19 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live has been on the small screen for well over 40 years now, becoming a fixture in popular culture. Audiences of all ages have grown up with their original satire, and newer generations are being introduced to it all the time.
The show centers around political and pop culture satire, doing so in a way that makes us laugh and think at the same time. Most people think that they know all there is to know about SNL, but here are quite a few unknown behind the scenes moments that we are sharing with unsuspecting fans.
Johnny Carson was the reason SNL came to be
Johnny Carson was the host of The Tonight Show for many years. In 1974, he put in a request to NBC to put reruns of his show during the week so that he could use the time to take some well-deserved days off.
NBC agreed to Carson's request, and moved the reruns. This then left Saturday nights open and in need of a new show. This was the birth of SNL. NBC proceeded to create a live show for the weekend night, which was spearheaded by Lorne Michaels.
Chevy Chase was the first person to say the iconic line
The first skit of every SNL episode ends with the famous line: "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" The parody depends on what went on during that week and was written into the show.
In this case, the first time the line was said was when Chevy Chase made his debut and looked right into the camera and said the iconic line. Chase was on the first episode of the show, ensuring its and his icon status for years to come.
Chase started out on SNL as a writer
Initially, Chase was hired as a writer for the show for one year. However, Chevy being the ambitious and talented man that he is, didn't give up and took the opportunity to get a performer contract for several years and eventually becoming one of the most successful talents on the show.
Chevy eventually left the show, but not before it showcased his writing and performing skills to the world. His comedic timing and ability to create original satirical pieces was unparalleled.
During its first season, performers were paid $750
The first season of any show has the stars of it paid less considering there is no way to tell if it will be a success of not. During SNL's first season, the paychecks given out each week were for a mere $750. The weekly pay increased to $2,000 in season two and then to $4,000 a week in season four.
This, of course, was not pay that the A-list guest stars of the show received. Will Ferrell, for instance, got quite a bit more for his time...
Jim Carrey got turned down twice to work for SNL
How on earth was Jim Carrey turned down, you ask? He was actually turned down twice. The first time he auditioned, he was beat out by Charlie Rocket, and the second time he just got a plain outright 'no.'
The show's creator, Lorne Michaels, said that Jim never auditioned for him in particular so he didn't have much of a hand in denying him. However, Carrey eventually did make it onto the show as a guest host - in 1996, 2011, and 2014. Hooray!
Kenan Thompson was born after the show aired
Kenan Thompson is one of the biggest names on SNL. He started his acting career on the show All That, before making his way onto SNL. Funnily enough, Thompson was born in 1978, three years AFTER SNL aired for the first time.
Today, current star Pete Davidson was the first of his kind to be born in the 90s. This just goes to show how long the show has been on the air, and just how old we all are!
Jeff Ross wanted to land the role of the anchor of 'Weekend Update'
'Weekend Update' anchor, Colin Quinn, left the SNL in 2000. It was then that producers needed to find someone to fill the position. There were a few candidates who tried their hand for the role, including Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey.
However, Jeff Ross also tried. Ross was known for his roasts on Comedy Central and was also a writer and head writer for the show. But while he had the experience, the anchor role ended up going to Tina Fey.
Audrey Plaza dreamed of being on SNL
In 2012, Audrey Plaza told The Guardian: “I wanted to be on that show for as long as I could remember”. Sadly, Plaza was not brought onto the show as a performer two separate times, despite being an intern for them.
But before you feel bad for her, the first time she was got the 'no' from SNL was just a year before she landed her breakout role in Park and Recreation, and the second time she wasn't chosen was right before she was scooped up by Judd Apatow for his film, Funny People.
Pee-wee Herman suggested that Gilbert Gottfried got his part on SNL because of his connections
Pee-wee Herman, also known as Paul Reubens, auditioned for SNL in 1980. Gilbert Gottfried auditioned at the very same time. Reubens didn't get the part, Gottfried did. As a result, Reubens alleged that Gottfried got the part because he was friends with one of the show's producers.
Needless to say, that's a pretty terrible claim to make, and Reubens spoke referred to it when he said, “I was so bitter and angry. I thought, ‘You better think about doing something to take this to the next level. So I borrowed some money and produced this show. I went from this Saturday Night Live reject to having 60 people working for me.”
Sinead O'Connor is banned from SNL, but the creator thinks she's brave
Singer Sinead O'Connor is known for doing outlandish things. However, after her performance on SNL, she used the live television show to rip up a photo of the Pope. This prompted outrage from audiences and resulted in O'Connor being banned from the show.
