History of Saturday Night Live (2000–05)

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History of Saturday Night Live series:

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

Early 21st century[edit]

The 2000–2001 season of Saturday Night Live began yet another transitional phase. Old faces like Colin Quinn, Tim Meadows and Cheri Oteri were gone and Molly Shannon left mid-season.

Horatio Sanz and Jimmy Fallon[edit]

Veterans such as Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell still dominated the show, but more time was being given to newer cast members such as Horatio Sanz (who was groomed to be a new Belushi/Farley figure) and Jimmy Fallon (whose prodigious ability at impressions would be increasingly utilized). Both men were also criticized for regularly and self-consciously breaking character during many sketches.[citation needed]

Tina Fey[edit]

In 1999, Tina Fey became the show's first female head writer. SNL has always employed female writers but they often had little to no voice over the pacing of the show, sometimes not even their own sketches.[citation needed] With Colin Quinn's "Weekend Update" tenure over, Lorne Michaels teamed Fey with Jimmy Fallon, the first co-anchorship since Christine Ebersole and Brian Doyle-Murray in the early 1980s. Fallon's frat boy antics and Fey's droll, knowing smirks were warmly welcomed by fans. Fey was a featured player during her first season and was then promoted to contract player, while still maintaining her position as head writer.

2000 U.S. Presidential election[edit]

The 2000 season was also noted for its well-received spoofing of that year's presidential campaign, with adroit critiques[citation needed] of all the primary nominees, but especially Al Gore and George W. Bush. The two candidates even appeared (separately) on a prime time special with the cast in fall 2000. Ferrell's Bush impression coined the term "strategery" in a sketch mocking Bush's propensity for mispronunciations, while Hammond's spot-on Gore was complimented by his slow, deliberate drawl and use of the term, "lockbox," during the show's debate sketches.

Fallout from the 9/11 terrorist attacks[edit]

The first season premiere after the September 11 attacks opened with then New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and fire fighters, signifying that the New York-based series was deeply affected by the terrorist attack. As a result, the political commentary was scaled back. As time passed, the show gave more attention to political humor, but earlier attempts were seen by critics as tame, evidence that the show had over the decades gone from counterculture to safe and mainstream. Robert Smigel's cartoons, however, retained their bite and became heavily featured on the show.

Frequent cast turnover[edit]

In 2001, supporting player Chris Parnell was fired. Less than six months later, he was rehired, marking the first time since James Belushi's dismissal in 1983 that SNL had ever fired and then rehired any cast member. The 2001–2002 season also marked the arrival of improvisational mastermind Amy Poehler, who was well liked by fans due to her wide range and impressions and high spirits despite her lack of strong material. Tracy Morgan left in 2003 to become one of many SNL alumni to have a flop sitcom (The Tracy Morgan Show). Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer left in 2002 and Kattan in 2003, followed by Jimmy Fallon in 2004. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler co-anchored Weekend Update, the first time that two women were given the job.

Ashlee Simpson's lip synching incident[edit]

An embarrassing event in the career of pop singer Ashlee Simpson occurred live on October 23, 2004. Simpson's second performance of the evening opened with the sound of her pre-recorded voice heard singing the song she had already performed earlier. Despite a quick fadeout, it was obvious that what was heard was not the live voice of the singer. A flustered Simpson did an improvised dance and then left the stage. The New York Times summarized the incident in the words, "Ailing Singer Needed Lip-Sync, Father Says," and said that it "exposed the pop singer Ashlee Simpson's use of prerecorded vocals on live television."[1] Simpson's father said that her use of a prerecorded track was necessitated that evening by hoarseness caused by acid reflux disease.[2] The incident subsequently inspired several SNL skits. When questioned by reporters, Lorne Michaels initially denied,[3] then acknowledged,[4] that this was not the first time so-called "backing tracks" had ever been used on SNL. In October, 2005, Simpson returned as a musical guest, performing without incident.

Season breakdown[edit]

2000–2001 season[edit]

Opening montage[edit]

This newest SNL montage was used for three seasons and contains various shots from around New York and has the cast members shown in a nightclub. It was also the first opening montage since 1993–1994 in which the cast members moved on screen. The music that would accompany the opening credits for this season and the next two would garner some criticism from some SNL "purists" because of its heavy use of turntables and DJ equipment.



