October 11, 1975: Saturday Night Live Debuts

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A Brief History

On October 11, 1975, television audiences in the United States experienced one of those magic moments when an icon was born, as the comedy skit show, Saturday Night Live (SNL) debuted with George Carlin as host.

Digging Deeper

Carlin, one of history’s great comedians, and originator of “Seven words you can never say on television,” died in 2008 at age 71 of heart failure.

His guests on that epic night included singer Janis Ian, singer Billy Preston, and comedian/actor Andy Kaufman.  Kaufman went on to make a total of 16 SNL appearances, but tragically died in 1984 at age 35 of lung cancer and kidney failure.  Preston died in 2006.  At least Janis Ian is still alive, now 64 years old.

The original cast in that inaugural season included Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, John Belushi (died 1982, age 33), Dan Aykroyd, Gerret Morris, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner (died 1989, age 42), George Coe (died 2015), and Michael O’Donoghue (died 1994, age 54,he spoke the very first lines of the show).

Unfortunately, other cast members have died too soon, notabley John Candy (1994, age 43), and Chris Farley (1997, age 33), Danitra Vance (1994, age 40), Phil Hartman (1998, age 49), Charles Rocket (2005, age 56), Tom Davis (2005, age 59), jan Hooks (2014, age 57).

On the brighter side, this iconic show has earned a record 156 Emmy nominations, winning 36 times, and has received 3 Writer’s Guild Awards and 2 Peabody Awards.  Characters and skits from the show have gone on to fame in movies, such as the Wayne’s World series, Coneheads, Stuart Save His Family, Superstar, It’s PatA Night at the Roxbury,  and The Ladies Man.  Do not forget 1980’s hit movie, Blues Brothers  that started the successful movie spin-offs.  So many comedian/actors got their first big time national exposure on the show there are too many to list.  (A few could include Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy,  Billy Crystal, Jim Belushi, Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Tim Meadows, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Martin Short  and many, many others.)  Writer and actor Al Franken turned his fame into a seat in the US Senate, while writer Conan O’Brien ended up on late night talk television (even hosting The Tonight Show for a while).

Comedian Steve Martin has hosted the show 15 times, right behind actor Alec Baldwin at 16.  The only other hosts in double digits are Buck Henry with 10 and John Goodman with 13.

One of my personal favorite parts of the show are the faux commercials, and of them, my all time favorite is Happy Fun Ball.

My all time favorite cast member is Norm MacDonald.  Question for students (and subscribers): What are your favorite skits and cast members?  Favorite host/hostess?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Castle, Alison.  Saturday Night Live: The Book (VARIA).  TASCHEN, 2015.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.