In 1995, Steve Carell auditioned for the show, along with his wife, Nancy Carell. She was cast, he was not. The following season, he 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.
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 was reading the cue cards, he was reading some of the material for the first time. His trademark gesture of covering his mouth with both hands, was his attempt to (often unsuccessfully) conceal fits of laughter.
Contrary to popular belief, Chevy Chase is not banned from ever hosting the show again. In the official SNL book Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, numerous cast members recalled Chase insulting the 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 hasn't hosted since 1997. Because of this, a persistent rumor started that Chase was banned from ever hosting the show. Lorne Michaels denied the ban in a 2018 Washington Post article on Chase, stating his non-hosting since 1997 was just generational.
Lorne Michaels and the remaining cast members left the show after the fifth season. For the 1980-1981 season, the show was revamped, with a new cast and new producer, Jean Doumanian. The sixth season was so disastrous that NBC President Fred Silverman called in Programming Executive Dick Ebersol one of the show's creative masterminds, to save it. 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. Ratings for that season were so low the show was almost cancelled. Michaels convinced 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 the show was the biggest mistake of his life.
Abby Elliott, daughter of Chris Elliott, was 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 was the youngest female cast member in the show's history.
The word "fuck" has been said several times live on the air. George Carlin hosted the first show, in 1975, and performed "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV.", 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. 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 performance. 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 performance. 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 1997 performance. In 2009, Jenny Slate accidentally said, "You know what, you stood up for yourself, and I fuckin love you for that." Kristen Stewart dropped the F-bomb during her opening monologue when she hosted in 2017. In 2018, during his first sketch, Sam Rockwell accidentally said, "You can't be this fucking stupid!"
According to Chris Rock, during his time on the show, he wished that he was on In Living Color (1990) instead, which had a predominately African-American cast. After three seasons, he left to join In Living Color as a recurring cast member. The show was cancelled at the end of that season.
The balcony level studio audience seats in Studio 8H are actually on-loan from Yankees Stadium. New York Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner III loaned them out in 1975, with the assumption that the show wouldn't stay on the air long; they were expected back when the show was cancelled. Since then, NBC has had to pay out annual fines to the city of New York. 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.
Studio 8H, where this show is broadcast, is not connected to the GE Building (NBC Studios) at Rockefeller Center, but is suspended by wires from the next floor. Arturo Toscanini, director of the NBC Orchestra, performed on radio from studio 8H, and didn't want vibrations from the subway to disturb his radio broadcasts.
While most of the musical performances on the show are live, a few were lip-synced, and several were taped in advance. The first lip-sync was ABBA on November 15, 1975. The first advance performance was Carly Simon on May 8, 1976, because she was nervous about singing 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.
Mike Myers based the character "Dieter" on a student he met in art school. 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." This inspired Myers' character constantly saying, "Would you like to touch my monkey?"
Don Pardo announced his retirement twice, in 2004 and in 2009. Both times, he was convinced to return. He would fly to New York City every week from his house in Arizona. In 2010, Pardo was allowed to record his intros from his home, and have them sent to New York City. Pardo remained with the show until shortly before his death, on August 18, 2014, at the age of 96.
In November 2007, the cast, except for Maya Rudolph, gave a live unaired performance of Saturday Night Live 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.
The episodes hosted by Louise Lasser and Milton Berle have never been rerun, at Lorne Michaels' insistence. Lasser refused to do any 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.
Darrell Hammond holds the records for the number of seasons as a cast member (14, 1995-2009), 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 on Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Summer Edition (2008).
According to 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 Seinfeld: The Revenge (1991).
Jason Sudeikis auditioned to anchor Weekend Update while he was still a writer on the show in 2004. In 2006, it was reported that Sudeikis would take over Weekend Update, but Seth Meyers was hired instead.
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.
In October 1980, Lorne Michaels and most of the original cast members, who had since left the show, 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. 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. He refused because it would have been after the election, and the material would no longer be topical.
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, and 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.
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".
Don Pardo's announcing booth was located in the exact same spot on which Arturo Toscanini's podium once stood, when he conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra in his long-running series of radio concerts.
