The first episode of Saturday Night Live! aired over 40 years ago. George Carlin did the show’s monologue and fans can still watch it. Here’s how to watch it and what co-creator, Lorne Michaels had to say about the making of the episode.
What year did ‘Saturday Night Live’ begin?
The first episode of the live sketch show aired on Oct. 11, 1975. It was created by Dick Ebersol and Michaels. Michaels has stuck with the show since then and seems to be surprised by its longevity.
“Well, I didn’t sign up for this,” he joked in an interview with Today in 2020. “It just worked out that way.” Michaels was asked if the original ethos of the show is the same today.
“What had happened then was most of the established institutions have been discredited,” he said. “And that change led to people not knowing where or how to trust so it was more important to try to be an honest voice. Our job is mostly to entertain but to do it with a level of intelligence, but still have to make you laugh.”
He went on to say that he plans to stick with the show until the 50th anniversary. “And by that point I really deserve to wonder off,” Michaels said. That would mean 2025 would be his last year on the show.
Who were the 7 original ‘SNL’ cast members?
The show started off with Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner. They were also known as the Not Ready for Primetime Players.
The first cold open showed Belushi walking down a staircase, then sitting down for an English lesson. He repeats after Michael O’Donoghue, the first head writer on the show. The first sentence is weirdly “I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines,” and Belushi says this with a thick accent. The lesson doesn’t end well and Chase walks on stage to kick off the show saying, “Live from New York…it’s Saturday Night!”
Carlin did the monologue for the episode. But he didn’t appear in any of the sketches. That wouldn’t become a tradition for hosts until later. Instead, he did three different stand-up sets.
How to watch George Carlin’s monologue for the first episode
Carlin’s monologue from the first episode is available on the show’s YouTube account. He talked about football and baseball. The comedian makes a great comparison of colonizing and how football is played. He then compares the language for football and baseball. There is also a video of his second and third monologue on YouTube.
Michaels revealed in the book, S.N.L., according to The New York Times, that there was an argument about the comedian before the show aired. “The biggest argument before the show was that George Carlin wanted to wear a T-shirt, and the network wanted him to wear a suit,” he revealed. “So the compromise was that he wore a suit with a T-shirt.“
He later talked about not being sure about “The Wolverines” cold open. “And I agonized about opening with ‘Wolverines,’ because I thought it was, as [the writer] Anne Beatts used to say, ‘a blow for surrealism,’” he wrote. “But the set was cracked paint and rundown, and it reflected the city then. It was in harmony, both in its visual signal to the audience and in its sense of humor.“
The creators agonized over the small details of the first episode. But it paid off with the show lasting so long.
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