Saturday Night Live (season 1)

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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 channel NBC
Original run October 11, 1975 (1975-10-11) – July 31, 1976 (1976-07-31)
Season chronology
Next →
List of Saturday Night Live episodes

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.[citation needed]

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). Don Pardo introduced the cast on the first show as the "The not for ready, prime time players" instead of their actual name as "The Not Ready For Prime Time Players."

The show was intended to have just six episodes.[citation needed] 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 (Albert Brooks was originally booked to be a permanent host,[citation needed] and claims it was his idea to have a different 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.

The first cast member hired was Gilda Radner.[2] 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"[citation needed]) – 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.[citation needed]

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.

Andy Kaufman made several appearances that were popular with the audience over the season,[citation needed] while The Muppets' Land of Gorch bits were regarded as a poor fit with the rest of the show.[citation needed] 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.

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 all together. O'Donoghue would continue to work for the show as a writer, as well as an occasional featured performer (particularly as "Mr. Mike"), through season five.

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.[3][4]


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.


Saturday Night Live season 1 episodes
No. # Host(s) Musical guest(s) Original airdate
1 1 George Carlin Billy Preston & Janis Ian October 11, 1975

The cold open features John Belushi as a foreign man learning English being taught by writer Michael O'Donoghue. Following this sketch, Chevy Chase appears with a headset on and bellows the first "Live From New York, It's Saturday Night!"

As host, George Carlin does stand-up, introduces the musical guests, and conducts the good night segment. Carlin performs three monologues, including "Baseball-Football."

Andy Kaufman appears in a segment consisting of him playing the Mighty Mouse theme on a record player.

Valri Bromfield makes a guest appearance. Jacqueline Carlin appears as the mother in the "New Dad Insurance" sketch and as the woman with a book in the "Academy of Better Careers" sketch. Wendy Craig appears as the salesman in the "Academy of Better Careers" sketch. Richard Belzer (the show's warm-up comedian), writer Tom Davis, and talent coordinator Neil Levy appear as jurors in the "Courtroom" sketch.

Billy Preston performs "Nothing from Nothing" and "Fancy Lady." Janis Ian performs "At Seventeen" and "In the Winter."

Sketches include the Bees; the Albert Brooks film, "The Impossible Truth"; "Trojan Horse Home Security"; "Triple-Trac"; and The Land of Gorch, with Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Rhonda Hansome, and Alice Tweedy.
2 2 Paul Simon Randy Newman, Phoebe Snow, Art Garfunkel & Jessy Dixon Singers October 18, 1975

Connie Hawkins and Marv Albert appear on Weekend Update. Jerry Rubin appears in the "Up Against the Wallpaper" sketch. Bill Bradley appears in the goodnights.

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel perform "The Boxer," "Scarborough Fair" and "My Little Town." Paul Simon also performs "Still Crazy After All These Years," "Marie" "American Tune" solo, "Loves Me Like a Rock" with the Jessy Dixon Singers, and "Gone at Last" with Phoebe Snow. Art Garfunkel performs "I Only Have Eyes for You."

Randy Newman performs "Sail Away." Phoebe Snow performs "No Regrets."

The episode features an Albert Brooks's film about failed Candid Camera stunts and home movies.
3 3 Rob Reiner none October 25, 1975

Denny Dillon appears as a special guest with Mark Hampton in a sketch as nuns running a parish talent show. Jacqueline Carlin appears as a swimmer in the "Golden Needles" sketch. Tom Schiller appears as the priest in the "Wrigley's Gum" sketch and as one of the Bees. Penny Marshall appears in the "Fashion Show," "Hoe-Down," and "the Bees" sketches. The Lockers and comedian Andy Kaufman make guest appearances.

Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Alice Tweedy, and Richard Hunt perform in a "The Land of Gorch" sketch.

In lieu of a musical guest, John Belushi impersonates Joe Cocker while performing "With a Little Help from My Friends".

