Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special

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"Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special"
Saturday Night Live episode
Promo card for SNL's 40th Anniversary Special
Special's promo card
Episode no.Season 40
Directed byDon Roy King
Narrated byDarrell Hammond
Presented bySee list
Produced byLorne Michaels
Original air dateFebruary 15, 2015 (2015-02-15)
Running time211 minutes (with commercials)
AwardsPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special (2015)
Guest appearance(s)

The Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special is a three-and-a-half-hour prime-time special that aired on Sunday, February 15, 2015, on NBC, celebrating Saturday Night Live's 40th year on the air, having premiered on October 11, 1975, under the original title NBC's Saturday Night.[1][2] This special generated 23.1 million viewers, becoming NBC's most-watched prime-time, non-sports, entertainment telecast (excluding Super Bowl lead-outs) since the Friends series finale in 2004.[3][4][5][6] It is the third such anniversary special to be broadcast, with celebratory episodes also held during the 15th and 25th seasons.

The special was preceded on NBC by an hour-long SNL 40th Red Carpet Live, hosted by Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Carson Daly and Al Roker, who interviewed past hosts, current and previous cast members, and musical legends who had previously performed on the show.[7]


The special followed the format of a typical Saturday Night Live episode, extended to 3½ hours instead of the usual 1½, and included a cold open, a monologue, sketches, a short film, commercial parodies, and musical performances. The sketches, most of which were revivals of sketches that appeared over the show's run, made reference to the show and its four decades on air, with the original cast members who appeared in those sketches reprising their roles along with numerous guest stars. A handful of commercial parodies, including "Colon Blow" and "Mom Jeans", reran as they originally appeared on the show.

The show included musical performances by:

Guest appearances[edit]

This special assembled together a large list of current and former cast members, hosts, and musical acts from throughout the show's forty seasons.[2][9] Show creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels stated that every host and most musical guests were invited, plus any cast member and writer who had been on the show more than a year.[10] Ultimately, over a hundred in all were then confirmed to appear.[11]

In the opening sequence, 81 performers were credited. Unlike a regular episode, all performers were credited as repertory: Fred Armisen, Dan Aykroyd, Alec Baldwin, Vanessa Bayer, Jim Belushi, Candice Bergen, Win Butler, Jim Carrey, Dana Carvey, Chevy Chase, Louis C.K., Ellen Cleghorne, Bradley Cooper, Billy Crystal, Jane Curtin, Miley Cyrus, Larry David, Pete Davidson, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Rachel Dratch, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Will Forte, James Franco, Zach Galifianakis, Ana Gasteyer, John Goodman, Bill Hader, Darrell Hammond, Tom Hanks, Derek Jeter, Dakota Johnson, Leslie Jones, Taran Killam, Jon Lovitz, Norm Macdonald, Peyton Manning, Steve Martin, Melissa McCarthy, Paul McCartney, Kate McKinnon, Tim Meadows, Seth Meyers, Garrett Morris, Bobby Moynihan, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Kevin Nealon, Laraine Newman, Jack Nicholson, Edward Norton, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Palin, Joe Piscopo, Amy Poehler, Colin Quinn, Keith Richards, Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Shaffer, Molly Shannon, Martin Short, Paul Simon, David Spade, Emma Stone, Cecily Strong, Jason Sudeikis, Taylor Swift, Kenan Thompson, Justin Timberlake, Kerry Washington, Kanye West, Betty White, and Kristen Wiig.[12][13]

