When Eddie Murphy was first hired, he was not a regular cast member, he was a guest performer who was given nothing to do. He threatened to quit until he was given a segment of Weekend Update to perform. He was so funny, he eventually appeared in sketches and became a regular cast member.
According to the official memoir, Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase is banned from ever hosting the show again. In the book, numerous cast members recall stories in which Chase insulted cast and crew. According to Terry Sweeney, Chase made homophobic remarks to Sweeney who is openly gay. According to Will Ferrell, Chase was the worst host during his time on the show. Chase has continued to make cameo appearances on the show but has not hosted since 1997.
Contrary to popular belief, Steve Martin was never a cast member on the show. The misconception stems from the fact that he has hosted the show 15 times, in addition to doing occasional surprise appearances.
In 1995, Steve Carell auditioned for the show along with his wife, Nancy Carell. She was cast but he was not. The following season Carell was cast as the voice of Gary in the recurring animated segment "The Ambiguously Gay Duo". When he hosted the show in 2005, Carell stated he was beat out for the spot by Will Ferrell.
Abby Elliott, daughter of Chris Elliott, is the first cast member to be the child of a former cast member. Her grandfather, Bob Elliott, made a guest appearance in the fourth-season. At 21 years old, she is the youngest female cast member in the show's history.
In order to make Bill Hader laugh and break character during the "Stefon" sketches, John Mulaney would change some of the jokes right before the live broadcast, meaning that when Hader is reading the cue cards he is reading some of the material for the first time. His trademark gesture of covering his mouth with both hands is his attempt to (often unsuccessfully) conceal fits of laughter.
Lorne Michaels left the show after the fifth season as did the remaining cast members. For the 1980-1981 season, the show was revamped with a new cast and new producer Jean Doumanian. The sixth was so disastrous that NBC president Fred Silverman called in programming executive Dick Ebersol (one of the creative masterminds of the original show) to save the show. Ebersol fired Doumanian and the rest of the cast except Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo. He hired a new cast and the show eventually regained its ratings mainly due to Murphy's popularity. When Michaels returned in the 1985-1986 season, he wanted his own cast so the remaining members were fired. This season was low-rated putting the show on the brink of cancellation. But Michaels convinced executive Brandon Tartikoff that he could revive the show with a better cast. The show regained popularity and Michaels has stayed with the show ever since. He later claimed that leaving SNL, was the biggest mistake of his life.
According to Chris Rock, during his time on the show, he wished that he was instead on In Living Color (1990) which had a predominately African-American cast. After three seasons, he left to join "In Living Color" as a recurring cast member. But the series was cancelled at the end of that season.
Studio 8H where SNL is filmed is not connected to the GE Building (NBC Studios) at Rockefeller Center, but is suspended by wires from the next floor. Arturo Toscanini, the director of the NBC orchestra, performed on radio from studio 8H and did not want the vibrations from the New York City subway to disturb his radio broadcasts so his studio was isolated from the rest of the building.
In November 2007, the cast, excluding Maya Rudolph, gave a live unaired performance of SNL at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City as a result of the WGA Strike. The show featured old and rejected sketches with the proceeds going to the show's production staff. The host was Michael Cera and the musical guest was Yo La Tengo. Rachel Dratch, Horatio Sanz, and Norah Jones made cameo appearances.
Don Pardo has announced his retirement twice, in 2004 and in 2009. But both times, he was convinced to return. He would fly to New York every week from his home in Arizona. In 2010, Pardo was allowed to record his intros from his home and have them sent to New York. Pardo remained with the show until shortly before his death on August 18, 2014 at the age of 96.
The word "fuck" has been said several times live on the air: during a sketch in 1980, Paul Shaffer said "fuckin'" instead of "floggin'"; in 1981, Charles Rocket, said "I'd like to know who the fuck did it" during a "Who Shot JR?" parody and on the same night Prince sang the lyric "Fightin' war is such a fuckin' bore"; in 1990, singer Morris Day of The Time said "Where the fuck this chicken come from?" and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith sang "feedin' that fuckin' monkey on my back" during their performances; in 1994, Michael Stipe of R.E.M. sang "Don't fuck with me" and Adam Horovitz of Beastie Boys sang "So won't you fuckin' listen" in their performances and in 1997, Norm MacDonald accidentally said, "The fuck was that?" after flubbing a line during "Weekend Update". James Hetfield of Metallica sang "Fuck 'em man, white knuckle tight" during their performance in 1997. In 2009, Jenny Slate accidentally said, "You know what, you stood up for yourself and I fucking love you for that."
