History of Saturday Night Live (1990–95)

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History of Saturday Night Live series:

1975–1980
(seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
1980–1985
(seasons 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
1985–1990
(seasons 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
1990–1995
(seasons 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
1995–2000
(seasons 21, 22, 23, 24, 25)
2000–2005
(seasons 26, 27, 28, 29, 30)
2005–2010
(seasons 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
2010–present
(seasons 36, 37, 38, 39)
Weekend Update

The period of 1990 to 1995 was a time of transition for Saturday Night Live. It would field its largest cast ever (18 cast members in the 1991-1992 season), see the departure of several of the show's most popular players as well as the arrival of many future stars, and draw its share of public controversy.

The early-mid nineties[edit]

New cast members for the 1990–1991 season[edit]

The 1990–1991 season was a transitional year. Jon Lovitz and Nora Dunn left the show after the previous season, the latter in a cloud of controversy. Lorne Michaels introduced a number of players who quickly became stars on the show — Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, David Spade and Julia Sweeney. Memorable characters and sketches introduced by the new cast members from this period included Sweeney's “Pat”, Sandler's “Opera Man” and “Canteen Boy”, Farley's "Matt Foley", Schneider's annoying office geek “The Copy Guy”, Rock's black perspective talk show host “Nat X”, and Spade's caustic commentary piece “Hollywood Minute”. The popularity of these new cast members helped to offset the departure of several popular long-time players over the first two seasons of this era, including Jan Hooks and Weekend Update anchor Dennis Miller after the 1990–1991 season, and Victoria Jackson after the 1991–1992 season.

The 1986–1990 cast[edit]

The remaining cast members of the 1986–1990 heyday (Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Mike Myers and Kevin Nealon), maintained a strong presence on the show and remained immensely popular with audiences well into this era. Nealon succeeded Miller as the Weekend Update anchor after the latter's departure. For the remainder of his tenure, Nealon found himself playing the straight man during Update and other sketches, particularly against the newer castmates' characters, such as Adam Sandler's "Operaman" and "Cajun Man" and Chris Farley's "Bennett Brauer". (Nealon even co-hosted Weekend Update on an episode with the original anchorman, Chevy Chase). His participation in that role increased after Carvey, Hartman, and Myers left the show. Myers introduced many popular new characters during this period, including Coffee Talk's Linda Richman, the British bathtub-dwelling pre-adolescent Simon (somewhat inspired by Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings), and British theatre critic Kenneth Reese-Evans. Meanwhile, Hartman, who had impersonated President Ronald Reagan on the show throughout the latter half of the 1980s and into the 1990s, began appearing regularly with his impression of Democratic candidate and soon-to-be U.S. President Bill Clinton. Carvey's impersonations of U.S. President George H.W. Bush remained an audience favorite, and Carvey also developed a popular impression of independent presidential candidate Ross Perot. In the period leading up to the 1992 U.S. Presidential Election, Hartman and Carvey dominated the show with these impressions, creating mock debates. Most importantly, the Myers and Carvey characters Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar from the Wayne's World sketch would become household names during the early 1990s following the release of the successful spin off film.

Chris Farley and David Spade[edit]

Of the new cast members of the show, Chris Farley was also not afraid to trade on his size for laughs. In one sketch he played a shirtless dancer, opposite the trim and muscular Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze, as they competed in an audition for a position with the Chippendales male dance troupe. Sandler and Farley also did a song called "Lunch Lady Land", with Farley dancing while dressed up as a lunch lady. Another recurring Farley character was the manic, thrice-divorced motivational speaker Matt Foley, whose schtick consisted mainly of yelling at and whining to his clients about having to live "in a van down by the river", and hurling himself around the room, demolishing everything in sight. Farley was fired from the show in 1995, but went on to star in successful movies like Tommy Boy and Black Sheep with David Spade, and Beverly Hills Ninja with Chris Rock and Nicolette Sheridan. After leaving SNL he began abusing drugs heavily. Following his last SNL appearance as a guest host on October 25, 1997,[1] his hoarse voice, continual perspiration and flushed skin were the subject of public scrutiny.[2][3] In the years before his death, Farley had sought treatment for obesity and drug abuse on seventeen separate occasions.[4] He died from an overdose of a combination of cocaine and morphine on December 18, 1997, aged 33.[5]

1993–1994 season[edit]

After the end of the 1993–1994 season, having already lost star cast member Dana Carvey, who left midway through the previous season, SNL's 1994 post-season saw more departures. Julia Sweeney left due to frustration and burnout. Another departure was that of Phil Hartman, whose final moment on the show was at the end of a musical number, with the entire cast singing a parody of the "So Long, Farewell" song from The Sound of Music. After all of the cast had left the stage, Farley, in his Matt Foley character, was left sitting on the stage, with Phil walking back on stage, cuddling next to Farley to sing goodbye and waving at the audience.

