Saturday Night Live (season 1)

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Saturday Night Live
(season 1)
The Saturday Night Live title card as seen in the opening credits of the 1st season.
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 24
Original channel NBC
Original run October 11, 1975 – July 31, 1976
Home video release
DVD release date December 5, 2006
Season chronology
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The first season of Saturday Night Live, the weekly late-night 90-minute American sketch comedy/variety show on NBC, aired during the 1975–1976 television season. Saturday Night Live premiered on October 11, 1975 and consisted of a total of 24 episodes, the last of which aired on 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). 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. 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, 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") – 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, an inventive, nationally syndicated comedy series that often satirized current events. Actors and writers from Radio Hour received much more exposure and recognition on Saturday Night.

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 -- generally, in self-referential bits that had them pleading to be allowed back on to the show, while being told that their sketch was unpopular and had been cancelled. 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.

Also during the season, Michaels appeared on-camera twice, on April 24 and May 22, to make his famous offer to The Beatles to reunite on the show and play three songs. 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.


Date Host Musical Guest Remarks
1 October 11, 1975 George Carlin Billy Preston
Janis Ian
  • The cold open was John Belushi as a foreign man learning English being taught by SNL writer Michael O'Donoghue. Following this skit, Chevy Chase appeared with a head set on and bellowed the very first Live From New York, It's Saturday Night!
  • Don Pardo introduces the cast as "The Not For Ready Prime Time Players" as an obvious flub of the line.
  • George Carlin had no involvement in sketches (at his request), and this was the only episode where the host did so. He only appeared to do stand-up, introduce the musical guests, and the good night segment. Carlin wanted to wear a t-shirt, but the network wanted him to wear a suit. So, Carlin wore a jacket and vest over his t-shirt, and did the show while supposedly high on drugs.
  • Carlin performed three monologues, including "Baseball-Football," a bit less-than complimentary to the former; ironically, NBC President Herbert Schlosser watched the episode along with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn (NBC was airing the World Series, which had begun that day) – and the fact that the "straitlaced, very proper" Kuhn had laughed at a few of the sketches was, to him, the first indication that, with this new show, the network might be on to something.[5]
  • Billy Crystal was to appear, but his stand-up segment was cut when the dress rehearsal ran long.[6]
  • Andy Kaufman's segment, which consisted of him playing the Mighty Mouse theme on a record player, survived editing cuts.[7]
  • On June 28, 2008, NBC cancelled a re-airing of the season 33 episode hosted by Ellen Page to air this episode following Carlin's death.
  • Valri Bromfield made a guest appearance.
  • Billy Preston performed "Nothing from Nothing" and "Fancy Lady."
  • Janis Ian performed "At Seventeen" and "In the Winter."
  • First appearance of the Bees.
  • Featured the Albert Brooks film, "The Impossible Truth," which Brooks himself appeared in.
  • Paul Simon appeared to announce that he would host next week's show.
  • Dan Aykroyd wrote the "Trojan Horse Home Security" sketch.
  • Andrew Duncan played the announcer in the "Triple-Trac" sketch while Al Franken played the caveman.
  • Features The Land of Gorch segment with Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Rhonda Hansome, and Alice Tweedy performing.
  • Jacqueline Carlin appeared as the mom in the "New Dad Insurance" sketch and as the woman with a book in the "Academy of Better Careers" sketch.
  • Wendy Craig was the salesman in the "Academy of Better Careers" sketch.
  • A sketch about a razor with three blades. This sketch is perhaps prophetic, as 3-bladed razors are now an actual common bathroom item.
  • Richard Belzer (the show's warm-up comedian), writer Tom Davis, and talent coordinator Neil Levy played jurors in the "Courtroom" sketch.
  • Belzer, Davis, Levy, Craig, Franken, Tom Schiller, Akira Yoshimura, and Franken were extras.