Also in attendance were Arcade Fire, Tom Arnold, The B-52s, Backstreet Boys, Christine Baranski, Lance Bass, Beck Bennett, Michael Bolton, Jim Breuer, A. Whitney Brown, Steve Buscemi, Aidy Bryant, AJ Calloway, Kate Capshaw, 50 Cent, Dave Chappelle, Michael Che, Glenn Close, David Cone, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Alan Cumming, Carson Daly, Charlie Day, Rocsi Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Diddy, Christopher Dodd, Jean Doumanian, Robin Duke, Nora Dunn, Christine Ebersole, Ari Emanuel, Siobhan Fallon, Paul Feig, Steve Forbes, Sen. Al Franken, Rudy Giuliani, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Goldblum, Cuba Gooding Jr., Gilbert Gottfried, Elliott Gould, Tom Green, Robert Greenblatt, Savannah Guthrie, Steve Guttenberg, Haim, Jon Hamm, Cheryl Hardwick (former SNL music director), Debbie Harry, Kevin Hart, Birgen Hartman (daughter of Phil Hartman), Sean Hayes, Grace Hightower, Melanie Hutsell, Victoria Jackson, Colin Jost, Jon Bon Jovi, Kim Kardashian, Chris Kattan, Tim Kazurinsky, Kings of Leon, Robert Klein, Kevin Kline, Johnny Knoxville, David Koechner, Jane Krakowski, Gary Kroeger, Frank Langella, Matt Lauer, Lucy Liu, Chris Lowell, George Lucas, Ludacris, Natasha Lyonne, Kyle MacLachlan, Eli Manning, Penny Marshall, Elaine May, MC Hammer, Dylan McDermott, John McEnroe, Bennett Miller, Finesse Mitchell, Kyle Mooney, Mumford & Sons, Randy Newman, Joanna Newsom, Don Novello, Bill O'Reilly, Cheri Oteri, Chris Parnell, David Paterson, Nasim Pedrad, Jay Pharoah, Ryan Phillippe, Prince, Brett Ratner, Jeff Richards, Brian L. Roberts, Al Roker, Paul Rudd, Horatio Sanz, Diane Sawyer, Rob Schneider, Jessica Seinfeld, Al Sharpton, Sia, Gabourey Sidibe, Sarah Silverman, J.K. Simmons, Christian Slater, Robert Smigel, G. E. Smith, J.B. Smoove, Trey Songz, Steven Spielberg, Julia Sweeney, Alex Trebek, Joe Torre, Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Christopher Walken, Sigourney Weaver, David Wells, Jack White, Olivia Wilde, Fred Willard, Sasheer Zamata and Catherine Zeta-Jones.[14][15][16][17][18]


Of those former hosts, musical guests, former cast members and writers invited, the people who sent back an RSVP were then considered to be written for.[19] Dan Aykroyd was asked by Lorne Michaels about doing a "Bass-O-Matic" sketch, while Mike Myers and Dana Carvey requested to reprise Wayne's World.[20] Michaels stated that since different generations of former cast members were coming, they wanted to do sketches featuring mashups between different casts.[21]

Writer Jim Downey conceived the idea of Nick the Lounge Singer singing the theme to Jaws way back in the 1970s, but was never able to pull it off during Bill Murray's tenure on SNL. They were unsure if they could obtain the necessary copyright clearance to show footage of Jaws on a monitor in the background until they realized that, since NBC had already acquired the rights to Jaws with its purchase of Universal Pictures in 2002, they could just ask director Steven Spielberg, who was in attendance.[20]

Eddie Murphy was originally asked to play Bill Cosby in the "Celebrity Jeopardy!" sketch, but refused.[22]

Nora Dunn was asked to participate in the musical medley as Liz Sweeney, but refused because Jan Hooks (the other Sweeney Sister) died.[23]

Marketing and promotion[edit]

A 15-second spot premiered during the Super Bowl XLIX broadcast and – along with two other 15-second clips – was uploaded on to the official Saturday Night Live YouTube page.[24][25][26] While the clips promoted appearances by Jon Hamm and Paul Rudd, neither of these occurred during the live show.[26] Numerous articles, features and interviews were published in the weeks prior to the broadcast.

