Saturday Night Live's Big Moments The Year You Were Born
Ever lie awake at night wondering what was happening on Saturday Night Live during the year you were born? We got you, boo. Assuming you’re at least 16 years old, here’s a handy guide to your SNL birth year.
1975The show premieres! (It’s not even called Saturday Night Live at this point -- just Saturday Night.) George Carlin is the first host on October 11, uttering exactly zero of the seven dirty words you can’t say on television.
1976Lorne Michaels offers the Beatles a certified check for $3,000 if they’ll reunite on the show. (OK by Lorne if they give Ringo less.) Lennon and McCartney were watching the show in a nearby apartment and nearly stopped by -- but decided they were too tired.
1977The Coneheads debut. A major leap forward for comedy prosthetics.
1978Roseanne Roseannadanna debuts on Weekend Update, replacing Emily Litella as the show’s consumer affairs correspondent.
1979John Belushi claims he’s too sick to do the show and is about to be replaced by an actor from the NBC replacement pool. But when a doctor threatens to cut off Belushi’s drug supply, he jumps back to good health and intros the show. Art imitating life.
1980Lorne is burnt out and leaves the show, along with what remained of the original cast. New producers hire Denny Dillon, Charles Rocket, and Ann Risley. Not making the cut: Jim Carrey, John Goodman, and Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens.
1981Eddie Murphy is promoted from repertory player to full cast member. Er … good idea?
1982Home viewers can call a 900-number to vote on whether Andy Kaufman will ever be allowed on the show again. The viewers vote thumbs down and Kaufman is banned for life.
1983After his brother’s tragic death the previous year, Jim Belushi joins the cast. His tenure will be significantly less impactful than John’s.
1984A major influx of comedy talent is injected into the SNL bloodstream, with Billy Crystal, Martin Short, and Christopher Guest dominating the 30 Rock stage. A fun season full of pre-taped bits that feels like a different show.
1985Lorne is back! Unfortunately, he hires a bunch of comedy movie stars whose talents don’t work well on ensemble TV, including Robert Downey Jr., Joan Cusack, Anthony Michael Hall, and Randy Quaid. None of them last more than one season.
1986ComedyNerd rated this season’s newcomers as the best rookie class in SNL history. Welcome aboard, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Kevin Nealon, and Victoria Jackson. Mercy!
1987Fire! Fire! The season premiere with Steve Martin and musical guest Sting was nearly canceled. It’s the only episode in the show’s history that didn’t have a dress rehearsal due to a fire in a nearby soundstage.
1988Gilda Radner was scheduled to host but her show was canceled due to a Writers Guild strike. She never got another chance, passing away from cancer the following year. She would have been the first female cast member to return as host. (And no one did until Julia Louis-Dreyfus in 2006.)
Related: Jump In The DeLorean With Us, We’re Headed To The 1988 Crystal Light National Aerobic Championship
1989Mike Myers joins the cast in January. By May, he was doing Wayne’s World with hockey great Wayne Gretzky. Party on, Waynes.
1990No one has hosted Saturday Night Live more than Alec Baldwin. On April 21, he hosted his first show. He’d go on to do it an amazing 17 times … and counting. This was also the year Nora Dunn refused to appear with Andrew Dice Clay -- her contract was not renewed.
1991The youth movement is on. Adam Sandler and Tim Meadows arrive, joining the recently hired Chris Farley, Chris Rock, and David Spade. Several recurring characters show up for the first time, including the Making Copies guy, the Superfans, Stuart Smalley, Coffee Talk’s Linda Richman, and Deep Thoughts with Jack Handey. For better or worse, the era of the Continually Recurring Character was on.
1992The Wayne’s World movie is released, the most successful SNL film of all time.
1993Chris Rock, frustrated with his role on the show, quits to join the cast of the soon-to-be-canceled In Living Color. That freed him up to become the most successful stand-up of the 1990s, as well as an embattled Academy Award presenter.
1994Under the category of “Sketches That Would Not Air Today,” Alec Baldwin returns as a Scoutmaster who molests Adam Sandler’s Canteen Boy. Inexplicably, while less troublesome sketches have been scrubbed from online archives, nbc.com still has this one on the roster.
1995Struggling Jay Mohr finally scores big in March with the sketch Callahan and Sons. Unfortunately, he is soon busted for lifting the bit from stand-up comic Rick Shapiro, a sin he confesses in his SNL tell-all Gasping for Airtime. Not surprisingly, this was Mohr’s last season.
1996Musical guest Rage Against the Machine wasn’t keen on sharing the SNL stage with billionaire candidate Steve Forbes. In protest, the band hung upside-down American flags from their amps, which stagehands ripped down. NBC officials ordered the band to leave, but not before bassist Tim Commerford threw flag shreds into Forbes’ dressing room.
1997Chevy Chase hosts for the last time before being banned for all-around douchenozzle behavior. “A little snobbish,” says Will Ferrell, “and he’d yell at someone down the hallway— scream and yell— and you would look at him, and he’d see you were looking at him and he would smile like, ‘I’m just joking.’ We’d be like, ‘No, I don’t think you are.’” Check out more of Chevy’s crimes against SNL.
1998Norm MacDonald makes his final appearance after losing his Weekend Update gig for constantly ripping on murderer O.J. Simpson.
1999Year 25! The show takes a victory lap with a prime-time special. Who thought the show would carry into a new century?
2000A parody of the George Bush/Al Gore debates introduces the word “strategery” into the American lexicon.
2001A brave Reese Witherspoon hosts the season premiere at a time when New York (and America) was still terrified of terrorist attacks. Comedy movies were being pulled from theaters as it seemed an inappropriate time for laughter, but SNL decided the show must go on. “Can we be funny?” Lorne asked New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani in the cold open. Guiliani, not yet a national villain, responded: “Why start now?”
2002In what must have been a down year for professional funny people, both John McCain and Al Gore hosted shows in the fall. Hard to say who was more hilarious, though SNL would come back to bite McCain with its ruthless Sarah Palin sketches a few years later.
Related: Skateboards Are So 2002
2003Kenan Thompson arrives. And he will never leave.
2004Musical guest Ashlee Simpson was set to “sing” “Autobiography,” but someone pushed the wrong button, and the vocals for “Pieces of Me” started before she could open her mouth. It was the lip-syncing disaster heard ‘round the world. Her band tried to carry on but a flustered Simpson left them hanging alone on stage. Watch-o-Meter, set to Full Cringe!
2005Lazy Sunday, the first SNL Digital Short drops. This just might have been the first YouTube link your boss ever forwarded around the office.
2006It’s the smallest cast in several years as NBC budget cuts account for the firings of Chris Parnell (again), Horatio Sanz, and Finesse Mitchell. The show still managed an Emmy for Dick in a Box. Your boss forwarded that one too.
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Top image: NBC