2 October 18, 1975 Paul Simon Randy Newman
Phoebe Snow
Art Garfunkel
Jessy Dixon Singers
3 October 25, 1975 Rob Reiner John Belushi as Joe Cocker
  • Reiner is the first host to appear in full sketches with the regular cast.
  • Future cast member Denny Dillon appeared as a "special guest" with Mark Hampton in a sketch as nuns running a parish talent show.
  • The bit players are Anne Beatts, Tom Davis, Al Franken, Alan Zweibel, and Neil Levy.
  • Jacqueline Carlin has a bit part 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.
  • Rob Reiner's then-wife Penny Marshall appears in the "Fashion Show," "Hoe-Down," and "the Bees" sketches.
  • Comedian Andy Kaufman makes a cameo appearance.
  • The Lockers make a guest appearance.
  • The first appearance of "The News for the Hard of Hearing."
  • George Coe is not listed in the opening credits.
  • Features "The Land of Gorch" sketch with Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Alice Tweedy, and Richard Hunt performing.
  • There was no billed musical guest for this episode. At host Reiner's request, John Belushi did his impersonation of Joe Cocker while performing "With a Little Help from My Friends" (which originated during Belushi's stint in National Lampoon's Lemmings).
  • Features director Albert Brooks's film – heart surgery.
  • The show ended without a goodbye from the host or final credits. Credits were not created until the episode was rerun in 1978.
4 November 8, 1975 Candice Bergen Esther Phillips
5 November 15, 1975 Robert Klein ABBA
Loudon Wainwright III
6 November 22, 1975 Lily Tomlin Tomlin with Howard Shore & the All Nurse Band
7 December 13, 1975 Richard Pryor Gil Scott-Heron
  • This episode had the first seven-second delay for SNL.
  • In the cold open, the actors break character when Chevy Chase discovered that Garrett Morris, after Richard Pryor's suggested it to him, intended to do "The Fall of the Week" and say "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" After arguing, Chase agrees and instructs Morris on how to do the pratfall.
  • Richard Pryor was the first African-American to host SNL.
  • Paul Mooney wrote some of Pryor's routines, including the "Racist Word Association Interview."
  • The West Coast airing of this episode bleeped out Richard Pryor saying "ass" during one of his stand-up routines. It has since been shown intact.
  • Garrett Morris says "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" in this episode. It is one of only two Season One episodes in which the line is said by someone other than Chevy Chase.
  • Pryor's ex-wife Shelley Pryor makes a cameo appearance.
  • Pryor's long-time girlfriend, actress-talk show host Kathrine McKee made a brief guest appearance with Pryor.
  • Actress Annazette Chase appears as Polly in the "Black & White" sketch.
  • Gil Scott-Heron performed the songs "Johannesburg" and "A Lovely Day."
  • Thalmus Rasulala played one of the priests, along with Pryor, in the "Exorcist II" sketch.
  • The first appearance of Samurai Futaba.
  • This features Albert Brooks's film, – sick.
  • This episode features a new sketch from "The Land of Gorch."
  • The episode introduces the recurring catchphrase "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead" during Weekend Update.
8 December 20, 1975 Candice Bergen Martha Reeves
The Stylistics
  • Candice Bergen became the first person to host the show a second time and the first to host more than once in the same season.
  • Maggie Kuhn made a cameo appearance.
  • Martha Reeves performed the songs "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" and "Silver Bells."
  • 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.
  • The Stylistics performed the song "You Make Me Feel Brand New."
  • Candice Bergen performed the song "Winter Wonderland" with the cast (in which Garrett Morris sang the lead).
  • The "Homeward Bound" short film from this episode was included in the prime-time special "SNL: Just Shorts."
9 January 10, 1976 Elliott Gould Anne Murray
  • The first of Gould's six hosting stints.
  • The last episode to feature a film by Albert Brooks - audience test screenings.
  • Paula Kahn made a cameo appearance.
  • Anne Murray performed the songs "The Call" and "Blue Finger Lou."
  • Lorne Michaels makes his first appearance on the show.
  • Future SNL cast member and writer (and future U.S. Senator) Al Franken makes an appearance along with future writer and occasional performer Tom Davis.
  • Jim Henson, Alice Tweedy, Jerry Nelson, and Frank Oz perform their characters in "The Land of Gorch."
  • Features the Interior Demolitionists sketch and the "Shimmer" commercial ("New Shimmer's a floor wax AND a dessert topping!").
