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The Blues Brothers make their world premiere on 'Saturday Night Live'

The Blues Brothers make their world premiere on 'Saturday Night Live'

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It was Marshall Checker, of the legendary Checker brothers, who first discovered them in the gritty blues clubs of Chicago’s South Side in 1969 and handed them their big break nine years later with an introduction to music-industry heavyweight and host of television’s Rock Concert, Don Kirshner. Actually, none of that is true, but it’s the story that Saturday Night Live‘s Paul Shaffer told on April 22, 1978 as he announced the worldwide television debut of that night’s musical guest, the Blues Brothers—the not-quite-real, not-quite-fake musical creation of SNL cast members Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.

The characters and the band that Belushi and Aykroyd unveiled that night took more than two years to evolve. The first incarnation came during SNL‘s first season, in a January 17, 1976, appearance singing “I’m a King Bee” as “Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band.” There were no dark suits, skinny ties or Ray-Bans at that point, but the appearance did feature Aykroyd on the harmonica and Belushi on vocals belting out a blues classic very much in the style of the future Elwood and “Joliet” Jake Blues, albeit while wearing bee costumes. The Blues Brothers’ look—and much of their repertoire—would come together after Belushi’s trip to Eugene, Oregon, during the hiatus between SNL seasons two and three to film Animal House. It was there that Belushi, a committed rock-and-roll fan, met a 25-year-old bluesman named Curtis Salgado, future harmonica player for Robert Cray, frontman for Roomful of Blues and a major figure on the burgeoning Pacific Northwest blues scene of the 1970s. Belushi became a regular visitor to the Eugene Hotel to catch Salgado’s act during the filming of Animal House, and it was from that act and from Salgado himself that he picked up a passion for the blues as well as the inspiration for the Blues Brothers’ sound and look.

‘The Blues Brothers’ At 40: Why It’s The Rare Successful ‘Saturday Night Live’ Movie

When “The Blues Brothers” landed in theaters 40 years ago this week, it was something of a novelty – the first feature film based on characters from “Saturday Night Live,” which had, at that point, only been on the air for five years. And though it was a hit, no one would try again for 12 years, with “Wayne’s World,” after which the floodgates opened. There was one key difference between “Blues Brothers” and the bulk of the “SNL”-inspired films that followed: the show’s creator and longtime producer, Lorne Michaels, was not involved in any way. And that, frankly, may be one of the reasons it’s any good.

The differences are clear from the beginning. Director John Landis opens “The Blues Brothers” with a series of downright ominous shots of Chicago at night, before taking his cameras to Joliet Correctional Center, where Jake Elwood (John Belushi) is being paroled for good behavior. In the long, evocative Joliet sequence that opens the movie, Landis gives Belushi – then a big name, thanks to their collaboration on “Animal House” – an honest-to-God movie star entrance, shooting him only from behind, from a distance, and from oblique angles. In fact, neither Belushi nor co-star/co-writer Dan Aykroyd are seen in full close-up until their above-the-title actor credits, which don’t come until six minutes into the picture.

What’s striking about this entire opening is, quite simply, how cinematic it is. There is, to put it mildly, plenty to say about Landis (as an artist and a human being), but at this point in his career, he knew how to put a movie together. The Lorne Michaels movies that would follow, on the other hand, always feel like television, and for good reason he’s a television producer.

But the peculiar, specific, and probably irreplicable circumstance of “The Blues Brothers” is that it can treat these characters, in that moment and throughout the two-plus hours that follow, as mythological figures – because in writing the film, Aykroyd was building that mythology. His original screenplay (much like his first pass at “Ghostbusters” not long after) was a legendary behemoth, 324 pages (according to Bob Woodward’s Belushi biography “Wired”), or roughly three times the length of a normal screenplay, less a point-A-to-point-B narrative than a freewheeling Bible to the Blues Brothers universe. (Landis was taxed with turning this monstrosity into a workable screenplay, and barely got the job done.) But Aykroyd had the freedom to build that mythology because the characters weren’t at the mercy of “SNL” fan service – Jake and Elwood Blues had appeared on the show, several times, but only in musical performances. There were no Blues Brothers “sketches” to build from (or bullshit catchphrases) and no interpersonal dynamics beyond the energy that Belushi and Aykroyd generated while performing blues and R&B standards.

There was, to be sure, a tradition to step into most pointedly in the Chez Paul set piece, “The Blues Brothers” works the “slobs vs. snobs” dynamic present in “Animal House” and on “Saturday Night Live,” and also, a year later, in fellow “SNL” alums Chevy Chase and Bill Murray’s “Caddyshack.” But the key cultural heritage of the film is one almost entirely disconnected from “SNL” and its big-screen spinoffs at its best, it’s a good old-fashioned movie musical. This was a peculiar time for the genre, veering from mindless exercises like “Grease” and “Sgt. Pepper” to thrilling subversions like “All That Jazz” and “New York, New York.” “The Blues Brothers” falls somewhere in between, mounting the band’s songs and the special guest appearances as big, bold production numbers (often prompted, in that grand movie musical tradition, by the thinnest of excuses).

