Saturday Night Live (season 1)

Saturday Night Live (season 1)
The title card for the first season of Saturday Night Live.
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 24
Original network NBC
Original release October 11, 1975 (1975-10-11) – July 31, 1976 (1976-07-31)
Season chronology

The first season of Saturday Night Live, an American sketch comedy series, originally aired in the United States on NBC between October 11, 1975, and July 31, 1976.


In 1974, NBC Tonight Show host Johnny Carson requested that the weekend broadcasts of "Best of Carson" (officially known as The Weekend Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson) come to an end (back then, The Tonight Show was a 90-minute program), so that Carson could take two weeknights off and NBC would thus air those repeats on those nights rather than feed them to affiliates for broadcast on either Saturdays or Sundays. Given Carson's undisputed status as the king of late-night television, NBC heard his request as an ultimatum, fearing he might use the issue as grounds to defect to either ABC or CBS. To fill the gap, the network drew up some ideas and brought in Dick Ebersol a protégé of legendary ABC Sports president Roone Arledge to develop a 90-minute late-night variety show. Ebersol's first order of business was hiring a young Canadian producer named Lorne Michaels to be the show-runner.[1]

Television production in New York was already in decline in the mid-1970s (The Tonight Show had departed for Los Angeles two years prior), so NBC decided to base the show at their studios in Rockefeller Center to offset the overhead of maintaining those facilities. Michaels was given Studio 8H, a converted radio studio that prior to that point was most famous for having hosted Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra from 1937 to 1951, but was being used largely for network election coverage by the mid-1970s.

When the first show aired on October 11, 1975 with George Carlin as its host, it was called NBC's Saturday Night because ABC featured a program at the same time titled Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. After ABC cancelled the Cosell program in 1976, the NBC program changed its name to Saturday Night Live on March 26, 1977 (and subsequently picked up Bill Murray from Cosell's show in 1977, as well). Every night, Don Pardo introduced the cast, a job he'd hold for 39 years until his death in 2014.

The original concept was for a comedy-variety show featuring young comedians, live musical performances, short films by Albert Brooks, and segments by Jim Henson featuring atypically adult and abstract characters from the Muppets world. Rather than have one permanent host, Michaels elected to have a different guest host each week. The first episode featured two musical guests (Billy Preston and Janis Ian), and the second episode, hosted by Paul Simon on October 18, was almost entirely a musical variety show with various acts. The Not Ready For Prime Time Players did not appear in this episode at all, other than as the bees with Simon telling them they were cancelled and Chase in the opening and "Weekend Update". Over the course of Season 1, sketch comedy would begin to dominate the show and SNL would more closely resemble its current format.

Andy Kaufman made several appearances that were popular with the audience over the season, while The Muppets' Land of Gorch bits were regarded as a poor fit with the rest of the show. The "Land Of Gorch" sketches were essentially cancelled after episode 10, although the associated Muppet characters still made sporadic appearances after that. After one final appearance at the start of season two, the Muppet characters were permanently dropped from SNL.

During the season, Michaels appeared on-camera twice, on April 24 and May 22, to make an offer to The Beatles to reunite on the show. In the first appearance, he offered a certified check of $3000. In the second appearance, he increased his offer to $3,200 and free hotel accommodations. John Lennon and Paul McCartney later both admitted that they were watching SNL from Lennon's apartment on May 8, the episode after Michaels' first offer, and briefly toyed with actually going down to the studio, but decided to stay in the apartment because they were too tired.[2][3]


Changes and notes

The first cast member hired was Gilda Radner.[4] The rest of the cast included fellow Second City alumni Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, as well as National Lampoon "Lemmings" alumnus Chevy Chase (whose trademark became his usual falls and opening spiel that cued the show's opening), Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, and Garrett Morris. The original head writer was Michael O'Donoghue, a writer at National Lampoon who had worked alongside several cast members while directing The National Lampoon Radio Hour. The original theme music was written by future Academy Award–winning composer Howard Shore, who along with his band (occasionally billed as the "All Nurse Band" or "Band of Angels") was the original band leader on the show. Paul Shaffer, who would go on to lead David Letterman's band on Late Night and then The Late Show, was also band leader in the early years. George Coe was hired because NBC wanted to have an older person in the cast.

Much of the talent pool involved in the inaugural season was recruited from the National Lampoon Radio Hour, a nationally syndicated comedy series that often satirized current events.

This would be the only season for Coe and O'Donoghue as official cast members. While Coe was only billed in the premiere, he was seen in various small roles through the season before leaving the show altogether. O'Donoghue was credited through the Candice Bergen episode and would continue to work for the show as a writer, as well as an occasional featured performer (particularly as "Mr. Mike"), through season five.