VH1 Classic aired a 19-day marathon of SNL-related programming that ended on the day of the special, featuring notable episodes in a reverse chronological order (alongside theme blocks focusing on specific cast members, and films featuring them), concluding with the original series premiere.[27][28]


The special gained 23.1 million viewers, becoming NBC's most-watched prime-time, non-sports, entertainment telecast (excluding Super Bowl lead-outs) since the Friends series finale in 2004.[3][4][5][6]


  1. ^ Bradley, Bill (April 18, 2014). "'Saturday Night Live' Will Celebrate Its 40th Anniversary With A Three and a Half Hour Live Broadcast". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "NBC's 'Saturday Night Live' 40th Anniversary Special Set". Deadline. April 18, 2014. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Hibberd, James (February 16, 2015). "SNL anniversary breaks NBC ratings records". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Live from the Red Carpet: SNL 40th Anniversary Special - Saturday Night Live - NBC". NBC.
  5. ^ a b "'Saturday Night Live' 40th Anniversary Ratings: Show Dominates Night - Variety". Variety.
  6. ^ a b "Ratings - "Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special" Is NBC's Most-Watched Primetime Entertainment Telecast, Excluding Post-Super Bowl Programs, In More Than 10 Years -".
  7. ^ "Saturday Night Live listings". Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  8. ^ Eddie Murphy returns to host SNL for first time in over 30 years. "In the decades since his departure, Murphy curiously stayed away from SNL, appearing only once — in 2015 — as part of SNL’s 40th anniversary special."
  9. ^ Bradley, Bill (April 18, 2014). "'Saturday Night Live' Will Celebrate Its 40th Anniversary With A Three-Hour Live Broadcast". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  10. ^ Rorke, Robert (February 14, 2015). "'Comedy is so clear': Lorne Michaels on 40 years of 'SNL'". New York Post.
  11. ^ "Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special Guest List Is Insane—Check Out Everyone Appearing!". E! Online.
  12. ^ Bacle, Ariana (February 15, 2015). "Here's the full list of who showed up on the SNL 40th anniversary special". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  13. ^ "Imaginary Forces - Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special - Opening Sequence". Vimeo. February 16, 2015. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  14. ^ Zuckerman, Esther (February 14, 2015). "Here's who will be at the SNL 40th anniversary". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  15. ^ "SNL Audience: A Who's Who For The Record Books". Inside Edition. February 16, 2015. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  16. ^ "A Lot of Famous People Went to See SNL 40". Vulture. February 16, 2015. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  17. ^ "Everyone you didn't see on stage at the 'SNL' 40th anniversary". Mashable. February 17, 2015. Retrieved March 16, 2015.
  18. ^ "'SNL' 40 Red Carpet: Past Stars, Current Cast Recall Favorite Moments, Working With "Childhood Heroes"". The Hollywood Reporter. February 15, 2015. Retrieved February 13, 2016.
  19. ^ Rose, Lacey (February 4, 2015). "Lorne Michaels on 40 Years of 'SNL': Being "'Feared' Was Never My Goal"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  20. ^ a b Rowles, Dustin (February 19, 2015). "The Amazing Story Behind Bill Murrays Lost Theme From 'Jaws' On 'SNL 40'". Uproxx. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  21. ^ Steinberg, Brian (February 9, 2015). "Lorne Michaels on 40 Years of 'Saturday Night Live' and What the Future Holds". Variety. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  22. ^ "Eddie Murphy Rejected 'SNL40' Bill Cosby Skit: Norm Macdonald". NBC News. February 19, 2015. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  23. ^ "Nora Dunn: "SNL is a traumatic experience. It's something you have to survive"". Salon. April 7, 2015. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
  24. ^ SNL 40th Anniversary Special (1 of 3). February 1, 2015. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  25. ^ SNL 40th Anniversary Special (2 of 3). February 1, 2015. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  26. ^ a b SNL 40th Anniversary Special (3 of 3). February 1, 2015. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  27. ^ Steinberg, Brian. "VH1 Classic To Run 433-Hour 'Saturday Night Live' Marathon". Variety. Retrieved November 19, 2016.
  28. ^ Petski, Denise (January 14, 2015). "'Saturday Night Live' Mega-Marathon Set To Air On VH1". Deadline. Retrieved July 31, 2017.