Landis’ staging and camera blocking aren’t always up to the task, but the performers are so electrifying, it doesn’t much matter. Subsequent critics would accuse Aykroyd and crew of cultural appropriation, homogenizing and commercializing the idea of the blues to line their (white) pockets, and there’s undeniable truth to that charge. But it’s also worth commending the filmmakers for boosting these acts, at a moment when mainstream pop audiences had mostly forgotten them (and studio execs were reportedly pressing for the inclusion of more marketable performers). Unsurprisingly, they take over the movie. When we think about the best scenes in “The Blues Brothers,” we think of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Cab Calloway – scenes where Belushi and Aykroyd are bystanders or, at the most, backup.

Those weren’t the only battles they fought. The shoot was a notorious boondoggle, going weeks over schedule and millions over budget, pushed into production (on the strength of a telephone pitch) before it was ready because Universal wanted another “Animal House” as quickly as possible. Some of that frenetic quality translates on screen – particularly in the gigantic, thrilling car chase sequences, (though the joy of those scenes is drained considerably if you know anything about Landis’ conduct on the “Twilight Zone” set three years later).

Considering those scenes – and the scale of the movie overall – it’s not surprising that Michaels wasn’t involved (at that point, he’d not yet produced a feature film). But the idea apparently wasn’t even considered, by either party by that point in the show’s run, according to Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad’s excellent history “Saturday Night,” there was “some jealousy and some disdain for the Blues Brothers” in the halls of 8H, and particularly by Michaels, “because the Blues Brothers existed outside his sphere of influence, and because John didn’t give him credit for having provided the platform that launched them in the first place.” Aykroyd and especially Belushi became so focused on the weekly Blues Brothers numbers that they began to lose patience with the “Lorne Michaels show” surrounding it, and “the fighting between [Belushi and Michaels] grew more vehement.” And Belushi was doing so much coke by then, Michaels might not have wanted to deal with him outside of the show anyway.

Instead, he focused on a rival project – a solo Gilda Radner showcase, following the Blues Brothers template of live performance, live album, and film (in this case, a filmed record of “Gilda Live” on Broadway). The tension between the two projects, both of which were in production during the 1979 hiatus of “SNL,” grew so fierce that Belushi told Paul Shaffer and Bob Tischler—who had agreed to co-produce “Gilda Live” and were, respectively, musical director and album producer for the Blues Brothers—that they could not do both. They refused to choose sides. And then, once “Gilda Live” opened on Broadway and clearly needed more work, Michaels forced Shaffer to stay in New York and drop out of “The Blues Brothers,” mere days before shooting was to begin.

But Michaels learned his lesson. “Gilda Live” was a commercial failure, but “The Blues Brothers” overcame its mixed reviews and grossed over $100 million worldwide, and he didn’t get a cent. But he attempted to mount an anthology film, “The Saturday Night Live Movie,” in 1990 it never made it past the screenplay stage, but two years later, “Wayne’s World” grossed over $100 million in the United States alone. That film, like “The Blues Brothers,” had the advantage of an honest-to-goodness director at its helm several of the subsequent “SNL” spin-offs had no such luck, and films like “Coneheads,” “A Night at the Roxbury,” “Superstar,” and “Ladies’ Man” proved that as a film producer, Michaels was a great television producer. The few “Saturday Night Live movies” that genuinely work do so because they’re treated as movies – not just extensions of a TV show.

The 46th season of Saturday Night Live premiered on October 3, 2020, with host Chris Rock and musical guest Megan Thee Stallion, and concluded on May 22, 2021, with host Anya Taylor-Joy and musical guest Lil Nas X. [1]

On September 15, 2020, it was announced that the entire cast from last season will return, with Ego Nwodim being promoted to repertory status. [2]

The next day brought the announcement of three new cast members: SNL writer/stand-up comic Andrew Dismukes, L.A. Upright Citizens Brigade alum Lauren Holt, and stand-up comedian Punkie Johnson, the show's second African-American lesbian cast member after Danitra Vance from the 1985–1986 season. [3]

Though not members of the cast, it was announced the same day that Alec Baldwin and Maya Rudolph would reprise their respective roles as Donald Trump and Kamala Harris, [4] while Jim Carrey would take over impersonating Joe Biden. [5] Biden had been portrayed by Jason Sudeikis while he was vice president and by Woody Harrelson, John Mulaney, and Sudeikis the previous season. On December 19, Carrey announced he would step down from playing Biden, stating it was the original intention that he would play Biden for only six weeks. [6] Current cast member Alex Moffat succeeded Carrey to portray as Biden during the cold open of the episode hosted by Kristen Wiig. [7]

Cecily Strong was absent from the first six episodes of the season due to filming commitments for her Apple TV+ series Schmigadoon!. Aidy Bryant appeared in the season premiere before taking an extended absence due to filming commitments for her show Shrill. [8] [9]

This is the first season since season 32 (2006–2007 season) to have 20 episodes and where the season finale host wasn't a returning guest and/or a former cast member.