Cast roster

Repertory cast members

bold denotes Weekend Update anchor


The original writing staff included Anne Beatts, Chevy Chase, Tom Davis, Al Franken, Lorne Michaels, Marilyn Suzanne Miller, Michael O'Donoghue, Herb Sargent, Tom Schiller, Rosie Shuster and Alan Zweibel. The head writers were Lorne Michaels and Michael O'Donoghue.


No. in
HostMusical guest(s)Original air date
11George CarlinBilly Preston & Janis IanOctober 11, 1975

22Paul SimonRandy Newman, Phoebe Snow, Art Garfunkel & Jessy Dixon SingersOctober 18, 1975

33Rob ReinernoneOctober 25, 1975

44Candice BergenEsther PhillipsNovember 8, 1975

55Robert KleinABBA & Loudon Wainwright IIINovember 15, 1975

66Lily TomlinTomlin with Howard Shore & the All Nurse BandNovember 22, 1975

77Richard PryorGil Scott-HeronDecember 13, 1975

  • Gil Scott-Heron performed "Johannesburg" and "A Lovely Day".[5]
  • Thalmus Rasulala appeared as one of the priests in the "Exorcist II" sketch. Annazette Chase appeared as Polly in the "Black & White" sketch. At Pryor's insistence, his ex-wife Shelley Pryor and Kathrine McKee, his then-current girlfriend make cameo appearances.[7]
  • Sketches include "Samurai Futaba," "The Land of Gorch," and an Albert Brooks's film, "sick". This was the first appearance of Belushi's Samurai character.[8]
  • The episode introduces the recurring catchphrase "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead" during Weekend Update.
  • At Pryor's insistence Paul Mooney was hired as a writer[7] Mooney wrote some of Pryor's routines, including the "Racist Word Association Interview".
  • The show was broadcast on a seven second delay.[9]
88Candice BergenMartha Reeves & The StylisticsDecember 20, 1975

99Elliott GouldAnne MurrayJanuary 10, 1976

  • Anne Murray performed the songs "The Call" and "Blue Finger Lou".[5]
  • The episode features an Albert Brooks film, Audience Test Screenings. Other sketches include "Interior Demolitionists" and a Shimmer commercial parody.
  • Paula Kahn makes a cameo appearance. Jim Henson, Alice Tweedy, Jerry Nelson, and Frank Oz perform their characters in "The Land of Gorch".
  • The episode was submitted for the Emmy Award consideration and won SNL its first Emmy in 1977.[10]
  • Lorne Michaels appears on camera for the first time in the series during a "Killer Bees" sketch gone wrong.
1010Buck HenryBill Withers & Toni BasilJanuary 17, 1976

1111Peter Cook & Dudley MooreNeil SedakaJanuary 24, 1976

  • Scred from "The Land of Gorch" appeared in a bee costume hoping to be in The Bees sketch, only to be told by Gilda Radner that the sketch was canceled. Scred joins Gilda into introducing Neil Sedaka.
  • Sedaka performed the songs "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" and "Lonely Night".[5]
  • The episode features the sketch, "Lifer Follies," auditions in a prison warden's office for an upcoming inmate talent show, which includes Garrett Morris' "Shotgun" song.[11]
1212Dick CavettJimmy CliffJanuary 31, 1976

1313Peter BoyleAl JarreauFebruary 14, 1976

  • The Shapiro Sisters dance and lip-sync to the song "This Will Be". One of the sisters, Jenny, also appeared in a sketch.
  • Al Jarreau performed the songs "We Got By" and "Pretty as a Picture".[5]
  • Steven Spielberg makes an appearance in the audience while Peter Boyle sings a love song to his "wife".
1414Desi ArnazDesi Arnaz & Desi Arnaz, Jr.February 21, 1976

  • Arnaz and his son perform the songs "Cuban Pete" and "Babalu".[5]
  • Actor Taylor Mead makes a filmed cameo appearance.
1515Jill ClayburghLeon Redbone & The IdlersFebruary 28, 1976

  • A cappella group The Idlers and comedian Andy Kaufman make cameo appearances. Host Jill Clayburgh appeared with these guests.
  • Photographer and video artist William Wegman appeared with his dog in Gary Weis' filmed piece.
  • Leon Redbone performed the songs "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Big Time Woman".[5]
  • The first appearance of Mister Bill,[12] in response to the show's request for home movies.
1616Anthony PerkinsBetty CarterMarch 13, 1976

