What is Saturday Night Live?

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  • Written By: Kathy Hawkins
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
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  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2019
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Saturday Night Live is a comedic television show that is broadcast live on NBC from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. each week. It was first created in 1975, and has been running ever since, with hundreds of talented comedians performing in the show at one point or another. Along with a regular troupe of comedians, each episode of Saturday Night Live also features a guest host who is usually an actor, sports star, or other celebrity, and a musical act. Since its inception, Saturday Night Live has been a coveted guest spot for musicians and other celebrities. Hundreds of major celebrities have appeared on the show as guest hosts, including political figures like former Vice President Al Gore.

In 1975, the show, originally called NBC's Saturday Night was created by Lorne Michaels, who is still the show's executive producer today. The earliest incarnation of Saturday Night Live featured a cast with many now-legendary performers, including Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and Dan Akroyd.


As it does today, the show consisted primarily of "sketches," or short comedic performances, usually five to ten minutes in length, which featured the regular cast members and the guest host. The musical guest would perform one or two songs through the course of the show. Saturday Night Live also features a regular "Weekend Update" segment, in which one cast member plays a news anchor, humorously reporting the latest news of the week. This model has proved to be very popular, and has paved the way for modern shows like The Daily Show.

Over the years, Saturday Night Live's comedic cast has included famous members such as Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Janeane Garofolo, Mike Myers, and Will Ferrell. Tina Fey, who served as Saturday Night Live's head writer from 1997 to 2006, and now stars in and writes for a hit prime-time show, 30 Rock. Her co-star, Alec Baldwin, has hosted Saturday Night Live 13 times over the years.

Some of the recurring sketches from Saturday Night Live have led to their own movies. One of the most famous is Wayne's World, which, like the skit on Saturday Night Live, stars Mike Myers and Dana Carvey as two teenagers with a public access TV show about their favorite rock bands. An earlier SNL spin-off film, The Blues Brothers, starred John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd as blues performers.

Though Saturday Night Live has had its ups and downs over the years, it has launched the careers of many talented performers. The show was ground-breaking when it first began, and is today known as an icon of American popular culture.


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