Jake Blues is released from prison after serving three years, and he is picked up by his brother Elwood in his Bluesmobile, a battered former police car. Elwood demonstrates its capabilities by jumping an open drawbridge. The pair visit the Roman Catholic orphanage where they were raised, and they learn from Sister Mary Stigmata that it will be closed unless $5,000 in property taxes is paid. During a sermon by the Reverend Cleophus James at the Triple Rock Baptist church, Jake has an epiphany: they can re-form their band, the Blues Brothers, which disbanded while Jake was in prison, and raise the money to save the orphanage.

That night, Illinois state troopers attempt to arrest Elwood for driving with a suspended license due to his 116 parking tickets and 56 moving violations. After a high-speed chase through the Dixie Square Mall, the brothers escape. As they walk into the flophouse where Elwood lives, an unknown woman fires a multiple barrelled rocket launcher at Jake, destroying the building's entrance, but somehow leaving the brothers unharmed. The next morning, during a police raid, the same woman detonates a bomb that demolishes the building but, miraculously, again leaves Jake and Elwood unharmed.

Jake and Elwood begin tracking down members of the band. Five of them: Willie "Too Big" Hall, Murphy "Murph" Dunne, Steve "The Colonel" Cropper, Tom "Bones" Malone, and Donald "Duck" Dunn are playing at a mostly-empty Holiday Inn lounge and quickly agree to rejoin. Another (Alan "Mr. Fabulous" Rubin) turns them down, protesting that he is making a good living as the head maître d'hôtel at the Chez Paul restaurant, but the brothers behave unbecomingly until he relents. On their way to meet the final two band members, the brothers find the road through Jackson Park blocked by an American Nazi Party demonstration on a bridge Elwood runs them off the bridge into the East Lagoon, and the commander orders a subordinate to write down their vehicle's license plate. They lastly visit the final two band members, Matt "Guitar" Murphy and "Blue Lou" Marini, who now run a soul food restaurant along with Matt's wife the two rejoin the band against the advice of Mrs. Murphy. The reunited group obtain instruments and equipment from Ray's Music Exchange in Calumet City, and Ray, as usual, takes an IOU.

As the brothers attempt to book a gig, the mysterious woman uses an M9A1-7 Flamethrower to blow up the phone booth they are using, which is situated next to a fuel tank. For a third time, they are miraculously unhurt. The band stumbles into a gig at Bob's Country Bunker, a local honky-tonk. They win over the rowdy crowd, but they run up a bar tab higher than their pay and infuriate the country band that was actually booked for the gig, the Good Ol' Boys.

Realizing that they need one big show to raise the necessary money, the brothers persuade their old agent to book the Palace Hotel Ballroom, north of Chicago. They mount a loudspeaker atop the Bluesmobile and drive the Chicago area promoting the concert. However, they inadvertently alert the police, the Nazis, and the Good Ol' Boys of their whereabouts. The ballroom is packed with blues fans, law enforcement, and the Good Ol' Boys. Jake and Elwood perform two songs, then sneak offstage, as the tax deadline is rapidly approaching. A record company executive offers them a $10,000 cash advance on a recording contract—more than enough to pay off the orphanage's taxes and Ray's IOU—and then shows the brothers how to slip out of the building unnoticed. As they make their escape via a service tunnel, they are confronted by the mystery woman: Jake's vengeful ex-fiancée. After her volley of M16 rifle bullets leaves them miraculously unharmed yet again, Jake offers a series of ridiculous excuses that she accepts, allowing the brothers to escape to the Bluesmobile.

Jake and Elwood race back toward Chicago with dozens of state/local police and the Good Ol' Boys in pursuit. They eventually elude them all with a series of improbable maneuvers, including a miraculous gravity-defying escape from the Illinois Nazis. At the Richard J. Daley Center, they rush inside the adjacent Chicago City Hall building, soon followed by hundreds of Chicago police, state troopers, SWAT teams, firefighters, Illinois National Guardsmen, and the Military Police. Finding the office of the Cook County Assessor, the brothers pay the tax bill. Just as their receipt is stamped, they are arrested by the mob of law officers. In prison, the band plays "Jailhouse Rock" for the inmates.