The balcony level studio audience seats in Studio 8H, where Saturday Night Live is broadcast from, are actually seats on-loan from Yankees Stadium in the Bronx, New York. NY Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner III loaned them out in 1975 with the assumption that Saturday Night Live wouldn't stay on the air long (they were expected back upon cancellation of the show). Partly out of both tradition and superstition, the seats are still in use to this day. Since then, NBC has had to pay out annual fines to the city of New York (a relatively minor business expense, all things considered). In addition, any time repair work is needed, repair people are sent directly to the studio to do work there, which is more expensive than taking seats to a repair shop.
According to writer Larry David, he stormed into executive producer Dick Ebersol's office and angrily quit the show. When David realized how much money he would be losing, he decided to return to the show and pretend that nothing happened. Ebersol never confronted him about it and David stayed for the rest of the season. David used this experience as the basis for the Seinfeld (1989) episode "The Revenge".
Candice Bergen was the first female host, the first person to host the show for a second time, and the first woman to host five times. Drew Barrymore has also hosted five times, her first being in 1982.
Mike Myers based the character 'Dieter' on a student he met in art college. The real Dieter would often say things like "I once had a course where we had to touch tapioca, styrofoam and monkeys. Michael, perhaps we can go to the zoo and touch monkeys." (Thus giving rise to Myers's character constantly saying, "Would you like to touch my monkey?")
While most of the musical performances on the show are indeed live, a few have been lip-synced, and several have been taped in advance. The first lip-sync was ABBA on 15 November 1975. The first prerecorded performance was Carly Simon on 08 May 1976, because she was nervous to sing in front of a live audience. On the October 23, 2004 episode, Ashlee Simpson revealed that she was lip-syncing during her second performance when the same vocal track for her first performance was accidentally replayed. An embarrassed Simpson walked off the stage and the show quickly cut to commercial.
Darrell Hammond holds the record for the number of seasons as a cast member (1995-2009), the oldest cast member (53 in his final season), and the number of times saying "Live from New York, it's Saturday night!" (70). Hammond continued to make guest appearances in the 2009-2010 season and also on Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Thursday (2008).
After the end of the 1979-1980 season, in October 1980, Lorne Michaels and most of the original cast members who had all since left the show (Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, etc.), reunited to put together a special that would parody the upcoming presidential election between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. The special was to air live on November 1 1980. But just a few days before the special was to air, Carter and Reagan decided to do another televised debate on November 1. Live coverage of the debate forced NBC to reschedule. NBC offered Michaels the chance to do the special the following week, but he refused because it would have been after the election and the material would no longer be topical.
The shows that were hosted by Louise Lasser and Milton Berle have never been seen in reruns since their original air date, at Lorne Michaels' insistence. Lasser refused to do all skits, and locked herself in her dressing room just before airtime, coming out just in time to do the opening monologue. Berle called everyone "Booby" and impressed no one but John Belushi with his mugging, racist jokes, and egomania.
Amy Poehler's 2008 Emmy-nomination as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series made her the first cast-member to be nominated in a category that is usually reserved for traditional comedy series.
James Downey is the longest serving writer in the show's history other than Lorne Michaels. Downey wrote for 30 seasons: (1976-1980), (1984-1998), (2000-2005), (2006-2013). In 1980, he left the show with Lorne Michaels and the rest of the cast. In 1998, he was fired by NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer. In 2005, he took time off to write a book. He retired in 2013.
Tim Meadows and Chris Parnell are the only cast members to be fired and then rehired the following season (Meadows was fired between seasons and didn't miss any episodes). James Belushi was fired during his tenure but was rehired the following month. Announcer Don Pardo was also fired before the seventh season in an effort to revitalize the show. He was replaced by Mel Brandt, but Pardo was rehired the following season.
According to Kevin Nealon, his character of Mr. Subliminal was based on his friend actor Ed Peck. Peck would sneak obscene words into everyday conversations exactly like Mr. Subliminal did. Peck called this "tagging".
The Jackass crew was given an opportunity from Saturday Night Live to perform their stunts on a weekly basis prior to their show airing on MTV. They declined but Johnny Knoxville would host the show in 2005.
