Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live Title Card
The current Saturday Night Live title card.
Also known as NBC's Saturday Night (1975–1977)
Format Sketch comedy, Comedy, variety
Created by Lorne Michaels
Starring See the Saturday Night Live cast
Country of origin Template:Country flag2
No. of seasons 33
No. of episodes 632 as of March 15, 2008 (List of episodes)
Location(s) Studio 8H,
GE Building,
Rockefeller Center

New York City, New York

Running time 90 minutes
Original channel NBC
Picture format 480i (SDTV),
1080i (HDTV)
Original run October 11, 1975 – present
External links
Official website
IMDb profile summary

Saturday Night Live (SNL) is a weekly late-night 90-minute American variety show based in New York City that has been broadcast by NBC on Saturday nights since October 11, 1975. In Canada it is simulcast on the Global Television Network. It is broadcast live in the Atlantic, Eastern, and Central time zones, with a two or three hour delay for stations in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones. It is one of the longest-running network programs in American television history. Each week, the show's cast is joined by a guest host and musical act.

Originally, the show was called NBC's Saturday Night until NBC retitled its show in 1976 (the Saturday Night Live title having been previously attached to a short-lived variety show hosted by Howard Cosell and airing on rival network ABC). The first show with the new title was broadcast on March 26, 1977.

The show — broadcast from Studio 8H at the GE Building (called the RCA Building until 1988) in New York's Rockefeller Center — has been the launching place for many major American comedy stars of the last thirty years. It was created by Canadian Lorne Michaels who, excluding a hiatus from Season 6 through Season 10, has produced and written for the show and remains its executive producer (Jean Doumanian produced almost all of Season 6, and Dick Ebersol produced the last episode of Season 6, and all of Seasons 7–10).

NBC and Broadway Video share the copyright to every episode of the show made thus far. From 1990 until 2004, Comedy Central and its predecessor Ha! re-aired reruns of the series, after which E! Entertainment Television signed a deal to reruns.[1] Abbreviated thirty and sixty minute versions of the first five seasons aired as The Best of Saturday Night Live in syndication beginning in the 1980s and later on Nick at Nite in 1988, VH1, Comedy Central and E! Entertainment Television. The Best of shows have not aired since 2003.


Saturday Night Live cast

See also: Saturday Night Live cast

Repertory players

Featured players

Notable tenures

Although Saturday Night Live has a rapid turnover of supporting players, some performers have had long tenures with the show. Few have broken the "seven-year barrier". Among the longest-serving cast members are:

Cast Member Tenure Total Seasons
Darrell Hammond 1995 - Present 13 (as of Season 33)
Al Franken 1977 - 1980, 1986, 1987 - 1995 11½
Tim Meadows 1991 - 2000
Kevin Nealon 1986 - 1995 9
Phil Hartman 1986 - 1994 8
Horatio Sanz 1998 - 2006 8
Maya Rudolph 2000 - 2007
Chris Parnell 1998 - 2001, 2002 - 2006
Chris Kattan 1996 - 2003
Rachel Dratch 1999 - 2006 7
Tracy Morgan 1996 - 2003 7
Will Ferrell 1995 - 2002 7
Amy Poehler 2001 - Present 7 (as of Season 33)
Seth Meyers 2001 - Present 7 (as of Season 33)

The studio

Since the show's inception, SNL has aired from Studio 8H, located on floors 8 and 9 of GE Building (30 Rockefeller Plaza, or "30 Rock"). Due to the studio originally being a radio soundstage for Arturo Toscanini and his NBC Symphony Orchestra, the layout of the studio floor and the audience positioning causes some audience members to have an obstructed view of many of the sketches. According to NBC, the 8H studio has an almost perfect sound acoustic. The offices of SNL writers, producers, and other staff can be found on the 17th floor of "30 Rock".

During the summer 2005 shooting hiatus, crews began renovations on Studio 8H. With its thirty-first season premiere in October 2005, the show began broadcasting in High Definition, appearing letterboxed on conventional screens.