    as "Joliet" Jake Blues, a former blues singer, paroled from prison after three years. as Elwood Blues, Jake's blood brother, also a former blues singer. as Reverend Cleophus James, a reverend of the Triple Rock Baptist Church. His musical sermon "The Old Landmark" causes Jake to have an epiphany. as Curtis, an old friend of the brothers', who suggests they listen to James, and helps them advertise the show and performs "Minnie the Moocher" for the audience. as Ray, a blind music instruments dealer, who performs "Shake a Tail Feather" to demonstrate their effectiveness. as Mrs. Murphy, Matt Murphy's wife, who owns a soul food restaurant with him. She performs "Think" to persuade him not to join the band. – lead guitar – bass guitar ("Murph") – keyboards – drums – trombone – saxophone – lead guitar – trumpet as the Mystery Woman, Jake's former fiancée she tries to kill him for leaving her at the altar. as the Head Nazi, the head of a division of the American Socialist White People's Party as Burton Mercer, Jake's parole officer assisting the police in their hunt for the Blues Brothers. as Street Slim, a man singing "Boom Boom" together with a small band on Maxwell Street. as Sister Mary Stigmata, AKA "The Penguin." A nun who leads the orphanage where the brothers grew up. as Maury Sline, the agent who organized and booked many of the Blues Brothers' performances before Jake was sent to jail. as the Chic Lady, a woman who flirts with Elwood at the gas station. as a corrections officer, who gives Jake his clothes at the beginning of the film. as Bob, the owner of Bob's Country Bunker. as Tucker McElroy, lead singer and Winnebago driver of The Good Old Boys. as the Cook County Assessor, who takes Jake and Elwood's money at the end of the film. as Charming Trooper as Trooper Mount, one of the cops who follows Jake and Elwood from the start.
  • Armand Cerami as Trooper Daniel, Mount's partner and the other cop who follows Jake and Elwood from the start. as Trooper La Fong, a cop who chases the Bluesmobile at the mall, only to break his watch when his police car flips over. as Prison Inmate as Father, dining with his wife and three daughters at the Chez Paul and subject to abuse by Jake. as Daughter #2, one of the daughters who Jake leers at. as Waiter, a colleague of Mr Fabulous' at the Chez Paul. as Cocktail Waitress as Choir Soloist as Toys "R" Us Customer, who asks about buying a Miss Piggy toy right before the Bluesmobile begins smashing the mall. as Luther Jackson as Guy On Street (Uncredited) as Soul Food Chorus #1, who sings along with "Think". as Young Guitar Thief, who tries to steal from Ray's Music Exchange, only to nearly be shot by Ray. as Detective Avery (Uncredited) as Man At Bar as Bob's Country Bunker Patron #1 (Uncredited) as Woman In Concert Crowd as Police Dispatcher, who comments on the Bluesmobile's arrival at Cook County and allows for using unnecessary violence in capturing Jake and Elwood. as Lobby Guard #1

Origins Edit

The characters, Jake and Elwood Blues, were created by Belushi and Aykroyd in performances on Saturday Night Live. The name "The Blues Brothers" was the idea of Howard Shore. The fictional back story and character sketches of blood brothers Jake and Elwood were developed by Aykroyd in collaboration with Ron Gwynne, who is credited as a story consultant for the film. As related in the liner notes of the band's debut album, Briefcase Full of Blues, the brothers grew up in an orphanage, learned the blues from a janitor named Curtis, and sealed their brotherhood by cutting their middle fingers with a steel string said to have come from the guitar of Elmore James. [7]

Belushi had become a star in 1978 as a result of both the Blues Brothers' musical success and his role in National Lampoon's Animal House. At one point, he managed the triple feat of being the star of the week's top-grossing film, top-rated television series, and singing on the No. 1 album within a year. When Aykroyd and Belushi decided they could make a Blues Brothers film, the bidding war was intense. Universal Studios narrowly beat Paramount Pictures for the project. John Landis, who had directed Belushi in Animal House, was aboard as director. [8]

However, the project had neither a budget nor a script. On the former issue, Universal head Lew Wasserman thought the film could be made for $12 million the filmmakers wanted $20 million. It would be impossible to settle on a specific amount without a screenplay to review, and after Mitch Glazer declined to help him, Aykroyd wrote one on his own. [8]

Aykroyd had never written a screenplay before, as he admitted in the 1998 documentary Stories Behind the Making of The Blues Brothers, or even read one, and he was unable to find a writing partner. Consequently, he put together a very descriptive volume that explained the characters' origins and how the band members were recruited. His final draft was 324 pages, which was three times longer than a standard screenplay, written not in a standard screenplay format, but more like free verse. [8] To soften the impact, Aykroyd made a joke of the thick script and had it bound with the cover of the Los Angeles Yellow Pages directory for when he turned it in to producer Robert K. Weiss. He titled it "The Return of the Blues Brothers", and credited it to "Scriptatron GL-9000". [8] Landis was given the task of editing the script into a usable screenplay, [9] which took him about two weeks. [8]

The Blues Brothers held the record for Most Cars Destroyed in the course of production for 18 years, at 103, one fewer than were wrecked in Blues Brothers 2000 (1998). Both were surpassed by G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009), with 112 cars destroyed. [10]