  • Betty Carter performed the songs "Music Maestro, Please / Swing Brother Swing" and "I Can't Help It".[5]
  • King Ploobis and Scred from "The Land of Gorch" approach Anthony Perkins for help to get their sketch back on the air.
1717Ron NessenPatti SmithApril 17, 1976

  • President Gerald Ford appeared in a filmed segment during the cold opening where he opens the show with "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" after Chevy Chase's signature pratfall. He also appeared in filmed segments during the monologue (where he introduces the host) and during Weekend Update (where, following Chevy Chase's signature line "I'm Chevy Chase and you're not", he says "I'm Gerald Ford and you're not").
  • Billy Crystal (billed as Bill Crystal) performed a monologue. Dan Aykroyd impersonates talk show host Tom Snyder.
  • The episode features a short Gary Weis film on New York garbage men.
  • Patti Smith Group performed the song "Gloria" and "My Generation".[5]
1818Raquel WelchPhoebe Snow & John SebastianApril 24, 1976

  • Raquel Welch performed the song "Superstar" with John Belushi as Joe Cocker, as well as "It Ain't Necessarily So".
  • Phoebe Snow performed the songs "All Over" and "Two-Fisted Love".[5]
  • John Sebastian performed the song "Welcome Back"[5] with John Belushi as Joe Cocker.
  • Lorne Michaels appeared on air, offering the Beatles $3,000 to perform three songs.[13]
  • The characters from "The Land of Gorch" face facts that they aren't welcome on the show anymore.
  • First appearance of Gilda Radner as Baba Wawa.[14]
1919Madeline KahnCarly SimonMay 8, 1976

  • Scred and The Mighty Favog cut a deal with Chevy Chase to have Lorne Michaels renew their sketch in exchange that The Mighty Favog gets The Beatles to appear on the show.
  • Carly Simon performed the songs "Half a Chance / You're So Vain"[5] in a pre-taped segment with Chevy Chase playing cowbell.
2020Dyan CannonLeon and Mary RussellMay 15, 1976

  • Leon and Mary Russell perform the songs "Satisfy You" and "Daylight,"[5] the latter of which featured John Belushi as Joe Cocker.
2121Buck HenryGordon Lightfoot & Garrett MorrisMay 22, 1976

  • Lorne Michaels offers the Beatles $3,200 and free hotel accommodations to perform three songs.[13]
  • Gordon Lightfoot performed the songs "Summertime Dream" and "Spanish Moss".[5] A third song, "Sundown," is interrupted by John Belushi's Samurai.
2222Elliott GouldLeon Redbone, Harlan Collins & Joyce EversonMay 29, 1976

2323Louise LasserPreservation Hall Jazz BandJuly 24, 1976

  • In her opening monologue, host Louise Lasser, who had been arrested on a drug charge the week before and was very difficult for the cast and writers to work with that week, pretends to have a bout of stage fright and lock herself in her dressing room. She had actually done the same thing in real life just before the beginning of the show; the cast was dividing her parts among themselves. Her self-indulgent behavior led Michaels to keep this episode out of syndication.[15]
  • Actor Michael Sarrazin makes a filmed cameo appearance.
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band performed the song "Panama".[5]
2424Kris KristoffersonRita CoolidgeJuly 31, 1976

  • Rita Coolidge performed the song "Hula Hoop".[5] Host Kris Kristofferson performed the song "I've Got a Life of My Own".[5] Together, Kristofferson and Coolidge performed "Eddie the Eunuch".[5]


  1. SNL's Beginnings from NBC
  2. This Day in Music Spotlight: Live from New York… It’s The Beatles!
  3. Paul McCartney On The Beatles Almost Reuniting On 'Saturday Night Live':...
  4. Gilda Radner#Saturday Night Live
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 124–127. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  6. Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 75–76. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  7. 1 2 Henry, David; Henry, Joe (November 3, 2013). "Saturday Night Live and Richard Pryor: The untold story behind SNL's edgiest sketch ever". Salon. Retrieved 2015-02-22. Richard insisted that they hire Paul Mooney as his writer. His ex-wife, Shelley, and his new girlfriend, Kathy McKee, both had to be on the show.
  8. Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 78–80. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  9. Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. p. 264. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  10. Shales, Tom; James Andrew Miller (2002). Live From New York. Little, Brown and Company. p. 65. ISBN 0-316-78146-0.
  11. Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. p. 119. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  12. Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 81–84. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  13. 1 2 Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. p. 117. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  14. Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 88–90. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  15. Hill, Doug; Weingrad, Jeff (2011). "14: When Do We Tape?". Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. Untreed Reads. ISBN 9781611872187. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
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