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 originUnited States
No. of episodes24
Original networkNBC
Original releaseOctober 11, 1975 (1975-10-11) –
July 31, 1976 (1976-07-31)
Season chronology
Next →
Season 2
List of episodes

The first season of Saturday Night Live (then known as NBC's Saturday Night to avoid confusion with the similarly named variety show hosted by Howard Cosell), an American sketch comedy series, originally aired in the United States on NBC from October 11, 1975, to July 31, 1976. The show served as a vehicle that launched to stardom the careers of a number of major comedians and actors, including Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and Dan Aykroyd.


In 1974, NBC Tonight Show host Johnny Carson asked that the weekend broadcasts of "Best of Carson" (officially known as The Weekend Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson) come to an end (The Tonight Show was a 90-minute program at the time), so he could take two weeknights off; NBC would thus air those repeats on those nights rather than feed them to affiliates for broadcast on either Saturdays or Sundays. Given Johnny 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. Dick 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. Lorne 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.[2]

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, starting with the 17th episode of the second season – the episode hosted by Jack Burns on March 26, 1977 (and subsequently picked up Bill Murray from Cosell's show in 1977, as well). Every night, Don Pardo introduced the cast, a job he would hold for 39 years until his death in 2014.

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, Lorne Michaels elected to have a different guest 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 Paul Simon telling them they were cancelled, and Chevy Chase in the opening and in "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.

Andy Kaufman made several appearances over the season, while The Muppets' Land of Gorch bits 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.

During the season, Lorne Michaels appeared on-camera three times, the first being on January 10, when during Elliot Gould's monologue in a sketch, the camera appears to malfunction and Michaels is introduced as a co-producer. On April 24 and May 22, he makes an offer to The Beatles to reunite on the show. In the second appearance, he offered a certified check of $3,000. In the third appearance, he increased his offer to $3,200 and free hotel accommodations. John Lennon and Paul McCartney later both admitted they had been watching SNL from Lennon's apartment on May 8 (the episode after Lorne 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]


Changes and notes[edit]

The first cast member hired was Gilda Radner.[5] 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) who was chosen as anchor for Weekend Update, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, and Groundlings alumna Laraine Newman. 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.[6] 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.

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.

This would be the only season for George Coe and Michael O'Donoghue as official cast members. While George Coe was billed only in the premiere, he was seen in various small roles through the season before leaving the show altogether. Michael O'Donoghue was credited through the (first) Candice Bergen episode and would continue to work for the show as a writer, as well as an occasionally featured performer (particularly as "Mr. Mike"), through season 5.

Cast roster[edit]

The Not Ready for Prime Time Players

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.


No. in
HostMusical guest(s)Original air date
11George CarlinBilly Preston & Janis IanOctober 11, 1975 (1975-10-11)

22Paul SimonRandy Newman, Phoebe Snow, Art Garfunkel & Jessy Dixon SingersOctober 18, 1975 (1975-10-18)

33Rob ReinernoneOctober 25, 1975 (1975-10-25)

  • In lieu of a musical guest, John Belushi performs "With a Little Help from My Friends"[7] while impersonating Joe Cocker.
  • Jim Henson, Richard Hunt, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson and Alice Tweedy perform in a "The Land of Gorch" sketch.
  • Future cast member Denny Dillon appeared as a special guest with Mark Hampton in a sketch as nuns running a parish talent show. Jacqueline Carlin appeared as a swimmer in the "Golden Needles" sketch. Tom Schiller appeared as the priest in the "Wrigley's Gum" sketch and as one of the Bees. Penny Marshall appeared in the "Fashion Show," "Hoe-Down," and "the Bees" sketches. The Lockers and comedian Andy Kaufman make guest appearances.
  • George Coe appears in the "Golden Needles" sketch.
  • First appearance of the "News for the Hard of Hearing".
  • The episode features an Albert Brooks film about heart surgery.
  • This episode initially ended without goodnights or credits. Future airings of this episode would add credits over the photo montage seen during the title sequence.
44Candice BergenEsther PhillipsNovember 8, 1975 (1975-11-08)