Casting Edit

At Aykroyd's demand, soul and R&B stars James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin were cast in speaking parts to support musical numbers built around them. This later caused friction in the production between Landis and Universal, as its costs far exceeded the original budget. Since none of them except Charles had any hits in recent years, the studio wanted the director to replace them with—or add performances by—younger acts, such as Rose Royce, whose "Car Wash" had made them disco stars after its use in the 1976 film of that name. [8]

Other musicians in the cast include Big Walter Horton, Pinetop Perkins, and John Lee Hooker (who performed "Boom Boom" during the Maxwell Street scene). The members of The Blues Brothers Band were themselves notable. Steve Cropper and Donald Dunn are architects of the Stax Records sound (Cropper's guitar can be heard at the start of the Sam & Dave song "Soul Man") and were half of Booker T. & the M.G.'s. Horn players Lou Marini, Tom Malone, and Alan Rubin had all played in Blood, Sweat & Tears and the house band on Saturday Night Live. Drummer Willie Hall had played in The Bar-Kays and backed Isaac Hayes. Matt Murphy is a veteran blues guitarist. As the band developed at Saturday Night Live, pianist Paul Shaffer was part of the act and thus cast in the film. However, due to contractual obligations with SNL, he was unable to participate, so actor-musician Murphy Dunne (whose father, George Dunne, was the Cook County Board President) was hired to take his role. [9]

Fisher, Freeman, Gibson, and Candy were cast in non-musical supporting roles. The film is also notable for the number of cameo appearances by established celebrities and entertainment-industry figures, including Steve Lawrence as a booking agent, Twiggy as a "chic lady" in a Jaguar convertible whom Elwood propositions at a gas station, Steven Spielberg as the Cook County Assessor's clerk, Landis as a state trooper in the mall chase, Paul Reubens (before he became Pee-wee Herman) as a waiter in the restaurant Chez Paul, Joe Walsh in a cameo as the first prisoner to jump up on a table in the final scene, and Chaka Khan as the soloist in the Triple Rock choir. Muppet performer Frank Oz plays a corrections officer, and in the scene where the brothers crash into Toys "R" Us, the customer who asks for a Miss Piggy doll is played by stunt coordinator Gary McLarty. Singer/songwriter Stephen Bishop is an Illinois State Trooper who complains that Jake and Elwood broke his watch (a result of the car chase in the mall). Makeup artist Layne Britton is the old card player who asks Elwood, "Did you get me my Cheez Whiz, boy?" The character portrayed by Cab Calloway is named Curtis as a homage to Curtis Salgado, an Oregon blues musician who inspired Belushi while he was in that area filming Animal House. [11]

Over 500 extras were used for the next-to-last scene, the blockade of the building at Daley Center, including 200 National Guardsmen, 100 state and city police officers, with 15 horses for the mounted police (and three each Sherman tanks, helicopters, and fire engines). [12] [13]

Filming Edit

Principal photography began in July 1979, with the film's budget still not settled. For the first month, things ran smoothly on and off the set. When Weiss saw the supposedly final $17.5 million budget, he reportedly joked, "I think we've spent that much already." [8]

In the next month, the production began falling behind schedule. Much of the delay was due to Belushi's partying and carousing. When not on the set, he went out to his familiar Chicago haunts such as Wrigley Field and the Old Town Ale House. People often recognized him and slipped him cocaine, a drug he was already using heavily on his own, hoping to use it with him. "Every blue-collar Joe wants his John Belushi story," said Smokey Wendell, who was eventually hired to keep it away from the star. As a result of his late nights and drug and alcohol use, Belushi would often miss unit calls (the beginning of a production day) or go to his trailer after them and sleep, wasting hours of production time. One night, Aykroyd found him crashing on the sofa of a nearby house, where Belushi had already helped himself to food in the refrigerator. [8]

Cocaine was already so prevalent on the set (like many other film productions of that era) that Aykroyd, who used far less than his partner, claims a section of the budget was actually set aside for purchases of the drug during night shooting. The stars had a private bar, the Blues Club, built on the set, for themselves, crew, and friends. Carrie Fisher, who was Aykroyd's girlfriend at that time, said that most of the bar's staff doubled as dealers, procuring any drug patrons desired. [8]

The movie's original budget was quickly surpassed, and back in Los Angeles, Wasserman grew increasingly frustrated. He was regularly confronting Ned Tanen, the executive in charge of production for Universal, over the costs. Sean Daniel, another studio executive, was not reassured when he came to Chicago and saw the production had set up a special facility for the 70 cars used in the chase sequences. Filming there, which was supposed to have concluded in the middle of September, continued into late October. [8]