  • This episode was submitted for the Emmy Award Consideration and won SNL their first Emmy in 1977[8]
10 January 17, 1976 Buck Henry Bill Withers
Toni Basil
11 January 24, 1976 Peter Cook
Dudley Moore
Neil Sedaka
  • Don Pardo reads the names of the regular cast members during the opening credits for the first time.
  • Cook and Moore are the first British performers to host and the first co-hosts.
  • Scred from "The Land of Gorch" comes out in a bee costume hoping to be in their sketch, only to be told by Gilda Radner that the sketch was cancelled. Scred joins Gilda into introducing Neil Sedaka.
  • Neil Sedaka performed the songs "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" and "Lonely Night."
  • "Lifer Follies" - Auditions in the prison warden's office for the upcoming inmate talent show, including the classic Garrett Morris "Shotgun" song.
12 January 31, 1976 Dick Cavett Jimmy Cliff
  • Humorist Marshall Efron and Al Alen Petersen made cameo appearances.
  • Jimmy Cliff performed the songs "The Harder They Come," "Many Rivers to Cross" and "Wahjahka Man."
  • This was the second show to end without credits, as the show ran long with only the two bumpers appearing on the show before it ended. The ending was replaced with the closing credits from Cavett's second show in the following years.
13 February 14, 1976 Peter Boyle Al Jarreau
  • The Shapiro Sisters dance and lip-sync 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 February 21, 1976 Desi Arnaz Desi Arnaz & Desi Arnaz Jr.
  • Though he is not the first host to perform musically on the show, Arnaz is the first host to be simultaneously credited as musical guest. Arnaz and his son performed the songs "Cuban Pete" and "Babalu."
  • Actor Taylor Mead made a filmed cameo appearance.
15 February 28, 1976 Jill Clayburgh Leon Redbone
The Singing Idlers
  • A cappella group The Idlers and comedian Andy Kaufman made cameo appearances. Host Jill Clayburgh also appeared with these guests.
  • This is Kaufman's fourth appearance
  • Photographer and video artist William Wegman appears with his dog in Gary Weis's filmed piece.
  • Leon Redbone performed the songs "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Big Time Woman."
  • When the characters of "The Land of Gorch" are attending the Grammy Awards, Chevy Chase ends up acting out the sketch.
  • The first appearance of Mister Bill in response to the show's request for home movies.
  • Lorne Michaels makes his second appearance in a sketch, imploring Chevy to once again start the show with a pratfall.
16 March 13, 1976 Anthony Perkins Betty Carter
  • This is the first episode to feature pictures of the cast in the opening credits.
  • Betty Carter performed 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 April 17, 1976 Ron Nessen Patti Smith Group
  • Ron Nessen, press secretary for President Gerald Ford, is the first political figure to host the show. Ford himself 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.
  • Future cast member Billy Crystal appears on the show for the first time, performing a monologue.
  • First appearance of Dan Aykroyd as talk show host Tom Snyder.
  • Patti Smith Group performed the song "Gloria" and "My Generation." The line "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine" occurred at the stroke of midnight, Sunday being Easter.
  • The Muppets are announced in the opening credits and were scheduled to appear, but did not feature in the actual broadcast. Ron Nessen apologizes at the end of the episode blaming the Muppets' absence on "technical complications."
18 April 24, 1976 Raquel Welch Phoebe Snow
John Sebastian
  • Lorne Michaels appears on air, offering the Beatles $3,000 to perform three songs.
  • This episode was originally supposed to have a sketch called "Planet of the Enormous Hooters," where a woman (Raquel Welch) gets banned from a planet of women who all have enormous breasts, but the sketch was cut after dress rehearsal.[9] A version of the sketch would finally be used on the season 14 episode hosted by Dolly Parton.
  • Raquel Welch performed the song "Superstar" with John Belushi as Joe Cocker, as well as "It Ain't Necessarily So."
  • The characters from "The Land of Gorch" face facts that they aren't welcome on the show anymore.
  • Phoebe Snow performed the songs "All Over" and "Two-Fisted Love."
  • John Sebastian performed the song "Welcome Back" with John Belushi as Joe Cocker.
19 May 8, 1976 Madeline Kahn Carly Simon
  • 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" in a pre-taped segment with Chevy Chase playing cowbell.