The show's creator, Lorne Michaels, said, “I think it was the bravest thing she could do. She’d been a nun. To her the church symbolized everything that was bad about growing up in Ireland the way she grew up in Ireland, and so she was making a strong political statement.”
The Festrunk Brothers skit was supposed to be completely different
Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd played the Festrunk brothers on SNL. The success of the skit made for many recurring appearances on the show. But while the skit was a massive win, it was initially written up by each of the comedians separately.
However, in 1970, Martin and Dan agreed to combine their sketches into one creation, and the rest is history. Considering Martin and Aykroyd are two of the most legendary comedians in history, there was no chance their sketch wasn't going to be a success.
Richard Belzer got his start as a stand up comedian
While we know and love Richard Belzer from his role as Sergeant John Munch on Law & Order, he actually got his start doing stand up comedy! SNL hired him to be a warn up comic during the show's first season.
This got Belzer through the door but also ended up being controversial as he says that Lorne told him that he would be a concrete part of the show, which never happened. Belzer said in 1993, “Lorne betrayed me and lied to me—which he denies—but I give you my word he said, ‘I’ll work you into the show.” It all worked out for Belzer anyway!
SNL stopped airing during the Writers Guild of America strike, but performed in the theater instead
During the Writers Guild of America strike of 2007, SNL stopped airing live shows. While everyone was off screen, the cast of SNL took to the theater and performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater.
At the time, Michael Cera was the host of the show and his co-star, Amy Poehler, said, “We’re like cranky trained monkeys if we don’t get to perform.” So they did what they do best and performed anyway. Imagine being one of those who got to see them live!
The Beatles nearly got back together because of SNL
Lorne wanted The Beatles to perform on the show so much that he took to the air and begged the band to reunite for a guest performance, for which he offered "a certified cheque for $3,000."
It was all a joke, or so everyone thought, but John Lennon shared this story in his book: “Paul and I were together watching that show. He was visiting us at our place in Dakota. We were watching it and almost went down to the studio, just as a gag. We nearly got into a cab, but we were actually too tired.”
Larry David quit SNL on a whim, then pretended he didn't
One day in 1980, Larry David was so upset that a lot of his writing wasn't making it to the final performance, that he went to one of the producers and told him he quit. He then walked out of the studio and didn't look back.
That was for a whole couple hours before realizing he didn't mean it. So, like Larry David would do, he came to work the following Monday like the scene on Friday didn't happen. Little fact - David made this a Seinfeld episode!
Chris Parnell was fired from SNL not once, but twice
Chris Parnell is one of the most recognized faces to come out of SNL. However, he was actually fired from the show twice! The first time came in 2001, when he was booted from the show for lacking confidence, to which he said was "devastating."
He was hired back the following season, only to be let go again as a result of budget cuts! The positive side of it all is that this pushed Parnell to his work on other shows, films, and commercials.
Nora Dunn didn't like Andrew Dice Clay AT ALL
Nora Dunn didn't hide the fact that she really didn't like working back in the 90s alongside Andrew Dice Clay. She said that he was a misogynist who used that kind of style in his comedy. She was so against him that she refused to be on the show as long as he was hosting.
Dunn actually lost her part on the show because of this, because she spoke to the press about the issue before she even went to the show's creator.
Eddie Murphy begged the show's talent coordinator for a part
Long before Eddie Murphy was the household name he is today, he was a desperate comedian looking for his big break, or any kind of work actually. Murphy wanted a job so badly that he called Neil Levy, SNL's talent coordinator, for a whole week begging him to give him a job,
Levy came through and got Murphy a small part as an extra, as well as an audition for bigger parts. Murphy was so impressive during his audition, though, that they offered him a contract on the spot.
Darrell Hammond got his start on SNL because Don Pardo was sick
In 2013, Don Pardo had a case of laryngitis that forced him to take sick leave from the show. Enter Darrell Hammond. He replaced Pardo temporarily, but did an exceptional job. Pardo said, “He did such a job that my sister-in-law in Newport, Rhode Island called up the following Sunday morning and said, ‘You were going back to your acting days! You sounded terrific!’"
Darrell went on the replace Pardo permanently when he passed in 2014. Another little fact - Darrell also holds the record for saying the show's famous introductory line the most.
