Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!
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"Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" is a famous phrase typically featured on the American sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, which runs on the NBC broadcast network. It is generally used as a way to end a cold opening sketch and lead into the opening titles/montage and cast introductions for the program.
During the show's first season, the show was known simply as NBC's Saturday Night, due to the existence of an ABC show entitled Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. This is how the phrase received its wording. The phrase was kept intact even after ABC's SNL was canceled and NBC's Saturday Night adopted the SNL name for itself.
The phrase is typically spoken by a host, cast member(s), and/or musical guest, and has been used in every season except one (the 1981-1982 season, the first full season with Dick Ebersol as producer). It was first said live on air by Chevy Chase, on SNL 's first show on October 11, 1975. For all but two of the first season's 24 episodes, Chase delivered the phrase after a pratfall of some kind. Even when the show is not aired on a Saturday—such as the eight Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday specials aired from 2008 to 2012—the traditional line is used.
Readings by special guests
In recent years, the line has occasionally been given to a non-host/non-cast member for cameo purposes. This could be for stars like Brad Pitt and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, or for more unusual celebrities like Monica Lewinsky, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire winner John Carpenter, WWE chairman Vince McMahon (on March 18, 2000), Carolyn Kepcher (on April 3, 2004), and Al Sharpton (on November 2, 2013).
Presidents and Presidential hopefuls
A series of Presidential and Vice Presidential hopefuls have announced the phrase on their appearances on the program, beginning with Bob Dole on November 16, 1996 (coming after the 1996 election). It was announced by Barack Obama on November 3, 2007, by Hillary Clinton on March 1, 2008, by Sarah Palin on October 18, 2008, and by John McCain on November 1, 2008. Gerald Ford is the only sitting U.S. President to open the show with the phrase, which he did when Ron Nessen hosted.
There have been multiple variations on the line.
- The convention of opening the show with the line has itself been the subject of some of the cold openings. An early case of this was a March 1977 episode in which castmember John Belushi refused to say the line until a list of his demands were met. (His plan was foiled when he was tricked into saying the line while reading a note that had been handed to him.)
- In the last episode of the 1970s, hosted by Ted Knight on December 22nd 1979, Bill Murray in character as the exiled Shah of Iran proclaimed "Live from New York, and Panama, it's Saturday Night!", in light of his stay in the country of Panama at the time.
- For the 1981-1982 season, the opening line was moved from the end of the cold open to the opening montage, changed to "And now, from New York, the most dangerous city in America, it's Saturday Night Live," and was uttered by Mel Brandt, except for two episodes that aired in December 1981 when veteran NBC News announcer Bill Hanrahan handled such duties.
- In 1982, while still a castmember, Eddie Murphy was asked to host the show in place of his 48 Hrs. co-star, Nick Nolte. Murphy altered the line to "Live from New York, it's the Eddie Murphy Show!" Two months later, host Lily Tomlin chided Murphy about this in the cold opening, then proclaimed, "Live from New York, it's the Lily Tomlin Show!"
- In the 1983 episode jointly hosted by Danny DeVito & Rhea Perlman, the cold opening was a parody of Brooke Shields' Calvin Klein jeans commercials. In it, a woman named Martha (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) insults her friends and receives a pie in the face. After she is hit, Dreyfus begins to give the famous line. However, after getting as far as "Live from New York, it's...", she is then surprised with an unexpected second pie in her face and does not finish the line.
- The November 8, 1986 episode hosted by Rosanna Arquette remains the only episode of SNL to have been prerecorded in advance of its eventual airdate due to being originally slated for broadcast on October 25, 1986. The airing was postponed due to Game 6 of the 1986 World Series going into extra innings. When the episode aired two weeks later than recorded, New York Mets pitcher Ron Darling appeared in the cold opening which explained, to the Mets' horror, that Game 6 caused the first preemption in SNL's history. After apologizing for the preemption, Darling delivered the phrase even though the rest of the episode, except for Dennis Miller's Weekend Update for that week, had been prerecorded.
- On the February 28, 1998 program, Will Ferrell, playing Saddam Hussein, announced "Live-time from the New York, it's the Saturday fun hour!"
- On February 6, 1999, Darrell Hammond's Bill Clinton—his Senate trial winding down—gives an Oval Office address assuring the American public that he "will not gloat" over his certain victory. However, the events occurring behind and around him suggest otherwise. Streamers are put up on the windows; Hillary, Al Gore, Vernon Jordan, and Monica Lewinsky drink beer; Clinton holds up a picture of a horse's posterior instead of a picture of House impeachment manager Henry Hyde (thanks to an "honest mistake" during a tribute); and Betty Currie dances to "Chain of Fools". At the end, Clinton drops the facade and announces, "Live, from New York, it's Gloatin' Time!"
- In February, 2001, Jennifer Lopez hosted for the first time. After a cold opening sketch in which producer Lorne Michaels and various male castmembers obsess over Lopez's posterior, Tracy Morgan shouted, "Live from New York, it's Jennifer Lopez's booty!" (Incidentally, this episode was not live; it was tape-delayed 45 minutes because of an XFL game going into double-overtime.)
- In the first show aired after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the show opened with Paul Simon leading a performance of a sentimental musical number—the Simon & Garfunkel song "The Boxer". Simon was standing with cast members and with then Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani. After the song was over, Lorne Michaels asked Giuliani, "Can we be funny?" The remark was met by nervous laughter, which gave way to great applause when Giuliani responded, "Why start now?" After this, Giuliani delivered the phrase, which was met with more applause.
- On October 28, 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen—in-character as Borat Sagdiyev—was featured on the show, promoting his film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and he delivered the line as "Alive from New York—home of the Jew—it's Saturday night!"
- On April 7, 2012, Jason Sudeikis as Mitt Romney remarked, "There's that unforgettable opening that we know so well: 'Hey, New York, let's start the show!'" and then Bill Hader yelled the normal version of the line from off-screen. Sudeikis as Romney replied, "Yeah, exactly, what he said. That's right."
- One variation was Jason Sudeikis, portraying Wolf Blitzer, yelling "Live from New York!" and then mumbling the rest of the line.
- The puppet Toonces the Driving Cat meowed the line, with English subtitles.
- The line has been said in Spanish ("En vivo desde Nueva York, ¡es Sábado por la Noche!") three times (by Gilda Radner, Chris Farley, and the tandem of Will Ferrell and Julia Stiles).
- In a McLaughlin Group parody, Dana Carvey (imitating John McLaughlin) asked his panelists how the show starts, and—after shouting down their recitation of the opening line with a loud "WRONG!!"—he opened the show with, "Show, show, show. Here we go!" A subsequent installment had Carvey telling everybody they were wrong, only to then say, "I'm only kidding. Start the show!"
In popular culture
In the "Friends" episode entitled, "The One with Joey's Award", Phoebe Buffay is giving a mock acceptance speech (receiving a Nobel Prize for a massage) when she suddenly stops and shouts, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" Lisa Kudrow, who played Phoebe, actually auditioned for a spot on SNL, and did host the show.