Lorne Michaels

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Lorne Michaels
Lorne Michaels David Shankbone 2010.jpg
Michaels at the 2010 Time 100 Gala.
Birth name Lorne Lipowitz
Born (1944-11-17) November 17, 1944 (age 70)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Medium Film, television
Years active 1968–present
Spouse Rosie Shuster
(1973–1980; divorced)
Susan Forristal
(1981–1987; divorced)
Alice Barry
Children 3
Website www.lornemichaels.com

Lorne Michaels CM (born Lorne Lipowitz; November 17, 1944)[1] is a Canadian-American[2] television producer, writer, comedian, and actor, best known for creating and producing Saturday Night Live, and producing the Late Night series (since 1993), and The Tonight Show (since 2014).

Early life[edit]

Michaels was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the son of Florence (Becker) and Henry Abraham Lipowitz, a furrier.[3][4] He was the eldest of the Lipowitz children. He has a sister, Barbara Lipowitz, who currently resides in Toronto, and a brother, Mark Lipowitz, who died from a brain tumor. Michaels attended the Forest Hill Collegiate Institute in Toronto and graduated from University College, University of Toronto, where he majored in English, in 1966.[5] Michaels began his career as a writer and broadcaster for CBC Radio.[6] He moved to Los Angeles from Toronto in 1968 to work as a writer for Laugh-In and The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show. He starred with Hart Pomerantz in The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour, a Canadian comedy series which ran briefly in the early 1970s. During the late 1960s, Michaels married Rosie Shuster, who later worked with him on Saturday Night Live as a writer.[7] She was the daughter of Frank Shuster, one half of the famous comedy team, Wayne and Shuster. Michaels and Shuster were divorced in 1980.

Saturday Night Live[edit]

In 1975 Michaels created (with fellow NBC employee Dick Ebersol and president of the network Herb Schlosser) the TV show NBC's Saturday Night, which in 1977 changed its name to Saturday Night Live (initially there was a name conflict with an ABC show titled "Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell" which debuted 9/20/75 and was cancelled on 11/26/75). The show, which is performed live in front of a studio audience, immediately established a reputation for being cutting-edge and unpredictable. It became a vehicle for launching the careers of some of the most successful comedians in the United States.

Originally the producer of the show, Michaels was also a writer and later became executive producer. He occasionally appears on-screen as well, where he is known for his deadpan humor. Throughout the show's history, SNL has been nominated for more than 156 Emmy Awards and has won 36. It has consistently been one of the highest-rated late-night television programs. Michaels has been with SNL for all seasons except for his hiatus in the early 1980s (seasons 6–10).

His daughter, Sophie, has appeared in episodes, one of which was during the show's 30th season hosted by Johnny Knoxville during the monologue when Lorne introduces Johnny Knoxville to his daughter and Sophie shocks Knoxville with a taser. She also appeared in a sketch about underage drinking when Zac Efron hosted the show.

Perhaps Michaels' best-known appearance occurred in the first season when he offered the Beatles $3,000 (a deliberately paltry sum) to reunite on the show.[8] He later upped his offer to $3,200, but the money was never claimed. According to an interview in Playboy magazine,[citation needed] John Lennon and Paul McCartney happened to be in New York City that night and saw the show. They very nearly went, but changed their minds as it was getting too late to get to the show on time, and they were both tired. This near-reunion was the basis for the TV movie Two of Us. On the November 20, 1976 show, musical guest George Harrison appeared, but Michaels told him the offer was conditioned on all four members of the group showing up, not just any Beatle. Harrison tells Michaels his refusal to pay him his share is "chintzy," and Michaels counters by saying, "The Beatles don't have to split the money equally. They can give, say, Ringo less if they want."

Other work[edit]

Michaels started Broadway Video in 1979, producing such shows as The Kids in the Hall. Shortly afterwards, citing burnout, he left Saturday Night Live. He returned to the show in 1985.

During his SNL hiatus, Michaels created another sketch show entitled The New Show, which debuted on Friday nights in prime time on NBC in January 1984. The show failed to garner the same enthusiasm as SNL.

In the 1980s, Michaels appeared in an HBO mockumentary titled The Canadian Conspiracy about the supposed subversion of the United States by Canadian-born media personalities, with Lorne Greene as the leader of the conspiracy. Michaels was identified as the anointed successor to Greene.