  • Esther Phillips performs "What a Diff'rence a Day Made" and "I Can Stand a Little Rain".[7]
  • Andy Kaufman debuts his Foreign Man character on the show.
  • Andrew Duncan and Jacqueline Carlin make cameo appearances.
  • The episode features an Albert Brooks film, "upcoming season".
  • Sketches include "Landshark" and "The Land of Gorch," featuring Jim Henson, Jerry Nelson and Frank Oz performing their characters. This was the first appearance of the Land Shark character.[8]
  • A live commercial for Polaroid, with Candice Bergen and Chevy Chase, airs during the show.
  • Chevy Chase impersonates President Gerald Ford.
  • Only Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Michael O'Donoghue, and Gilda Radner were credited for this episode due to a malfunction in the control room.
  • First episode in which the cast appears with the host during the goodnights.
  • The "Good Evening, I'm Chevy Chase and you're not" greeting debuts on Weekend Update.
  • Michael O'Donoghue's final episode as a cast member.
55Robert KleinABBA & Loudon Wainwright IIINovember 15, 1975 (1975-11-15)

66Lily TomlinTomlin with Howard Shore & the All Nurse BandNovember 22, 1975 (1975-11-22)

77Richard PryorGil Scott-HeronDecember 13, 1975 (1975-12-13)

88Candice BergenMartha Reeves & The StylisticsDecember 20, 1975 (1975-12-20)

99Elliott GouldAnne MurrayJanuary 10, 1976 (1976-01-10)

  • Anne Murray performs the songs "The Call" and "Blue Finger Lou".[7]
  • 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, Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz and Alice Tweedy 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.[12]
  • Lorne Michaels appears on camera for the first time in the series during a "Killer Bees" sketch gone wrong. Director Dave Wilson also appears during the same sketch. At the end of the episode, Wilson's name is jokingly crossed off in the credits after he gets "fired" by Michaels.
1010Buck HenryBill Withers & Toni BasilJanuary 17, 1976 (1976-01-17)

1111Peter Cook & Dudley MooreNeil SedakaJanuary 24, 1976 (1976-01-24)

  • Neil Sedaka performs "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" and "Lonely Night".[7]
  • Scred from "The Land of Gorch" appeared in a bee costume hoping to play Aunt Bee in a Bees version of The Andy Griffith Show (to loud groans from the audience), only to be told by Gilda Radner that the sketch was canceled. Scred joins Gilda in introducing Neil Sedaka.
  • This opening montage is the first in which announcer Don Pardo reads aloud the names of the "Not Ready for Primetime Players".
  • In the opening monologue, Cook and Moore perform their classic routine, One Leg Too Few.
  • 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.
  • George Coe appears in the cold open and plays the warden in the "Lifer Follies" sketch.
1212Dick CavettJimmy CliffJanuary 31, 1976 (1976-01-31)

1313Peter BoyleAl JarreauFebruary 14, 1976 (1976-02-14)

  • Al Jarreau performs "We Got By" and "Pretty as a Picture".[7]
  • The Shapiro Sisters dance and lip-sync to the song "This Will Be". One of the sisters, Jenny, also appeared in the "Samurai Divorce Court" sketch.
  • Steven Spielberg makes an appearance in the audience while Peter Boyle sings a love song to his "wife".
1414Desi ArnazDesi Arnaz & Desi Arnaz, Jr.February 21, 1976 (1976-02-21)

  • Desi Arnaz and his son performs "Cuban Pete" and "Babalu".[7]
  • Gary Weis introduces his short film featuring Taylor Mead and his cat.
  • The show ends with Arnaz leading the cast, crew, and audience in a conga line.
1515Jill ClayburghLeon Redbone & The IdlersFebruary 28, 1976 (1976-02-28)

  • Leon Redbone performs "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Big Time Woman".[7]
  • A cappella group The Idlers and comedian Andy Kaufman make cameo appearances. Host Jill Clayburgh appeared with these guests.
  • Photographer and video artist William Wegman appeared with his dog in Gary Weis' filmed piece.
  • Lorne Michaels appears during the cold open.
  • The first appearance of Mister Bill,[13] in response to the show's request for home movies.
1616Anthony PerkinsBetty CarterMarch 13, 1976 (1976-03-13)

