Saturday Night Live turns 40

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Saturday Night Live turns 40

Show celebrates milestone year with an anniversary special

By (AP)

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Published: Tue 17 Feb 2015, 8:23 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 8:30 PM

With a measure of anniversary hoopla perhaps exceeded only by the nation’s bicentennial, Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th season on Sunday with a 3½-hour gala of stars, laughs and memories.

It started with a medley of catchphrases, music and characters performed by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake that concluded, inevitably, with their pronouncement, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” Who was the rightful host? Steve Martin stepped up first, but was joined one by one by stars including Peyton Manning, Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crystal, Melissa McCarthy, Paul McCartney and Paul Simon to dispute his selection.

Among the night’s many tributes, Jack Nicholson noted that “when SNL started, the last helicopter had just flown out of Vietnam, Watergate was still fresh in everyone’s minds, and New York was broke.”

Robert De Niro marvelled that, 40 years later, SNL is “still at it. Forty years! That’s like back when TV was still watched on TV.”

Jerry Seinfeld said, “There are so many things about Saturday Night Live that people don’t know. For instance, I just found out that one of the original cast members in 1975 was Brian Williams.”

Seinfeld then took goofy questions from the VIP audience, including Michael Douglas, James Franco, Dakota Johnson and Sarah Palin, who asked, “How much do you think Lorne Michaels would pay me to run in 2016?”

“Run for president?” Seinfeld replied. “I don’t think there’s a number too big.”

But it wasn’t all live.

The first clip: John Belushi and Michael O’Donoghue in the language-lesson sketch with which the very first SNL episode opened.

A remarkable montage of audition tapes from prospective SNL cast members included notable washouts Jim Carrey and Stephen Colbert.

New York was honoured with clips and comic sketches capturing the love-it-hate-it spirit of the Big Apple through the decades, as well as a pivotal moment from the first SNL episode to air after 9-11 when then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told SNL creator Michaels “that Saturday Night Live is one our great New York City institutions, and that’s why it’s important for you to do your show tonight.”

“Can we be funny?” asked Michaels, to which Giuliani replied with impeccable timing, “Why start now?” 

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