Michaels is also the executive producer of NBC show Late Night, and was the executive producer of 30 Rock and Up All Night during their runs.

On April 3, 2013, it was announced that Michaels would be taking over as the executive producer for The Tonight Show. Consequently The Tonight Show moved to New York in early 2014 as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, changing from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.[9]


Michaels' star on Canada's Walk of Fame.

In 1999, Michaels was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. In 2002, Michaels was made a member of the Order of Canada for lifetime achievement,[10] and awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2003, he received a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.[11]

In 2004, he was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.[12] Speaking at the awards ceremony, original Saturday Night Live cast member Dan Aykroyd described Michaels as "the primary satirical voice of the country."

Michaels received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 2006, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts.[13]

In 2008, Michaels was awarded the Webby for Film & Video Lifetime Achievement. With the allotted 5-words allowed to each recipient, his five-word acceptance speech was "Five words is not enough."

In 2013, Lorne Michaels was awarded a rare Personal Peabody Award. He accepted at a ceremony in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.[14]

In popular culture[edit]

Michaels at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.

In a 2008 interview with Playboy, as well in various other interviews, Tina Fey admitted that Alec Baldwin's character Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock is inspired by Michaels. In a different interview, on NPR's radio show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, Baldwin stated that some of his inspiration for Donaghy was drawn from Michaels.[15]

The character Dr. Evil, the antagonist of Austin Powers in three films, has mannerisms and a speaking style based on Lorne Michaels. Dr. Evil was created and portrayed by SNL alumnus Mike Myers, who was at least partially influenced by fellow SNL performer Dana Carvey's impression of Michaels.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Michaels became a U.S. citizen in 1987.[2] He has three children. He has been married three times, first to SNL writer Rosie Shuster (1967; div. 1980), then to model Susan Forristal (1984; div. 1987), and currently to his former assistant Alice Barry (1991 to present). Lorne has given money to the campaigns of Senators Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, Sonny Landham, and John McCain over the years.[17][18]


Selected television credits[edit]


  1. ^ "Monitor". Entertainment Weekly (1181). November 18, 2011. p. 34. 
  2. ^ a b "Lorne Michaels Biography (1944–)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  3. ^ Shriver, Ryan. "Lorne Michaels". The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Lorne Michaels Biography (1944-)". filmreference.com. 
  5. ^ "Lorne Michaels". The New York Times. Retrieved January 4, 2009. 
  6. ^ "2006 Governor General's Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement". Bce.ca. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  7. ^ HelloStuart User Score 13 , Last Online 8 hrs, 50 mins ago (June 19, 1950). "Rosie Shuster". TV.com. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  8. ^ "SNL Transcripts: Beatles Offer, April 24, 1976". Snltranscripts.jt.org. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  9. ^ TV.com (April 3, 2013). "It's Official: Jimmy Fallon Will Replace Jay Leno as Host of The Tonight Show in 2014". TV.com. Retrieved August 1, 2013. 
  10. ^ Order of Canada Citation Archived December 2, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Canada's Walk of Fame: Lorne Michaels, television producer, Saturday Night Live Archived June 16, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "‘SNL’ creator Lorne Michaels honored - today > entertainment - today > entertainment > tv - TODAY.com". TODAY.com. 
  13. ^ "Lorne Michaels biography". Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation. Retrieved 9 February 2015. 
  14. ^ 72nd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2013.
  15. ^ Unscripted with Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey on YouTube – 1:56–2:38. Retrieved September 5, 2010
  16. ^ "'Wayne's World': How Mike Myers and Dana Carvey Resolved Their Feud". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  17. ^ "Lorne Michaels Campaign Contributions and Donations – Huffington Post". Fundrace.huffingtonpost.com. September 22, 2010. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  18. ^ "NEWSMEAT ▷ Lorne Michaels's Federal Campaign Contribution Report". Newsmeat.com. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  19. ^ Gates, Anita (October 8, 1999). "Superstar (1999) FILM REVIEW; The Things She'll Do For Fame and a Date". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ "The Maya Rudolph Show". NBC. 
  21. ^ "FXX Takes Out Personal Ad for "Man Seeking Woman"". The Futon Critic. July 2, 2014. Retrieved December 16, 2014. 

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