Other productions have occasionally used the studio. Three of the first four shows of the 1976-77 season were shot at the former NBC Studios in Brooklyn, due to NBC News using Studio 8H for Presidential election coverage. The first season finale of The Apprentice and the 5th Anniversary special of Late Night with Conan O'Brien have used the studio for one night. Likewise, Later with Bob Costas, Love, Sidney, the 50th anniversary of Television episode of Today in 1990, "House Party with Steve Doocy" and the 5th Anniversary special of Late Night with David Letterman were broadcast from Studio 8H. Last Call with Carson Daly used the studio until 2005, when the show moved to Studio 9 at the NBC Studios in Burbank, California.

In May of 2002, NBC celebrated its 75th anniversary and used Studio 8H to shoot the live broadcast of the event. Lorne Michaels executive produced the event.

Production process

The following is a summary of the process used to produce the show. It is based in part on interviews with former SNL head writer and performer Tina Fey in 2000 and 2004:[2][3]


  • The day begins with a topical meeting, identifying the biggest story for the show's opening.
  • This is followed by a free-form pitch meeting with Lorne Michaels and the show's host for the week. The official name is "The Host Meeting" but all the writers and cast members call it "The Pitch Meeting"
  • Throughout the week the host has a lot of influence on which sketches get aired.
  • Following the meeting, writers begin to draft the two scripts each must produce.


  • Starting in the afternoon, anywhere from 30 to 45 scripts are written, most of which will not be broadcast.
  • The host walks around the office and talks to the writers to see the progress of the written sketches.[citation needed]
  • Once a writer's scripts are complete, he or she will often help other writers on their scripts.


  • All scripts get a read-through.
  • After the read-through, the head writer(s) and the producers meet with the host to decide which sketches to work on for the rest of the week, with Lorne Michaels and the host having the final say.


  • The surviving sketches are reviewed, word-by-word, by the writing staff as a whole or in two groups in the case of co-head writers.
  • Some sketches which survived the cut because of their premise, but are in need of work, are rewritten completely. Others are changed in smaller ways.
  • The Weekend Update crew starts coming together, starting with the news items written by writers dedicated all week to the segment.
  • The crew comes in for rehearsal, and the music act is rehearsed as well as some of the larger, more important sketches.
  • The host and musical guest do a photo shoot with Mary Ellen Matthews for the SNL bumpers.[citation needed]
  • The host and musical guest and usually some cast members shoot two to four promos to play for NBC.


  • The show is blocked.
  • The writer of each sketch acts as producer, working with the show's set designers and costumers.


  • With the show still far from finalized, the day begins with a run-through, with props, in front of Lorne Michaels.
  • After the run-through, the cast and crew find out which of the sketches are in the dress rehearsal, and which are cut. The writer/producer deals with any changes.
  • This is followed by a dress rehearsal performed in front of the studio audience, which lasts from 8 p.m. - 10 p.m. (or sometimes later) and contains approximately twenty minutes of material which will be deleted from the final broadcast.
  • Lorne Michaels uses firsthand observation of the audience reaction during the dress rehearsal and input from the host and head writer to determine the final round of changes, re-ordering sketches as necessary.
  • The live show then begins at 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time, but some markets will delay airing.

The status of the show during the week is maintained on a bulletin board. Sketches and other segments are given labels which are put on index cards and put on the board in the order of their performance. The order is based on content as well as production limitations such as camera placement and performer availability. Segments which have been cut are kept to the side of the board. As the broadcast approaches, often the writer/producer discovers the fate of his or her segment only by consulting the bulletin board.

A 60 Minutes report taped in October 2004 depicted the intense writing frenzy that goes on during the week leading up to a show, with crowded meetings and long hours. The report particularly noted the involvement of the guest hosts in developing and selecting the sketches in which they will appear. Similarly, there has been an A&E episode of Biography which covered the production process, as well as an episode of "TV Tales" in 2002 on E! Entertainment Television.

