Anthony Michael Hall Say His ‘SNL’ Season Was the Worst in Show’s History

And he might be right
Anthony Michael Hall Say His ‘SNL’ Season Was the Worst in Show’s History

You think Pete Davidson was young when he started on Saturday Night Live? He was 20, practically a grizzled veteran. So was been-there-done-that Julia Louis-DreyfusEddie Murphy was 19 years old, but that still made him an experienced pro compared to Anthony Michael Hall, who got a job on SNL in 1985 before he was old enough to vote. The show was on practically past his bedtime. 

“How do you get on Saturday Night Live at 17?” wondered Dana Carvey this week on the Fly on the Wall podcast. “Beat Eddie Murphy by two years!”

As it turns out, Hall didn’t even have to audition. “Eddie was a hero of mine, and I was literally in my mothers apartment two years before watching him every weekend. I loved it,” Hall told Carvey and David Spade. Then the young actor killed it in John Hughes' comedies Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club. “After I had done those films, I got a call from Lorne (Michael)’s office. It was just a direct offer and, to be honest guys, I accepted.”

But getting 10 takes to nail a bit in a movie is one thing. Performing live before a national audience is another. “I remember walking around the city for a month or two before we started,” Hall said. “I was basically shitting my pants because I couldnt believe I committed to it. It just meant so much to me growing up. In the 1970s, as a little kid, I would ask my mother to stay up late, and I would watch the show and I just loved everybody from the original cast all the way up through Eddie and Joe Piscopo.” 

Hall entered the show at a weird time in its history. Michaels, the show’s original producer, had left in 1980. He returned for SNL’s 11th season and quickly assembled a cast very different from the original. In 1975, Michaels had put together a group of unknown improvisers from Second City and other ensemble groups, comics well versed in how to create a sketch and think on their feet. In 1985, he went a different route entirely, casting movie actors like Randy Quaid, Joan Cusack, Robert Downey Jr. and Hall. They’d all proven themselves funny on the big screen, but sketch comedy is a whole other animal. 

That year turned out about as well as you’d expect. “Truthfully, the 1985-1986 season was one of the worst, if not maybe the (worst), in 50 years of the show,” Hall told Carvey and Spade. I think he’s being too hard on himself — I ranked that season as only the second worst of all time

Still, Hall has no regrets. “The doing of the show is such a thrill,” he said. “So even if you dont have a great breakout character or a sketch, just the visceral feel of it. Its like rock and roll theater. Its an incredible, incredible experience.”

Michaels knew he’d made hiring mistakes, however, and he corrected them in the cruelest way possible. “At the end of the year, there was a sketch where the cast was set ablaze,” Hall says. “The only ones that were saved were Jon Lovitz and Nora Dunn.” Those two, along with Dennis Miller, were the only performers invited to return to a killer Season 12 cast that introduced Carvey, Jan Hooks and Phil Hartman.

As for Hall? “Everybody else was just like, ‘Ah, dont worry about it. Well let them burn.” 


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