NOTE: Paul McCartney and John Lennon reportedly were watching the segment with Scred and The Mighty Favog on the day it aired and considered going to Rockefeller Center to surprise the audience, but decided to stay in their apartment.

20 May 15, 1976 Dyan Cannon Leon and Mary Russell
  • Leon and Mary Russell performed the songs "Satisfy You" and "Daylight," the latter of which featured John Belushi as Joe Cocker.
  • Leon Russell would not appear on SNL again for almost 35 years, an unofficial show record.
21 May 22, 1976 Buck Henry Gordon Lightfoot
  • Lorne Michaels appears again, offering the Beatles $3,200 and free hotel accommodations to perform three songs.
  • Gordon Lightfoot performed the songs "Summertime Dream" and "Spanish Moss." A third song ("Sundown") is interrupted by John Belushi's Samurai.
22 May 29, 1976 Elliott Gould Leon Redbone
Harlan Collins & Joyce Everson
  • Leon Redbone performed the songs "Shine On, Harvest Moon" and "Walking Stick."
  • Harlan Collins & Joyce Everson performed "Heaven Only Knows."
  • The sketch called The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise written by Michael O'Donoghue, a parody of the Star Trek TV series involving the crew trying to deal with the show's cancellation in 1968 became an instant cult classic among Star Trek fans and science fiction fans in general.
  • Akira Yoshimura and Doris Powell appeared in the The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise.
23 July 24, 1976 Louise Lasser Preservation Hall Jazz Band
  • Louise Lasser nearly backed out of hosting at the last minute, and agreed to remain only when producers threatened to have a cast member read all of her lines while wearing a wig; she did continue to insist on filming several segments in advance, and that she only appear by herself or with Chevy Chase. (The episode is perhaps most memorable for her opening monologue, where she pretends to have a bout of stage fright and lock herself in her dressing room.) There is an urban legend that Lasser was banned from the show because of this, which she flatly denies.[10]
  • Actor Michael Sarrazin made a filmed cameo appearance.
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band performed the song "Panama."
  • The first live broadcast in SNL history to air in July.
24 July 31, 1976 Kris Kristofferson Rita Coolidge
  • Rita Coolidge performed the songs "Hula Hoop" and "Eddie the Eunuch."
  • Host Kris Kristofferson performed the aforementioned guest vocal and performed the song "I've Got a Life of My Own."
  • Kristofferson later admitted that he was drunk during the live show.
  • The second (and last) live broadcast in SNL history to air in July.


  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. ^ Shales, Tom; James Andrew Miller (2002). Live From New York. Little, Brown and Company. p. 55. ISBN 0-316-78146-0. 
  6. ^ Shales, Tom; James Andrew Miller (2002). Live From New York. Little, Brown and Company. p. 47. ISBN 0-316-78146-0. 
  7. ^ Shales, Tom; James Andrew Miller (2002). Live From New York. Little, Brown and Company. p. 46. ISBN 0-316-78146-0. 
  8. ^ Shales, Tom; James Andrew Miller (2002). Live From New York. Little, Brown and Company. p. 65. ISBN 0-316-78146-0. 
  9. ^ Hill, Doug; Weingrad, Jeff (1986), Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, New York: Beech Tree Books, p. 150, ISBN 0-688-05099-9 
  10. ^ Claire, Barliant. "An Interview With Louise Lasser: TV, Depression, and SNL". The Toast. Retrieved 2015-01-17.