Norm MacDonald was removed from Weekend Update in the middle of the 1997-1998 season at the insistence of NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer who said MacDonald was "not funny". MacDonald left the show at the end of the season. Rumors spread that Ohlmeyer did not like MacDonald's jokes about 'O.J. Simpson' who was a friend of Ohlmeyer's. But MacDonald has stated that he does not believe that was the reason he was fired.
Don Pardo's announcing booth is located in the exact same spot on which legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini's podium once stood, when he conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra in his famous and long-running series of radio concerts.
The first "Weekend Update" anchor, Chevy Chase, has said that he modeled his catchphrase "Good evening, I'm Chevy Chase and you're not" after Eyewitness News (1968) anchor Roger Grimsby's opening line "Good evening, I'm Roger Grimsby, here now the news." However, Chase's successor as "Update" anchor, Jane Curtin, would go on to use Grimsby's original intro to open the newscast, and once, on the 22 April 1978 edition, ended that night's "Update" with Grimsby's closing line, "Hoping your news is good news."
Darrell Hammond revealed in 2011 that he at first opposed the idea of impersonating John McCain on the show. Hammond's father, a veteran of World War II, had been severely traumatized by his war experiences, and Hammond felt that poking fun at a former prisoner-of-war would be in poor taste.
Roseanne Barr is the only host to appear under different names (Roseanne Barr, Roseanne Arnold and Roseanne). John Mellencamp is the only musical guest to appear under different names (John Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp and John Mellencamp).
Tim Kazurinsky was offered the chance to replace Brad Hall as Weekend Update anchor in the 1983-1984 season. But Kazurinsky did not want to take the job from Hall and turned it down. Hall was fired as anchor anyway and the show's host would usually anchor for the rest of the season.
Jon Lovitz quit the show after 1989-1990 in order to work on Mom and Dad Save the World (1992). Filming took place during the 1990-1991 season and Lorne Michaels would not allow Lovitz to miss any episodes.
Despite the show's core theme of live comedy, on a few rare occasions stand-up segments weren't truly "live", but broadcast on a 7-second tape-delay: 13 December 1975 (Richard Pryor), 15 November 1986 (Sam Kinison), and 12 May 1990 (Andrew Dice Clay), each time to allow censoring any "accidental" expletives.
In a 1998 episode with Alec Baldwin as host, in his monologue he did A Christmas Carol spoof, in which Jimmy Fallon on his first season in SNL predicted he would host SNL on December 12, 2011. In reality he actually did host on December 17, 2011.
According to Norm MacDonald, he copied the premise for "Celebrity Jeopardy" from the SCTV Network (1981) recurring sketch "Half Wits". MacDonald waited for SCTV cast member Martin Short to host the show so that he could ask permission to use the idea. Short got permission from Eugene Levy who wrote the original sketch.
When the show first debuted, it did not air every weekend. The news magazine show Weekend (1974) aired "the first Weekend every month" (except when it was delayed one week for Eric Idle's first SNL appearance).
According to Jim Breuer in his memoir, Lorne Michaels did not want to hire him but NBC executives insisted on him. Because of this, Michaels resented Breuer until he broke through with "The Joe Pesci Show".
Several episodes were not performed in Studio 8H in Manhattan. On October 16, 23 and 30, 1976, the show moved to a Brooklyn studio because the NBC News election unit used Studio 8H for 1976 election coverage. Several episodes in 1984 were produced in RCA Bldg Studios 8G and 3A due to election coverage. The February 20, 1977 episode was performed live in New Orleans on a Sunday.
Prior to the 83/84 season, Eddie Murphy agreed to appear in ten live broadcasts, and via a taped sketch in ten others. Those ten sketches were taped in September of 1983 and were alternated with Eddie Murphy's live appearances throughout the season.
In 2001, NBC aired two live 30-minute special episodes in primetime slots to fill airtime. Jennifer Lopez, who was hosting the regular show that week, made a cameo in the second special. In 2003, a live "Weekend Update" special was aired during the Superbowl halftime.
Andy Kaufman was banned from the show after viewers voted him off by calling a pay-per-call 1-900 number. The phone-in vote was Kaufman's idea. The bad publicity caused Kaufman to lose club dates. Executive producer Dick Ebersol promised Kaufman that he would have him back on the show at a later date. But Kaufman died two years later.
Executive producer Dick Ebersol left the show in 1985 in order to be a stay-at-home father to his children. His wife, Susan Saint James, was starring in Kate & Allie (1984) and Ebersol promised her that he would work from home while she worked on her show. Lorne Michaels was persuaded to rejoin the show and has produced it ever since.