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.Jim 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.
Conan O'Brien appeared uncredited in many sketches from 1988 to 1991, while he was a writer for Saturday Night Live. Writer, and former cast member, Tom Davis appeared uncredited in many sketches from 1988 to 1994.
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.
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." Jane Curtin Chase's successor as "Update" anchor, used Grimsby's original intro to open the newscast. On the April 22, 1978 episode, he ended that night's "Update" with Grimsby's closing line, "Hoping your news is good news."
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.
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. MacDonald has said that he does not believe that was the reason he was fired.
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.
In 2011, Darrell Hammond revealed that he initially opposed the idea of impersonating John McCain. Hammond's father, a World War II veteran, had been severely traumatized by his war experiences. Hammond felt that poking fun at a former prisoner-of-war would be in poor taste.
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. Kaufman died two years later.
During the initial 1975-76 season, the series was titled "Saturday Night" because Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell (1975) aired earlier in the evening on ABC. It was canceled after the first season.
Tim Kazurinsky was offered the chance to replace Brad Hall as Weekend Update anchor in the 1983-1984 season. Kazurinsky didn't 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.
During the 2016 Presidential election, candidate Donald J. Trump said he would love for Alec Baldwin to play him, and Baldwin said that he would love to play the role. Once Trump received the Republican nomination, and the general election began, Baldwin was cast in the role, and continued the character into Trump's Presidency. Trump later stated that he was offended by Baldwin's portrayal, stating that he "stinks", and that the entire show was "boring and unfunny", despite the fact that he had hosted less than a year earlier. He claimed that Baldwin portrayed him as "mean and nasty", which was not his real personality.
When the show first debuted, it didn't 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 appearance).
Six presidential candidates have hosted the show. Ralph Nader hosted in 1977, 19 years before becoming the Green nominee in 1996. George McGovern hosted in 1984, 12 years after being the 1972 Democratic nominee. Al Gore hosted in 2002, two years after being the 2000 Democratic nominee. John McCain hosted in 2002, six years before being the 2008 Republican nominee. Roseanne Barr hosted three times in the early 1990s before becoming the 2012 Peace and Freedom nominee. Donald J. Trump hosted twice, in 2004 and 2015, before becoming the 2016 Republican nominee. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Steve Forbes hosted around the time they ran in the primaries, but none received their party's nomination. Rudy Giuliani hosted in 1997, 11 years before he unsuccessfully ran for the 2008 Republican nomination.
Eddie Murphy didn't return to the show for several years because of a "Hollywood Minute" sketch in which David Spade made a joke about Murphy's lack of box-office success, saying "Look kids, a falling star, make a wish!"
In an interview on Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast, former writer Alan Zweibel revealed that he would often hide under the Weekend Update desk and feed jokes to the anchors in real time, to capitalize on breaking news events.
In 1976, the NBC News election unit used Studio 8H for election coverage. The episodes for October 16, 23, and 30 were made in a Brooklyn studio. The February 20, 1977 episode was performed live in New Orleans on a Sunday. Several episodes in 1984 were produced in RCA Bldg Studios 8G and 3A due to election coverage.
In 2001, NBC aired two live 30-minute special episodes in prime time 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 aired during Super Bowl XXXV halftime.
Prior to the 1983-1984 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.
Musical Director Lenny Pickett has been the tenor sax soloist on the opening theme since the beginning of the 1985-1986 season. During that time, he has never missed one episode. His fellow Musical Director, Leon Pendarvis, has been in the house band since the 1980-1981 season, and may be the musician with the longest tenure in a television show band.
Executive Producer Dick Ebersol left the show in 1985 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.
Alec Baldwin is the first performer in the show's history to win an Emmy as Best Supporting Actor without being a cast member. He appeared in 17 out of 21 episodes during season 42, exceeding the limit to be considered a guest star.
In Season 43, Kenan Thompson surpassed Darrell Hammond as the longest-tenured cast member, with 15 continuing seasons. Hammond has been in more episodes than Thompson, has made countless cameos, and has been the show's announcer for over 3 seasons. In 2018, Thompson announced that he has no plans to leave the show anytime soon.