowest rated? That would be the fourth episode, with host Candice Bergen. Not that it mattered; Bergen was tapped to host again just a few episodes later.

The host with the most? Wild and crazy Steve Martin has hosted the show 13 times, more than anyone else. John Goodman has hosted the show 12 times and Buck Henry 10 times.

Appearing from 1991 to 2000, Tim Meadows logged the most time on the show, but Al Franken--never an official castmember--has spent more than 11 seasons with the show--on and off--since 1977.

When she was just seven years old, Drew Barrymore hosted the show, the youngest ever to do it.

The oldest celebrity host was 80-year-old Harold and Maude star Ruth Gordon in 1977. Although, later that year an 80-year-old grandmother won a contest and got to host the show.

The youngest cast member on the show was 17-year-old Anthony Michael Hall, who was part of the 1985-86 cast, with Robert Downey Jr., Randy Quaid and Joan Cusack.

The oldest cast member to join SNL was Michael McKean at age 46 in 1994-95.

Though spoofs of presidents Ford and Bush have been fan favorites over the years, President Bill Clinton holds the title for the most impersonators, having been goofed on by Dana Carvey, Chris Elliot, Chris Farley, Darrell Hammond, Phil Hartman, Michael McKean, Tim Meadows, Adam Sandler and David Spade.

The show has only been taped outside of New York once--in 1977, when the cast and crew were live from New Orleans.

Charles Rocket, a 1980-81 castmember, got fired for using the F-word on air. Other performers, from Paul Schaeffer to Tony Danza, have uttered the word as well.

Although Eddie Murphy was the biggest star to emerge from the casts of the early '80s, he was originally hired only as a featured performer. His appearances as Gumby, Buckwheat and Mr. Rogers changed all that.

Jim Carrey was rejected as a castmember.

Roseanne's Laurie Metcalf lasted as a featured member on only one show, the final of the 1980-81 season.

Who says nepotism isn't funny? There have been three sets of brothers--Dan (1975-79) and Peter Aykroyd (1980), John (1975-1979) and Jim Belushi (1983-85) and Bill Murray (1977-80) and Brian Doyle-Murray (1981-82)--who've appeared in the cast.

Chicago and Canada are funny, too. Castmembers from Belushi and Radner to Myers and Tina Fey were members of Second City, the comedy improvisational group.

In what has to be some kind of a record, Jimmy Fallon has appeared on the show as five different SNL castmembers: Gilbert Gottfried, Michael McKean, Dennis Miller, Chris Rock and Adam Sandler.

Although acts from Paul Simon and the Rolling Stones to the Backstreet Boys and Puff Daddy have appeared on the show, the most memorable musical moment was probably when Sinéad O'Connor tore up a picture of the Pope in 1992.

Though Wayne's World became a huge fan favorite, it was initially so lowly regarded that it appeared late in the program.

Mike Myers' fabulous Linda Richman character was based on his real-life mother-in-law. Apparently, she was flattered.

previous - next