When it's not live


SNL reruns are aired out of its original broadcast sequence, usually determined by which episodes have not yet been repeated, but had high ratings or acclaim for its live broadcast. Shows usually air twice during a particular season, but often the highest rated shows of the season have a second encore show towards the end of the off-season, or episodes will be repeated a second or third time to coincide with a new event connected with the person who hosted. For example, the Natalie Portman episode aired in March 2006 to promote V for Vendetta was repeated August 5, 2006, prior to the film's DVD release August 8. Similarly, Jeff Gordon's episode reran following NBC's coverage of the Pepsi 400.

Encore showings are not always identical to the original broadcast. Successful sketches aired later in the show during the original broadcast may be reedited to appear earlier, and segments that did not work well during the live broadcast may be replaced by the dress rehearsal version, or entirely new sketches. A Peter Sarsgaard sketch from his January 21, involving to broadcast Rachel Dratch's fake newscast, met with technical difficulties during the live broadcast when the in-sketch TV stopped working and a stagehand was seen fixing it. It was replaced with a dress rehearsal version in rerun. This has happened many times over the years, including Kathleen Turner's monologue in 1989. A sketch involving "butt pregnancy" during the first broadcast of the November 12, 2005, Jason Lee episode was replaced with a musical sketch about cafeteria food during the repeat. In the earlier years of the show's history, reruns occasionally replaced weaker sketches with segments from other episodes, usually from episodes that did not have an encore showing at all.

Perhaps one of the most notable substitutions was the replacement of Sinéad O'Connor's October 3, 1992 live performance during which she destroyed a photograph of Pope John Paul II, with the dress rehearsal performance from earlier that evening.

The show is never live in the western half of the USA. There was a short experiment in which it did air live on the west coast in 2001 after live XFL football games. NBC airs a recording of the live show for the Mountain and Pacific time zones.


From time-to-time, SNL airs compilation shows. Such shows will feature hand-selected best sketches from the previous season; of a particular cast member or multiple-time host; or centered on a particular theme (eg. Halloween, Christmas). Political sketches are typically culled for a special in presidential election years; the 2000 special was notable for having self-deprecating (though separate) appearances by candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore.


  • The show was forced by the network to run on a seven-second delay when Andrew Dice Clay and Richard Pryor hosted.
  • The episode scheduled for October 25, 1986, hosted by Rosanna Arquette, was not aired until November 8 due to NBC broadcasting Game 6 of the 1986 World Series; the game entered extra innings, causing that night's broadcast of SNL to be canceled. The show was recorded for the studio audience starting at 1:30 a.m. Eastern Time, and broadcast two weeks later with an "apology" by New York Mets pitcher Ron Darling.
  • The episode scheduled for February 10, 2001, hosted by Jennifer Lopez, aired 45 minutes late due to an XFL game. Lopez and the cast were not told they were airing on a delay.[4]
  • During Eddie Murphy's last season, he was only available for part of the season, so they recorded a number of extra sketches in September 1983 that featured him and were broadcast in episodes for which he was not available.[5]
  • When Sam Kinison delivered a comic monologue in 1986, NBC removed his plea for the legalization of marijuana from the West Coast broadcast and all subsequent airings.
  • A portion of Martin Lawrence's 1994 monologue concerning feminine hygiene has been removed from all repeats, replaced with a voice-over and intertitles stating that the excised portion "...was a frank and lively presentation, and nearly cost us all our jobs."[6]
  • In a November 7, 1992 Wayne's World sketch, the characters Wayne and Garth (respectively portrayed by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey) made fun of Chelsea Clinton (the then 13-year old daughter of President-Elect Bill Clinton), implying that Chelsea was incapable of causing males to "Schwing!" (essentially meaning she was unattractive). This joke was subsequently edited out of all repeats and syndication rebroadcasts of this sketch.[7]

Musical guests

See also: List of Saturday Night Live hosts and musical guests

Frequent musical guests

The following performers have been musical guests on SNL at least five times:

Musical Guest Number of Episodes First Musical Appearance Last Musical Appearance Other Notes
Dave Grohl 9 January 11, 1992 October 13, 2007 He was the drummer for Nirvana in their two performances, was a drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on one performance, was a drummer for Tenacious D on one performance, and performed with his most recent band, the Foo Fighters, five times.
Paul Simon 7 October 18, 1975 May 13, 2006 Simon also hosted or co-hosted three shows. He co-hosted with Catherine Oxenberg on May 10, 1986, during the 11th season. He solely hosted the second show on October 18, 1975 where he performed with Art Garfunkel and Phoebe Snow and on November 20, 1976, where he was one of two musical guests. Is also best friend of show creator Lorne Michaels.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers 7 November 10, 1979 April 10, 1999
Randy Newman 6 October 18, 1975 October 22, 1988
James Taylor 6 September 18, 1976 November 13, 1993
Beck 6 January 11, 1997 October 28, 2006 He appeared as musical guest two times in 1999 (with hosts Bill Paxton and Christina Ricci). He has also been featured in a sketch about the evils of medicinal marijuana.
Sting 5 October 17, 1987 November 20, 1999 Only non-American performer to appear as a musical guest at least five times; has also performed in at least one sketch during each of his appearances.
Foo Fighters 5 December 2, 1995 October 13, 2007

Musical guests who simultaneously hosted

The following performers have pulled a double duty as both musical guests and host during the same SNL episode:

Musical Guest Date of Hosting/Musical Appearance Other Notes
Lily Tomlin November 22, 1975 She is actually the first to host and be in the musical act, but the show was listed without a musical act. So she is not given musical act credit
Desi Arnaz February 21, 1976 He is the first performer to appear simultaneously as host and musical guest.
Paul Simon November 20, 1976
Ray Charles November 12, 1977
The Rolling Stones October 7, 1978 Are the only band to host and be musical guests on SNL (even though Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ron Wood were the only band members to appear in sketches)
Frank Zappa October 21, 1978
Olivia Newton-John May 22, 1982
Lily Tomlin January 22, 1983 Appearing in the musical act also technically makes her the first to host and appear in the musical act twice. Though again the show was listed without a musical guest so she was not given credit. Tomlin appeared as Pervis Hawkins
Stevie Wonder May 7, 1983
Willie Nelson February 21, 1987
Dolly Parton April 15, 1989
Quincy Jones February 10, 1990 Jones' hosting stint had ten musical guests on one night, an SNL record.
Sting January 19, 1991 Sting also hosted in early 1997. He was not the credited musical guest but he did perform a few numbers.
MC Hammer December 7, 1991
Garth Brooks February 28, 1998 and November 13, 1999 He is one of only three performers to simultaneously act as host and musical guest more than once. Garth appeared in the second such episode as himself as host, and his alter ego Chris Gaines as musical guest.
Deion Sanders February 24, 1995 Bon Jovi was the credited musical guest, but Deion Sanders performed "It's On" and "Must be the Money".
Jennifer Lopez February 10, 2001
Britney Spears May 13, 2000 and February 2, 2002 At 18, she was the youngest person in SNL History to act as a host and musical guest the same time on May 13, 2000.
Justin Timberlake October 11, 2003 and December 16, 2006
Christina Aguilera February 21, 2004 Christina hosted this episode and Maroon 5 was the official guest. She did perform "Beautiful" at the end of the monologue. She was the musical guest on Nov. 11th.
Janet Jackson April 10, 2004
Queen Latifah October 9, 2004
Will Ferrell May 14, 2005 Will Ferrell performs with Queens of the Stone Age during "Little Sister" as his "More Cowbell" character, Gene Frenkle.
Ludacris November 18, 2006
Jon Bon Jovi October 13, 2007 Jon Bon Jovi hosted, with Bon Jovi performing twice, and Foo Fighters performing once.