Producer Lorne Michaels hired a number of new cast members, beginning midway through the 1993–1994 season.

1994–1995 season[edit]

Similar to his decision in the mid-1980s to bring in established actors Randy Quaid, Joan Cusack and Robert Downey, Jr., Michaels added Michael McKean, and later Chris Elliott, to the cast. Both left at the end of the 1994–1995 season.

Later acquisitions were sketch veteran Mark McKinney of the recently wrapped, Michaels-produced Canadian sketch comedy show The Kids in the Hall, and stand-up comic Janeane Garofalo, the latter of whom joined at the beginning of the 1994–1995 season, and the former joining in January, shortly before the departure of Mike Myers. Garofalo left in mid-season, replaced by Molly Shannon. Myers also left in mid-season, as would Nealon after season's end. Farley and Sandler left at the end of the season. Longtime featured player Jay Mohr left as well, and Al Franken, who had worked on the show as a writer and featured player on and off since 1975, left at season's end as well. British actress Morwenna Banks joined the cast for the last four episodes of the season as a full cast member, but did not return the next season.

Much like season 6 [1980-1981] (or, to a lesser extent, season 11 [1985-1986]), season 20 [1994-1995] is considered one of SNL's worst-received seasons. The season was home to cast turnover and dissension which bordered on self-parody (as well as weak, overly long sketches based on very thin premises -- most of which centered on O.J. Simpson's murder trial). Janeane Garofalo left the show after only a half-season (disgusted over the sexist and homophobic attitude of the writers and the sketches). Mike Myers departed to pursue a movie career. Longtime feature player Al Franken quit, angry that his movie Stuart Saves His Family flopped at the box office and upset that he was passed up as a Weekend Update anchor in favor of Norm Macdonald. Ellen Cleghorne happily quit (if not for her contract, she would have left after season 19 [1993-1994]) as did Kevin Nealon, Chris Elliott, and Michael McKean. Laura Kightlinger left to join Roseanne Barr's ill-fated FOX comedy series, Saturday Night Special. Morwenna Banks, Chris Farley, Jay Mohr, and Adam Sandler were fired. Banks was hired as a contract player for the last four episodes of the season, leaving behind no memorable characters or celebrity impersonations.

Towards the end of the 1994–1995 season on SNL the show was in a state of turmoil, with the show enacting the highest turnover rate going into the next season. The 1994–1995 season had a total of 14 cast members; only five remained for the 1995–1996 season: Molly Shannon, Mark McKinney, Norm Macdonald, David Spade and Tim Meadows.

Season breakdown[edit]

1990–1991 season[edit]

Opening montage[edit]

The 1990 season started with a montage that would go virtually unchanged (with the exception of cast changes) for four seasons. Its theme was much like that from 1988–89, in which cast members were shown around New York, and were "caught" by the camera, with various NYC footage in between.

Cast[edit]

With

Featuring

Hosts and musical guests[edit]
See the list of SNL hosts and musical guests during the 16th season
Notes[edit]
  • Dennis Miller served as the longest-serving cast member during this season. He also became the first repertory cast member to spend more than five seasons on the show, paving the way for other long-running cast members, such as Phil Hartman, Kevin Nealon, Tim Meadows, Darrell Hammond, Kenan Thompson, Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis, and Bill Hader. Miller is also the first Weekend Update anchor to last more than five seasons. The only other anchors to pass the five-year mark are Tina Fey (who became the first female anchor to stay on for more than five years) and Seth Meyers (who broke Miller's record in 2014. Meyers was on the as a head writer and cast member for 13 seasons, and was a Weekend Update anchor for eight years, from 2006 to 2014).
  • This season is the debut of the "Bad Boys", who would begin to achieve prominence around 1992–1993. Adam Sandler appears in three episodes (December 8, 1990, December 15, 1990 and January 12, 1991) as an uncredited extra prior to his official debut on the February 9, 1991 episode, alongside Tim Meadows. David Spade appears in nearly every live broadcast throughout Season 16 but does not appear in the opening credits.
  • Dennis Miller and Jan Hooks left the show at the end of the season.

1991–1992 season[edit]

Opening montage[edit]

Same as the 1990 season with different cast members and different style of host/musical guest and featured player photos being the only change (the previous year had an ornate painting frame motif; this season and the next two would have a "tattered border" photo motif.)

Cast[edit]

With

Featuring

Hosts and musical guests[edit]
See the list of SNL hosts and musical guests during the 17th season
Notes[edit]
  • The 1991–1992 season boasted the largest cast in the history of the series. The season also sets the record for most female performers, a record that would later be broken in the 2013-2014 season (season 39), with seven women (Aidy Bryant, Vanessa Bayer, Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Noel Wells, Nasim Pedrad, and Sasheer Zamata).
  • Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Victoria Jackson and Kevin Nealon shared the honor of longest-serving cast members during this season, all having had been on the show since 1986.
  • Chris Farley, Chris Rock and Julia Sweeney were upgraded to contract status.
  • Victoria Jackson left at the end of the season, as the longest-serving female cast member in SNL history, a record broken by Molly Shannon in 2001, while short-lived cast members Beth Cahill and Siobhan Fallon are fired.

