by Henry Wheeler Klainberg
If you’re from New York or if you have a TV, then you have probably heard of the sensational hit show Saturday Night Live, a live comedy that’s aired every Saturday since the 1970’s. The show became popular for its excellent comedy sketches, and its stellar casts. Over the years it has become ingrained into New York City’s culture. Depending on who you ask, Saturday Night Live (or SNL) can be remembered in many different ways. When SNL premiered in the mid 70’s, it had been the first ever mainstream late-night comedy show, and made a lasting impression on its audience.
Saturday Night Live in its early days was considered “edgy” and largely catered towards young people thanks to its jokes centering around themes like politics, drugs, sex and more contemporary subjects. As a show full of young, up and coming cast members of limitless potential, the connection to young people made sense. A local New Yorker from the Bronx told me about what SNL was like when it first came out and how it compared to other comedy shows of its time. She told me, “There had been comedians who dealt with politics before, however SNL was a mainstream showed produced by a big network, NBC.” Nowadays, comedians joke about politics all the time, but in the 70’s SNL was what made it famous. The local also explained to me that in her teenage years, when SNL came out, there were only 3 channels you could watch: NBC, CBS, and ABC. It was on NBC, and everyone watched NBC simply because they had nothing else to watch. To have a show that talked so comfortably about politics, going as far as mimicking the presidents of the United States on NBC set a standard for comedy for years to come.
When you think about all of Saturday Night Live’s different casts, there are tons of comedians that come to mind: Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Kate Mckinnon, Andy Samberg, Tracy Morgan, the list goes on. All these stars started off as unknown New York comedians, looking to make a good name for themselves. Saturday Night Live scouted for potential comedians, and swooped people into their cast, creating amazing comedy legends out of the seemly most unlikely of people. Jimmy Fallon had grown up in Brooklyn watching Saturday Night Live every night and continued to be his favorite show as he became a comedian in Los Angeles. He then came back to New York and interviewed for his favorite show, Saturday Night Live, and used his impression of Adam Sandler to win over the producers. As for Andy Samberg, he grew up in California and while also watching SNL. As a child he would sneak past his parents at night to stay up to watch SNL and eventually grew up to become one of their biggest stars. In the latest SNL episode hosted by Matt Damon, Damon recalls staying up late with his parents to watch SNL as a kid. He then goes on to talk about how his own children are staying up to watch him host on Saturday Night Live, just as he once did. SNL has had a strong impact on so many people’s lives, many watching it as they grew up and even ending up being a part of the show. SNL is more than just an ordinary comedy show; it draws a deep and personal connection to its viewers.
Saturday Night Live will continue to be an innovative and unique show that deeply connects with its viewers, which is also thanks to a cast filled with extraordinary comedians who have become intertwined with New York culture and comedy. Every Saturday night this amazing show airs, and every Saturday night millions of people can relax and laugh at the show that changed the tides of comedy forever.