On the set, Belushi's drug use worsened. Fisher, who herself later struggled with cocaine addiction, said Landis told her to keep Belushi away from the drug. Wendell was hired to clear any drugs from the places Belushi visited off-camera. Nevertheless, at one point, Landis found Belushi with what he described as a "mountain" of cocaine on a table in his trailer, which led to a tearful confrontation in which Belushi admitted his addiction and feared it could eventually kill him. [8]

After Aykroyd and Belushi's wife Judy had a talk with Belushi about his antics, the production returned to Los Angeles. Filming there again ran smoothly until it came time to shoot the final sequence at the Hollywood Palladium. Just beforehand, Belushi fell off a borrowed skateboard and seriously injured his knee, making it unlikely he could go through with the scene, which required him to sing, dance, and do cartwheels. Wasserman persuaded the city's top orthopedic surgeon to postpone his weekend plans long enough to stop by and sufficiently anesthetize Belushi's knee, and the scene was filmed as intended. [8]

Locations Edit

Much of The Blues Brothers was shot on location in and around Chicago between July and October 1979, including Joliet Correctional Center in nearby Joliet, Illinois, and Wauconda, Illinois, where the car crashes into the side of Route 12. [14] Made with the cooperation of Mayor Jane M. Byrne, it is credited for putting Chicago on the map as a venue for filmmaking. [15] Nearly 200 movies have been filmed in Chicago. In an article written to mark the film's 25th Anniversary DVD release, Aykroyd told the Chicago Sun-Times: "Chicago is one of the stars of the movie. We wrote it as a tribute." [16]

The first traffic stop was in Park Ridge, Illinois. The shopping mall car chase was filmed in the real, albeit shuttered, Dixie Square Mall, in Harvey, Illinois. [17] The bridge jump was filmed on an actual drawbridge, the 95th Street bridge over the Calumet River, on the southeast side of Chicago. The main entrance to Wrigley Field (and its sign reading "Save lives. Drive safely, prevent fires") makes a brief appearance when the "Illinois Nazis" visit it after Elwood falsely registers the ballpark's location, 1060 West Addison, as his home address on his driver's license. (Elwood's Illinois driver's license number is an almost-valid encoded number, with Aykroyd's own birth date embedded.) Jake's final confrontation with his girlfriend was filmed in a replica of a section of the abandoned Chicago freight tunnel system. The other chase scenes included lower Wacker Drive, Lake Street, and Richard J. Daley Center. [18]

In the final car chase scene, the production actually dropped a Ford Pinto, representing that which was driven by the "Illinois Nazis", from a helicopter at an altitude of about 1,200 feet—and had to gain a Special Airworthiness Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration to do it. [19] [20] The FAA was concerned that the car could prove too aerodynamic in a high-altitude drop, and pose a threat to nearby buildings. [21] The shot leading up to the car drop, where the "Illinois Nazis" drive off a freeway ramp, was shot in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, near the Hoan Bridge on Interstate 794. The Lake Freeway (North) was a planned but not completed six-lane freeway, and I-794 contained an unfinished ramp off which the Nazis drove. [22] Several Milwaukee skyscrapers are visible in the background as the Bluesmobile flips over, notably the U.S. Bank Center.

The Palace Hotel Ballroom, where the band performs their climactic concert, was at the time of filming a country club, but later became the South Shore Cultural Center, named after the Chicago neighborhood where it is located. The interior concert scenes were filmed in the Hollywood Palladium. [23]

The filming in downtown Chicago was conducted on Sundays during the summer of 1979, and much of downtown was cordoned off from the public. Costs for filming the largest scene in the city's history totaled $3.5 million. [12] Permission was given after Belushi and Aykroyd offered to donate $50,000 to a charity after filming. [12] Although the Bluesmobile was allowed to be driven through the Daley Center lobby, special breakaway panes were temporarily substituted for the normal glass in the building. [12] [24] The speeding car caused $7,650 in damage to 35 granite paver stones and a bronze air grille in the building. [12] Interior shots of the elevator, staircase, and assessor's office were all recreated in a film set for filming. [12]

Bluesmobile Edit

The film used 13 different cars bought at auction from the California Highway Patrol to depict the retired 1974 Mount Prospect, Illinois Dodge Monaco patrol car. The vehicles were outfitted by the studio to do particular driving chores some were customized for speed and others for jumps, depending on the scene. For the large car chases, filmmakers purchased 60 police cars at $400 each, and most were destroyed at the completion of the filming. [25] More than 40 stunt drivers were hired, and the crew kept a 24-hour body shop to repair cars. [25]

For the scene when the Blues Brothers finally arrive at the Richard J. Daley Center, a mechanic took several months to rig the car to fall apart. [25] At the time of its release, The Blues Brothers held the world record for the most cars destroyed in one film until it was surpassed by a single car in its 1998 sequel. [25]

Post-production Edit

Landis' difficulties continued even after principal photography was completed. The first cut of The Blues Brothers lasted two and a half hours, with an intermission. After one early screening, Wasserman demanded it be shortened, and 20 minutes were cut. The film's final budget was $27.5 million (equivalent to $86 million in 2020), $10 million over its original budget. [8]