The SNL Band

The Saturday Night Live Band (most often referred to as The Live Band) is the house band of Saturday Night Live (SNL). It has consistently featured some of the finest studio musicians available in New York, including Paul Shaffer, G.E. Smith, Lou Marini (1975-1983), David Sanborn (1975), Michael Brecker, Ray Chew (1980-1983), Alan Rubin (1975-1983), Georg Wadenius (1979-1985), Steve Ferrone (1985), and Tom Malone, who served as leader of the band from 1981 to 1985. The band is currently under the leadership of Tower of Power alum Lenny Pickett and keyboardists Leon Pendarvis and Katreese Barnes.

Recurring characters and sketches

For Weekend Update characters, see Saturday Night Live characters appearing on Weekend Update.
For short-lived recurring characters, see Short-lived recurring characters on Saturday Night Live.

Films based on SNL sketches

The early days of SNL spawned several movies, including the successful The Blues Brothers. However it was the success of Wayne's World, that encouraged Lorne Michaels to produce more film spinoffs, based on several popular sketch characters. Michaels revived 1970s characters for Coneheads (1993), followed by It's Pat! (1994); Stuart Saves His Family (1995, with the Stuart Smalley character); A Night at the Roxbury (1998, with the Butabi Brothers characters); Superstar (1999, with the Mary Katherine Gallagher character); and The Ladies Man (2000). Some did moderately well, though others did not — notably It's Pat! and Stuart Saves His Family, with the latter losing US$15 million despite good reviews.

DVD release and controversy

Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season was released on DVD by Universal Studios on December 5, 2006.[8] It was to be released in its full, uncut format with all musical performances and sketches intact, and with bonus material. Some reviewers and fans compared it to recorded live copies and found that Broadway Video removed most of the bumpers from the episodes. The only bumper included in each episode was the final one which transitioned to the credits. One reviewer explained Broadway Video's reasoning:[9]

Broadway Video told me that they don't really consider [the bumpers] part of the show, and they were removed (except for the last bumper) to make the episode on DVD flow better.

The complete second season was released onto DVD on December 4, 2007.[8]

Both season sets have material besides bumpers missing, such as a Wrigley's gum commercial parody from two episodes in season 1 and the original closing credit performance by John Belushi on the Karen Black episode in season 2.

The Complete Third Season (1977-1978) is slated for DVD release on May 13, 2008.

See also


  1. Romano, Allison. "Comedy Central Goes Mad", Broadcasting & Cable, 2002-10-25. Retrieved on 2008-03-03. 
  2. Hill, Julianne (August 2000). "SNL's Tina Fey". Writer's Digest: p.40.
  3. Writer and Actress Tina Fey (Audio). Fresh Air. NPR (2004-04-28). Retrieved on 2008-03-03.
  4. It's Saturday Night Delayed!. Studio Briefing. Internet Movie Database (2001-02-13). Retrieved on 2008-03-03.
  5. Hill, Doug; Jeff Weingrad (1986). Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. ISBN 0688050999. 
  6. Martin Lawrence's Monologue. SNL Transcripts (2003-04-12). Retrieved on 2008-03-03.
  7. Nevius, C.W. (2004-01-22). Just ask Chelsea, Jenna and Barbara: Escaping the glare of the spotlight isn't easy for kids whose dads work in the Oval Office. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved on 2008-03-03.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Saturday Night Live at the Internet Movie Database
  9. Lacey, Gord (2006-12-02). Saturday Night Live - The Complete 1st Season Review. Retrieved on 2008-03-03.

Further reading

  • Cader, Michael. (1994). Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  • Hill, Doug, and Jeff Weingrad. (1986). Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. New York, NY: Beech Tree Books. ISBN 0-688-05099-9.
  • Mohr, Jay. (2004). Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches of Saturday Night Live. New York, NY: Hyperion. ISBN 1-4013-0006-5.
  • Shales, Tom, and James Andrew Miller. (2002). Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. Boston, MA: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-78146-0.
  • Streeter, Michael. (2005). Nothing Lost Forever: The Films of Tom Schiller. New York, NY: BearManor Media. ISBN 1593930321.

External links