  • Betty Carter performs "Music Maestro, Please / Swing Brother Swing" and "I Can't Help It".[7]
  • King Ploobis and Scred from "The Land of Gorch" approach Anthony Perkins for help to get their sketch back on the air.
  • Chuck Scarborough and George Plimpton appear in the studio audience.
  • Starting with this episode, all cast members (The Not Ready for Primetime Players) are credited individually. Previously, they were only credited as a list of names.
1717Ron NessenPatti SmithApril 17, 1976 (1976-04-17)

  • Patti Smith Group performs "Gloria" and "My Generation".[7]
  • President Gerald Ford appeared 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 appeared 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").
  • Contains the Super Bass-O-Matic '76 sketch.
  • Billy Crystal (billed as Bill Crystal) performs a monologue, eight years before becoming an SNL cast member. Dan Aykroyd impersonates talk show host Tom Snyder.
  • The episode features a short Gary Weis film on New York garbage men.
1818Raquel WelchPhoebe Snow & John SebastianApril 24, 1976 (1976-04-24)

1919Madeline KahnCarly SimonMay 8, 1976 (1976-05-08)

2020Dyan CannonLeon and Mary RussellMay 15, 1976 (1976-05-15)

  • The episode begins with Chevy Chase lying down on home base near a folding table and chairs saying the opening spiel only to be informed by director Dave Wilson that he will have to redo the cold open (solo this time, as the other cast members were already changing costumes), because they went on the air a minute early.
  • Leon and Mary Russell performs "Satisfy You" and "Daylight,"[7] the latter of which featured John Belushi as Joe Cocker.
2121Buck HenryGordon Lightfoot & Garrett MorrisMay 22, 1976 (1976-05-22)

  • Gordon Lightfoot performs "Summertime Dream" and "Spanish Moss".[7] A third song, "Sundown," is interrupted by John Belushi's Samurai.
  • Lorne Michaels appears during the monologue and offers the Beatles $3,200 and free hotel accommodations to perform three songs.[14]
2222Elliott GouldLeon Redbone, Harlan Collins & Joyce EversonMay 29, 1976 (1976-05-29)

2323Louise LasserPreservation Hall Jazz BandJuly 24, 1976 (1976-07-24)

  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs "Panama".[7]
  • In her monologue, Louise Lasser, who had been arrested on a drug charge the week before and was very difficult for the cast and writers to work with that week, pretends to have a bout of stage fright and lock herself in her dressing room. She had actually done the same thing in real life just before the beginning of the show; the cast was dividing her parts among themselves. Her self-indulgent behavior led Lorne Michaels to keep this episode out of syndication.[16]
  • Michael Sarrazin makes a filmed cameo appearance.
  • Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner perform "Cathode Ray Tube" as a '60's styled girl group.
  • Lorne Michaels appears in the "Diner Sketch".
2424Kris KristoffersonRita CoolidgeJuly 31, 1976 (1976-07-31)

  • Rita Coolidge performs "Hula Hoop".[7] Host Kris Kristofferson performed the song "I've Got a Life of My Own".[7] Together, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge performed "Eddie the Eunuch".[7]


  1. ^ SNL's Beginnings from NBC
  2. ^ "Archives". Eyes Of A Generation...Television's Living History. Retrieved September 15, 2022.
  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. ^ Gilda Radner#Saturday Night Live
  6. ^ Tropiano, Stephen (November 1, 2013). Saturday Night Live FAQ: Everything Left to Know About Television's Longest Running Comedy. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4803-6686-2.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 124–127. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  8. ^ Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 75–76. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  9. ^ 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 February 22, 2015. 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.
  10. ^ Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 78–80. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  11. ^ Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 264. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  12. ^ Shales, Tom; James Andrew Miller (2002). Live From New York. Little, Brown and Company. p. 65. ISBN 0-316-78146-0.
  13. ^ Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 81–84. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  14. ^ a b Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 117. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  15. ^ Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 88–90. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  16. ^ Hill, Doug; Weingrad, Jeff (2011). "14: When Do We Tape?". Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. Untreed Reads. ISBN 9781611872187. Retrieved May 1, 2015.