“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.
2. Weekend Update (1975 – present)
There has likely never been a more important decision in the history of “Saturday Night Live” than the one to add a fake news segment to the show just to poke fun at actual events going on in the world. Weekend Update has been a stalwart of ‘SNL’ ever since its very first episode on Oct. 11, 1975 and will no doubt continue to be the midpoint of the show until it finally one day goes off the air (hopefully that will be a while away).
Some may think that it was ‘SNL’ creator and producer Lorne Michaels’ decision to include a fake news segment in the middle of each episode, but the idea for the longest recurring sketch in the history of ‘SNL’ was that of original cast member Chevy Chase along with ‘SNL’ writer Herb Sargent.
Weekend Update immediately made Chase the face of ‘SNL’ and he immediately made Weekend Update the most important aspect of the show.
Weekend Update is so fantastic because it’s always the most relevant thing on the show to what’s going on in the real world and is literally the last thing to be completely finished prior to the show and sometimes even during the show.
Former ‘SNL’ writer Alan Zweibel said in Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller’s great anthology Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live: “We worked on ‘Update’ to the very last minute. Between dress and air on Saturday nights, I would go up to my office and I would watch the 11 o’clock news and if something hit me, I’d write it and it would be on television a half-hour later. You know, there were two shows where I was literally under the ‘Update’ desk writing stuff and handing it up to Chevy while he was actually on the air.”
Chase was only a full-time cast member on ‘SNL’ for the show’s first season (1975-76) but created a lasting classic that will always live on. He also created a few catchphrases that live on in ‘SNL’ history like beginning the ‘Update’ broadcast with the memorable: “I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not,” which was a perfect representation of his snide and superior (at least in his head) sense of humor. He also would end the ‘Update’ broadcasts with “Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow” which would start a legacy of anchors ending the show with their own special catchphrases. The best one, in my opinion, being Kevin Nealon’s “I’m Kevin Nealon, and that’s news to me.” Many anchors would go back to Chase’s “Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow” like Tina Fey during her tenure as co-anchor.
All in all, 22 cast members (Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Charles Rocket, Gail Matthius, Brian Doyle-Murray, Mary Gross, Christine Ebersole, Brad Hall, Christopher Guest, Dennis Miller, Kevin Nealon, Norm Macdonald, Colin Quinn, Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Cecily Strong, Colin Jost and Michael Che) have anchored or co-anchored Weekend Update on a full-time basis. Some have been more memorable than others and every fan of ‘SNL’ seems to have their list of personal favorites – my all-time favorite was Norm Macdonald.
Weekend Update is an essential part of “Saturday Night Live” and every fan of the show owes a bit of gratitude to Chase and Sargent for their fantastic creation 40 years ago.
#3. Word Association
#5. Chippendales Audition