  • After seven years, Molly Shannon leaves the cast mid-season, completing the longest tenure of any female cast member until Rachel Dratch leaves the show in 2006.
  • Shannon was also the longest-serving cast member during that season. After her departure, that honor would go to Will Ferrell and, later, Darrell Hammond.
  • Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon take over the Weekend Update desk, making them the first WU male/female duo since Brian Doyle-Murray and Christine Ebersole in 1982.
  • Chris Parnell is fired at the end of this season, only to return the following year.
  • This is Jerry Minor's only season on SNL.

2001–2002 season: Will Ferrell's farewell[edit]

Opening montage[edit]

The opening montage is the same as the 2000–2001 season, save for cast changes. Ana Gasteyer's clip was changed.



  • Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond shared the honor of longest-serving cast members during this season.
  • Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph were upgraded to contract status.
  • Chris Parnell returns after being fired by Lorne Michaels over budget issues less than a year earlier.
  • After seven seasons, Ferrell leaves the show after having become the highest paid cast member in SNL's history.[5]
  • The last segment of the season finale featured an homage to Ferrell by his fellow castmates reflecting on his personality, talent, and what he brought to the show. It remains one of the only full-fledged farewells to a longtime cast member in the long history of SNL. In one particular clip, Parnell reveals that he was previously fired but that Ferrell lobbied executives for his eventual return.
  • Ana Gasteyer goes on maternity leave at the end of this season. After her daughter, Frances McKittrick, is born, she decides not to return to the show.
  • Amy Poehler is upgraded to a contract player during the latter part of this season.
  • Feature player Jeff Richards is the first cast member from MADtv (SNL's rival show at the time) to be an SNL cast member.

2002–2003 season[edit]

Opening montage[edit]

Basically a "film negative" version of the 2000 montage, using new effects when displaying the cast's title cards. Horatio Sanz's clip was changed.



  • Darrell Hammond was the longest-serving cast member during this season. He would hold on to that honor for the rest of his tenure.
  • After the season is over, Dean Edwards and producers mutually agree he is not right for the show, and Edwards is let go.
  • Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan leave the show after this season, but would make several cameos throughout the next season.

2003–2004 season[edit]

Opening montage[edit]

A brand new opening for 2003 has a Grand Central Terminal theme, with a "first-person" camera following the cast members who are found around various sections of the subway, and local eateries.



  • A new main set is unveiled, following the theme of the montage to resemble Grand Central Terminal.
  • This opener does not credit the Saturday Night Live Band.
  • Will Forte, Seth Meyers and Jeff Richards are upgraded to contract players for this season.
  • Finesse Mitchell and Kenan Thompson replace Tracy Morgan and Dean Edwards as the show's male African-American cast members.
  • Kenan Thompson is now the first SNL cast member to be younger than the show itself (Thompson was born in 1978, three years after SNL premiered) and the first SNL cast member to get his start on children's television shows (Thompson got his start on the Nickelodeon sketch show All That and the Nickelodeon sitcom Kenan and Kel).
  • Richards mysteriously disappears from the cast after the episode hosted by Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. In an interview, Richards said he left on his own terms to branch out into other projects, though there have been claims that he was fired for creative differences between himself and the director.
  • Jimmy Fallon announces on the last Weekend Update of the season that it would be his final show.

2004–2005 season[edit]

Opening montage[edit]

Another brand new montage for 2004 opens on a shot of the Brooklyn Bridge, and shows the cast engaging in conversations around a local nightclub.



  • The stage still has the Grand Central Terminal theme.
  • Fred Armisen is upgraded to a contract player.
  • Rob Riggle; an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve; joins the cast as a featured player (making Riggle the only member of the U.S. Marines to be a cast member), in what would be his only season. Riggle would go on to become a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart a year later. He would become the third SNL cast member to join The Daily Show after leaving SNL (along with A. Whitney Brown and Nancy Walls).
  • Jason Sudeikis, previously a writer on the show since 2003, joins the cast as a featured player with only three episodes left in the season.


  1. ^ "Ailing Singer Needed Lip-Sync, Father Says", New York Times, October 26, 2004
  2. ^ "Ailing Singer Needed Lip-Sync, Father Says", New York Times, October 26, 2004
  3. ^ 60 Minutes, aired October 31, 2004
  4. ^ "Simpson Dad Blames Acid Reflux for Gaffe", Associated Press, October 25, 2004
  5. ^ "War of the Funnymen – Netscape Celebrity". Webcenters.netscape.compuserve.com. Retrieved November 19, 2011.