1992–1993 season[edit]

On October 3, at the end of her second song, a cover of Bob Marley's song "War", musical guest Sinéad O'Connor created controversy by holding up a picture of Pope John Paul II, exclaiming, "Fight the real enemy", and tearing the picture to pieces. According to the book Live From New York, this was unrehearsed, and condemned by Michaels and the SNL crew, who refused to light the applause sign after O'Connor's performance; likewise, guest host Tim Robbins, who was raised Catholic,[6] did not thank O'Connor during the closing.

Opening montage[edit]

Same theme as the 1990–1991 and 1991–1992 seasons, with the removal of cast members who had left in the previous years, and a slight change in theme music.

Cast[edit]

With

Featuring

Hosts and musical guests[edit]
See the list of SNL hosts and musical guests during the 18th season
Notes[edit]
  • Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman and Kevin Nealon were the longest-serving cast members during this season, though Carvey left the show mid-season.
  • Mike Myers was absent for the first several episodes of the season.
  • Rob Schneider ascended to contract status.
  • Robert Smigel and Chris Rock leave the show at the end of the season. Smigel would go on to The Dana Carvey Show and Late Night with Conan O'Brien (though Robert Smigel would return as a writer for the "TV Funhouse" cartoon segments on SNL), while Rock would guest star on In Living Color's final season before concentrating on standup comedy and film appearances.

1993–1994 season[edit]

Opening montage[edit]

This is the final season for the current opening montage.

Cast[edit]

Featuring

Hosts and musical guests[edit]
See the list of SNL hosts and musical guests during the 19th season

One host during this season, Martin Lawrence, had an opening monologue which included an extended series of comments about feminine hygiene. The syndicated version of the episode replaces the offending section of the monologue with a graphic (read by an off-screen announcer, SNL writer Jim Downey) describing in vague terms what Lawrence had said and noting that it had almost cost SNL employees their jobs. Lawrence was subsequently banned from appearing on SNL again.

Notes[edit]
  • Phil Hartman and Kevin Nealon were the longest-running members of the cast during this season.
  • Ellen Cleghorne, Melanie Hutsell, Tim Meadows, Adam Sandler and David Spade were all promoted to full-time cast member status.
  • Nealon ends the season by handing "Weekend Update" over to Norm Macdonald and kissing him on the mouth.
  • Phil Hartman and Julia Sweeney left at the end of the season, while Melanie Hutsell, Rob Schneider, and Sarah Silverman were fired.

1994–1995 season[edit]

Opening montage[edit]

After four seasons with the same theme, the montage changes again. The music has also changed slightly, but is still a rendition of the music used since 1985. This montage has a 20th Anniversary theme, and it consists of the cast members' photos being projected onto various objects around New York.

Cast[edit]

Featuring

Hosts and musical guests[edit]
See the list of SNL hosts and musical guests during the 20th season
Notes[edit]
  • In his book, Gasping for Airtime, Jay Mohr mentions that at the end of the season, he demanded a promotion to cast member, among other things, and the network procrastinated on answering his demand throughout the summer of 1995 until he finally quit outright.
  • Molly Shannon joined the cast as a midseason replacement for Garofalo in February 1995, eight months before she was promoted to a contract player in SNL's 21st season (1995–1996).
  • In the prime time special Saturday Night Live in the '90s: Pop Culture Nation, it was revealed that, because of this season's less-than-stellar reception, NBC was seriously considering firing Lorne Michaels and canceling the show (making this the third time this show has come close to being canceled, joining two other tumultuous and critically lackluster seasons: season 6 [1980-1981] and season 11 [1985-1986]). The firings and turnover resulting from this season represented the biggest involvement into the show's affairs by NBC executives since season 6 and the largest cast overhaul since season 11.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Chris Farley/The Mighty Mighty Bosstones episode reviews". saturday-night-live.com. 
  2. ^ "Saturday Night Live Transcripts". snltranscripts.jt.org. 
  3. ^ Shales, Tom; Miller, James Andrew (2003). Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. Back Bay. pp. 492, 493. ISBN 0-316-73565-5. 
  4. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (January 9, 1998). "The Last Temptation of Chris". ew.com. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  5. ^ "Chris Farley's Death Laid to Drug Overdose". New York Times. 1998-01-03. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  6. ^ Rose, Charlie (February 8, 1996). "Tim Robbins Interview". PBS. Retrieved May 9, 2010.