Forty years after Saturday Night Live
first aired on television, people all across America still tune in to NBC at 11:30 p.m. to hear those magic words: "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night.
But, it wasn't always that way. Back in 1975, everything about the comedy show, from its New York City location to the youth of its creators (Lorne Michaels was just 31!), felt cutting-edge and different. "TV has not yet had a show for people who grew up with TV," Michaels explained to New York magazine
at the time. "Carol Burnett's skits are very funny, but they're
written by people 45-50 and they're about those problems — life in the
suburbs, infidelity, alcoholism, divorce."
Obviously, being different worked. SNL
found its audience, and over the decades helped launch the careers of some of the most well-known names in comedy.
Saturday Night Live: The Book
(Taschen, $49.99) celebrates the show's milestone and pays tribute to its most influential (and memorable) cast members, sketches, and celebrity guests. By digging into its legendary archives and giving a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the show's production, author Alison Castle has crafted a tribute for the ultimate
"In the hours before the live show, the atmosphere backstage is electric," she writes. "Despite the mounting pressure, the ambiance is as jovial as it is businesslike. Cast members wander around in costume as if they weren’t. A we’re-all-in-it-together camaraderie unites the team. Two minutes before air, the warm-up lighting dips to black and the cold-open lights come up. The performers enter the stage and take their places. Lorne Michaels checks his watch and gives last-minute notes. The house band stops playing at precisely 11:28:30. A hush of anticipation washes over the studio. The stage manager begins the countdown. There is a brief moment of total silence. The ON AIR sign lights up and the show begins."