Prospects for a successful release did not look good. Aykroyd and Belushi had left SNL at the end of the previous season, reducing their bankability. Belushi's fame had taken a further hit after the critical failure of Spielberg's film 1941 at the end of the year. One day after the editing was done, Wasserman invited Landis up to his office to speak with Ted Mann, head of the Mann Theatres chain, which dominated film exhibition in the Western United States. He told Landis that he would not book the film at any theaters in predominantly white neighborhoods, such as Westwood. Not only did Mann not want black patrons going there to see the film, but he also surmised that white viewers were unlikely to see a film featuring older black musical stars. [8] Ultimately, the film got less than half the bookings nationwide for its initial release than a typical big-budget studio film of the era, which did not bode well for its success at the box office. [8]

Box office Edit

The Blues Brothers opened on June 20, 1980, with a release in 594 theaters. It took in $4,858,152, ranking second for that week (after The Empire Strikes Back). The film in total grossed $57,229,890 domestically and $58,000,000 in foreign box office for a total of $115,229,890. It ranked 10th at the domestic box office for the year. [4] By genre, it is the ninth-highest-grossing musical and the 10th-highest earner among comedy road movies. It ranks second, between Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2, among films adapted from Saturday Night Live sketches. [4] Director John Landis claimed The Blues Brothers was also the first American film to gross more money overseas than it did in the United States. Over the years, the film has retained a following through television and home video. [16]

Critical reception Edit

The Blues Brothers received mostly positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 73% "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 89 reviews, with an average rating of 7.60/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Too over the top for its own good, but ultimately rescued by the cast's charm, director John Landis' grace, and several soul-stirring musical numbers." [26] It won the Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing and Sound Effects, [27] is 14th on Total Film magazine's "List of the 50 Greatest Comedy Films of All Time," [ citation needed ] is 20th on Empire's list of "The 50 Greatest Comedies," [28] and is number 69 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies." [29] Metacritic gave the film a score of 60 based on 12 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews." [30]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave The Blues Brothers three out of four stars, praising it for its energetic musical numbers and "incredible" car chases. Ebert further noted that "Belushi and Aykroyd come over as hard-boiled city guys, total cynics with a world-view of sublime simplicity, and that all fits perfectly with the movie's other parts. There's even room, in the midst of the carnage and mayhem, for a surprising amount of grace, humor, and whimsy." [31] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film a "rare four-star rating," calling it "one of the all-time great comedies" and "the best movie ever made in Chicago." He described the film as "technically superb," praised it for "countering every explosion with a quiet moment," and said it "is at once a pure exercise in physical comedy as well as a marvelous tribute to the urban blues sound." [32] He ranked it number eight on his list of the ten best movies of 1980. [33] Richard Corliss, writing in Time, opined: "The Blues Brothers is a demolition symphony that works with the cold efficiency of a Moog synthesizer gone sadistic." [34]

In his review for The Washington Post, Gary Arnold criticized Landis for engorging "the frail plot of The Blues Brothers with car chases and crack-ups, filmed with such avid, humorless starkness on the streets of Chicago that comic sensations are virtually obliterated." [35] Janet Maslin of The New York Times criticized The Blues Brothers for shortchanging viewers on more details about Jake and Elwood's affinity for African-American culture. She also took director Landis to task for "distracting editing," mentioning the Soul Food diner scene in which the head of saxophonist Marini is out of shot as he dances on the counter. [36] In the documentary, Stories Behind the Making of The Blues Brothers, Landis acknowledges the criticism while stating "Everybody has his opinion," and Marini recalls the dismay he felt at seeing the completed film.

Kim Newman, writing for Empire in 2013, considered The Blues Brothers to be "an amalgam of urban sleaze, automobile crunch and blackheart rhythm and blues" with "better music than any film had had for many years." He noted that Belushi and Aykroyd pack in their heroes: "Aretha storming through 'Think', Cab Calloway cruising through 'Minnie the Moocher', John Lee Hooker boogying through 'Boom Boom' and Ray Charles on electric piano." He observed that "the picture had revived the careers of virtually all the musicians that appeared in it" and concluded that "it still sounds great and looks as good as ever through Ray Bans." [37]

On the 30th Anniversary of the film's release, L'Osservatore Romano [38] (the daily newspaper of Vatican City State) wrote that the film is filled with positive symbolism and moral references that can be related to Catholicism. They went further, stating, The Blues Brothers "is a memorable film, and, judging by the facts, a Catholic one." [39]

Cult-film status Edit

The Blues Brothers has become a staple of late-night cinema, even slowly morphing into an audience-participation show in its regular screenings at the Valhalla Cinema, in Melbourne, Australia. [40] John Landis acknowledged the support of the cinema and the fans by a phone call he made to the cinema at the 10th Anniversary screening, and later invited regular attendees to make cameo appearances in Blues Brothers 2000. The fans act as the members of the crowd during the performance of "Ghost Riders in the Sky". [41]

In August 2005, a 25th Anniversary celebration for The Blues Brothers was held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. [42] Attendees included Landis, former Universal Studios executive Thom Mount, film editor George Folsey, Jr., and cast members James Brown, Henry Gibson, Charles Napier, Steve Cropper, and Stephen Bishop. It featured a press conference, a panel discussion where Aykroyd joined by satellite, and a screening of the original theatrical version of the film. The panel discussion was broadcast direct to many other cinemas around the country.

