“Saturday Night Live” is celebrating its milestone 40th anniversary this season and as a huge fan of the show I wanted to celebrate it with a list of what I consider to be the show’s 40 most memorable moments. Trying to condense a show like “Saturday Night Live” into 40 memorable moments for its 40 years on television is a fool’s errand. One-hundred moments wouldn’t be enough. So there are going to be moments throughout this list that cause controversy because they are included when others aren’t, but that’s what happens when you have such a legendary show and it’s the debate caused by those moments chosen and those left out that truly makes a list fun and worthwhile.
#21. First Show after 9/11 (Sept. 29, 2001)
Eighteen days before “Saturday Night Live” was supposed to begin its 27th season in the fall of 2001 was the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11 that brought down the World Trade Center towers in New York City. The terrorist attacks which included locations that day in Washington D.C. and a plane downed by passengers in Pennsylvania killed nearly 3,000 people.
It was the largest tragedy in the history of the United States and less than three weeks later the cast and crew of ‘SNL’ had to go on television live from the city most affected by the attacks and try to be funny.
The opening of this episode is one of the greatest and most emotional openings in the 40 year history of this legendary television show.
The camera centered on then New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani surrounded by members of the New York Police and Fire Departments in a show of unity and a sign that they would not be defeated or brought to their knees by cowardly terroristic actions.
Part of Giuliani’s statement read: “Our hearts are broken, but they are beating, and they are beating stronger than ever. New Yorkers are unified. We will not yield to terrorism. We will not let our decisions be made out of fear. We choose to live our lives in freedom.”
Following his statement the camera panned to another stage where the legendary Paul Simon, good friend of ‘SNL’ creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels, performed his Simon & Garfunkel classic “The Boxer,” a fitting ballad of a man refusing to give up amongst hard times and adversity.
Simon’s performance of “The Boxer” is the part of the opening that really stands with me all these years later as it’s an incredibly emotional song and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen or heard a better performance of it.
After “The Boxer” the camera went back to Giuliani center stage where he was joined by Michaels who asked the mayor, “Can we be funny?” Many had wondered if ‘SNL’ shouldn’t postpone its season premiere for a while as jokes in a time of somberness might come off as disrespectful. Giuliani joked, “Why start now?” and opened the season with the famous “Live, from New York! It’s Saturday Night!”
The rest of the show did not disappoint and hopefully gave people of New York and the rest of the country a chance to laugh for the very first time in weeks.
#22. King Tut
#23. Robert Goulet’s Coconut Bangers Ball
#24. President George H.W. Bush
#25. Sarah Palin