There could have been a Hans and Franz movie
Arnold Schwarzenegger floated the idea of a Hans and Franz movie to Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey and got a positive reaction. Nealon said, “Yes, we wrote a musical! Hans & Franz: The Girly Man Dilemma. I wrote it with Conan O’Brien, Robert Smigel and Dana Carvey.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was co-producing with us, and he was going to star in it. We got it written, sold it to Sony. But I think Arnold got cold feet.” Imagine what could have been!
Will Ferrell was the shows highest-paid actor
Will Ferrell and all of his comedic genius was the highest paid actor on SNL before he left the show. Ferrell was earning $350,000 per season of SNL. He carried the show with his hilarious skits, one of his most well-known ones is his role as former president George W. Bush.
His impression of him is so spot on that it's nearly impossible not to laugh. Ferrell has gone on to bigger, better, and more lucrative roles.
Director Adam McKay was denied as a cast member on SNL, but it's not all bad!
Adam McKay is an Academy Award-nominated director. He auditioned to be a part of the cast of SNL, but unfortunately was denied. However, while the show didn't want him as a performer, they did want him as a writer.
They offered him a contract to write, which he took and worked all the way to head writer for SNL for six years. McKay and Will Ferrell are a comedy duo made in heaven, having worked together on Anchorman and Step Brothers.
There was an SNL movie in the works
In 1990, Conan O'Brien, Al Franken, and Robert Smigel wrote a script for an SNL movie. They worked long and hard on it but over time they realized that the film had no clear plot and was repetitive throughout. Long story short, they ended up canning the whole idea.
For the longest time, no one knew that there was even an idea for an SNL movie, but in 2010 it was finally made public that there could have been one.
SNL did produce movies, just not about themselves
The movies that SNL produced ranged in success. There were quite a few failures over the years, the worse of which was in 1994. The film was called It's Pat and it made a measly $60,000 in the box office.
However, on the massively successful side of things, they did produce the sensationally epic film Wayne's World in 1992, which grossed over $183 million. The SNL franchise was responsible for these movie production decisions, and as you know, you win some you lose some.
Conan O'Brien had criticism for Mike Myers in his portrayal of Wayne
Conan O'Brien was one of the writers of Wayne's World. So when Mike Myers was in the role of Wayne and in the development stages of taking on the part, he asked the film's writers for their opinion on his acting. He wanted to ensure that he played Wayne exactly as they pictured.
Conan said this about Wayne: “This poor kid is going to have to learn the hard way.” Myers took all of what O'Brien had to say about his acting and used it to land the portrayal perfectly in the final cut.
The show's original name was NBC's Saturday Night
When Lorne Michaels was creating the show for NBC, the title of Saturday Night Live was already being used on the ABC network. They had a show called Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell.
While this normally would mean they NBC couldn't go with their own version of it, TV Guide called the ABC show "dead on arrival" and had it canceled in 1976, leaving NBC to use the name. Lorne Michaels made quick work of getting the rights to the name.
SNL writers prepare between 40 and 50 sketches a week, but only 10 get used
There is a lot of work that goes into every week's production and taping of Saturday Night Live. Each week, the show's incredibly talented writers prepare anywhere between 40 and 50 sketches.
However, only about 10 of the sketches get picked up, meaning that a majority of the hard work doesn't ever get aired. While this sounds discouraging, the sketches that do air are epic and the writers on the show know that they will get their chance.
Mindy Kaling had to turn down a writing job on SNL
Mindy Kaling loved SNL and had always wanted to be a writer for it. Sadly, time was against her when SNL offered her a writing role. Mindy was already writing and acting on the show The Office, which she could not break away from.
Mindy recalled, “They didn't offer me a part, but the audition went pretty well, and that night, they were like, ‘Do you want to come write for the show?’ [The Office creator] Greg [Daniels] used to write for SNL, and he had known that being on SNL was my great dream. He said, ‘Listen. If you get cast on the show, I'll let you break your contract and go do it, but if they ask you to write, I can't, because you have a job writing here, plus you're on the show."
Jennifer Aniston said she got offered a job on SNL on the spot... but did she?
Jennifer claims that she got offered a job on SNL on the spot but had to decline as she was about to start filming the show Friends. She also said, “It was a boys’ club. They thought I was making a huge mistake.”
SNL alumni Adam Sandler, recalled at the time, “being on the ninth floor where Lorne Michaels’s office was, and seeing Jen come in. I was like, ‘Oh, my God. There’s Aniston. Is she about to be on our show?’” Alas, she just had an appearance years later.