The episode features an Albert Brooks film about heart surgery.
4 4 Candice Bergen Esther Phillips November 8, 1975

Chevy Chase impersonates President Gerald Ford.

Andrew Duncan and Jacqueline Carlin make cameo appearances.

Sketches include "Landshark" and "The Land of Gorch," featuring Jim Henson, Jerry Nelson, and Frank Oz performing their Muppet characters.

Andy Kaufman debuts his Foreign Man character on the show.

Esther Phillips performs "What a Diff'rence a Day Made" and "I Can Stand a Little Rain."

The episode features an Albert Brooks film, upcoming season.
5 5 Robert Klein ABBA & Loudon Wainwright III November 15, 1975

Laraine Newman debuts her character Sherry.

ABBA makes two appearances, singing "S.O.S." on board the sinking "Titanic" and "Waterloo."

Loudon Wainwright III performs the songs "Bicentennial" and "Unrequited to the Nth Degree." Host Robert Klein performs the song "I Can't Stop My Leg" with the Saturday Night Live Band, co-written with Howard Shore and Paul Shaffer.

George Coe makes a guest appearance.

Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Alice Tweedy, and Fran Brill perform in a "The Land of Gorch" sketch.
6 6 Lily Tomlin Tomlin with Howard Shore & the All Nurse Band November 22, 1975
Tomlin performs the songs "St. James Infirmary Blues," "Bee Bop," and "I Got You Babe" with Scred and the Muppets.
7 7 Richard Pryor Gil Scott-Heron December 13, 1975

Gil Scott-Heron performs "Johannesburg" and "A Lovely Day."

Thalmus Rasulala appears as one of the priests in the "Exorcist II" sketch. Annazette Chase appears as Polly in the "Black & White" sketch. At Pryor's insistence, his ex-wife Shelley Pryor and Kathrine McKee, his then-curent girlfriend make cameo appearances.[5]

Sketches include "Samurai Futaba," "The Land of Gorch," and an Albert Brooks's film, "sick."

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[5] Mooney wrote some of Pryor's routines, including the "Racist Word Association Interview."[citation needed]
8 8 Candice Bergen Martha Reeves & The Stylistics December 20, 1975

Martha Reeves performs "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" and "Silver Bells." The Stylistics performs the song "You Make Me Feel Brand New."

Candice Begen appears in "The Land of Gorch" sketch where she attends King Ploobis' Christmas party while the guests that he had invited are attending the Killer Bees' Christmas party. Bergen performs the song "Winter Wonderland" with the cast.

Maggie Kuhn makes a cameo appearance.
9 9 Elliott Gould Anne Murray January 10, 1976

Anne Murray performs the songs "The Call" and "Blue Finger Lou."

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.[6]
10 10 Buck Henry Bill Withers & Toni Basil January 17, 1976

The Blues Brothers, in the Bees costumes, perform "I'm a King Bee" with Howard Shore and His All-Bee Band.

The episode features a Saturday Night Live Samurai sketch, "Samurai Delicatessen." Buck Henry premieres his recurring character, Mr. Dantley.

Bill Withers performs the "Ain't No Sunshine." Toni Basil performs the "Wham."

Alice Tweedy and Jerry Nelson perform their characters in "The Land of Gorch."
11 11 Peter Cook & Dudley Moore Neil Sedaka January 24, 1976

Scred from "The Land of Gorch" appears 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 performs the songs "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" and "Lonely Night."

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.
12 12 Dick Cavett Jimmy Cliff January 31, 1976

Humorist Marshall Efron and Al Alen Petersen make cameo appearances.

Jimmy Cliff performs the songs "The Harder They Come," "Many Rivers to Cross" and "Wahjahka Man."
13 13 Peter Boyle Al Jarreau February 14, 1976

The Shapiro Sisters dance and lip-sync to the song "This Will Be." One of the sisters, Jenny, also appears in a sketch.

Al Jarreau performs the songs "We Got By" and "Somebody's Watching You."

Steven Spielberg makes an appearance in the audience while Peter Boyle sings a love song to his "wife".
14 14 Desi Arnaz Desi Arnaz & Desi Arnaz, Jr. February 21, 1976

Arnaz and his son perform the songs "Cuban Pete" and "Babalu."

Actor Taylor Mead makes a filmed cameo appearance.
15 15 Jill Clayburgh Leon Redbone & The Idlers February 28, 1976

A cappella group The Idlers and comedian Andy Kaufman make cameo appearances. Host Jill Clayburgh appears with these guests.

Photographer and video artist William Wegman appears with his dog in Gary Weis' filmed piece.

Leon Redbone performs the songs "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Big Time Woman."

The first appearance of Mister Bill in response to the show's request for home movies.
16 16 Anthony Perkins Betty Carter March 13, 1976

Betty Carter performs the songs "Music Maestro, Please / Swing Brother Swing" and "I Can't Help It."

King Ploobis and Scred from "The Land of Gorch" approach Anthony Perkins for help to get their sketch back on the air.
17 17 Ron Nessen Patti Smith April 17, 1976

President Gerald Ford appears 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 appears 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 performs a monologue. Dan Aykroyd impersonates talk show host Tom Snyder.

Patti Smith Group performs the song "Gloria" and "My Generation."
18 18 Raquel Welch Phoebe Snow & John Sebastian April 24, 1976

Raquel Welch performs the song "Superstar" with John Belushi as Joe Cocker, as well as "It Ain't Necessarily So." Phoebe Snow performs the songs "All Over" and "Two-Fisted Love." John Sebastian performs the song "Welcome Back" with John Belushi as Joe Cocker.

Lorne Michaels appears on air, offering the Beatles $3,000 to perform three songs.

The characters from "The Land of Gorch" face facts that they aren't welcome on the show anymore.
19 19 Madeline Kahn Carly Simon May 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 performs the songs "Half a Chance / You're So Vain" in a pre-taped segment with Chevy Chase playing cowbell.
20 20 Dyan Cannon Leon and Mary Russell May 15, 1976
Leon and Mary Russell perform the songs "Satisfy You" and "Daylight," the latter of which featured John Belushi as Joe Cocker.
21 21 Buck Henry Gordon Lightfoot & Garrett Morris May 22, 1976

Lorne Michaels offers the Beatles $3,200 and free hotel accommodations to perform three songs.

Gordon Lightfoot performs the songs "Summertime Dream" and "Spanish Moss." A third song, "Sundown," is interrupted by John Belushi's Samurai.
22 22 Elliott Gould Leon Redbone, Harlan Collins & Joyce Everson May 29, 1976

Leon Redbone performs the songs "Shine On, Harvest Moon" and "Walking Stick." Harlan Collins & Joyce Everson perform "Heaven Only Knows."

Akira Yoshimura and Doris Powell appear in "The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise," a sketch written by Michael O'Donoghue, parodying the television series Star Trek. In the sketch, the crew of the Enterprise tries to deal with the show's cancellation.
23 23 Louise Lasser Preservation Hall Jazz Band July 24, 1976

In her opening monologue, host Louise Lasser pretends to have a bout of stage fright and lock herself in her dressing room.

Actor Michael Sarrazin makes a filmed cameo appearance.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs the song "Panama."
24 24 Kris Kristofferson Rita Coolidge July 31, 1976
Rita Coolidge performs the songs "Hula Hoop" and "Eddie the Eunuch." Host Kris Kristofferson performs the song "I've Got a Life of My Own."


  1. ^ SNL's Beginnings from NBC
  2. ^ Gilda Radner#Saturday Night Live
  3. ^ This Day in Music Spotlight: Live from New York… It’s The Beatles!
  4. ^ Paul McCartney On The Beatles Almost Reuniting On 'Saturday Night Live':...
  5. ^ a b 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. 
  6. ^ Shales, Tom; James Andrew Miller (2002). Live From New York. Little, Brown and Company. p. 65. ISBN 0-316-78146-0.