The popularity of The Blues Brothers has also spread overseas it was an inspiration for Japanese companies Studio Hibari and Aniplex, which led to the creation of the manga and anime franchise Nerima Daikon Brothers, which contain heavy references to the film.

American Film Institute Edit

Home media Edit

When The Blues Brothers was first screened for a preview audience, a producer demanded that director Landis cut 25 minutes from the film. [46] After trimming 15 minutes, it was released in theaters at 132 minutes. The film was first released on VHS and Betamax by MCA Videocassette Inc. in 1983 a Laserdisc from MCA Videodisc was released in the same year. It was then re-released on VHS, Laserdisc, and Betamax in 1985 from MCA Home Video, and again in 1990 from MCA/Universal Home Video. It was also released in a two-pack VHS box set with Animal House. The original length of The Blues Brothers was restored to 148 minutes for the "Collector's Edition" DVD and a Special Edition VHS and Laserdisc release in 1998. The DVD and Laserdisc versions included a 56-minute documentary, The Stories Behind the Making of The Blues Brothers. Produced and directed by JM Kenny (who also produced the "Collector's Edition" DVD of Animal House that same year), it included interviews with Landis, Aykroyd, members of The Blues Brothers Band, producer Robert K. Weiss, editor George Folsey Jr., and others involved with the film. It also included production photographs, the theatrical trailer, production notes, and cast and filmmaker bios. The 25th Anniversary DVD release in 2005 included both the theatrical cut and the extended version.

The Blues Brothers was released on Blu-ray on July 26, 2011, with the same basic contents as the 25th Anniversary DVD. In a March 2011 interview with Ain't it Cool News, Landis also mentioned he had approved the Blu-ray's remastered transfer. On May 19, 2020, the movie was given a 4K UHD release it has a new 4K remaster from the original negative and the extended footage was remastered from the same archived print as well. [47]

The Blues Brothers: Original Soundtrack Recording (later re-released as The Blues Brothers: Music from the Soundtrack) was released on June 20, 1980, as the second album by the Blues Brothers Band, which also toured that year to promote the film. "Gimme Some Lovin ' " was a Top 20 Billboard hit, peaking at number 18. [49] The album was a followup to their debut, the live album, Briefcase Full of Blues. Later that year they released a second live album, Made in America, which featured the Top 40 track, "Who's Making Love". [49]

The songs on the soundtrack album are a noticeably different audio mix than in the film, with a prominent baritone saxophone in the horn line (also heard in the film during "Shake a Tail Feather", though no baritone sax is present), and female backing vocals on "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love", though the band had no other backup singers, besides Jake and/or Elwood, in the film. A number of regular Blues Brothers' members, including saxophonist Tom Scott and drummer Steve Jordan, perform on the soundtrack album, but are not in the film.

According to Landis in the 1998 documentary The Stories Behind the Making of 'The Blues Brothers ' , filmed musical performances by Franklin and Brown took more effort, as neither artist was accustomed to lip-synching their performances on film. Franklin required several takes, and Brown simply rerecorded his performance live. Cab Calloway initially wanted to do a disco variation on his signature tune, "Minnie the Moocher", having done the song in several styles in the past, but Landis insisted that the song be done faithfully to the original big-band version.

No. TitleWriter(s)ArtistLength
1."She Caught the Katy"Taj Mahal, Yank RachellThe Blues Brothers with lead vocals by Jake Blues4:10
2."Peter Gunn Theme"Henry ManciniThe Blues Brothers Band3:46
3."Gimme Some Lovin ' "Steve Winwood, Muff Winwood, Spencer DavisThe Blues Brothers with lead vocals by Jake Blues3:06
4."Shake a Tail Feather"Otha Hayes, Andre Williams, Verlie RiceRay Charles with the Blues Brothers (Jake and Elwood, backing vocals)2:48
5."Everybody Needs Somebody to Love"Jerry Wexler, Bert Berns, Solomon BurkeThe Blues Brothers (Jake Blues, lead vocals Elwood Blues, harmonica and vocals)3:21
6."The Old Landmark"Adeline M. BrunnerJames Brown and the Rev. James Cleveland Choir (additional choir vocals by Chaka Khan credited in the film)2:56
7."Think"Teddy White, Aretha FranklinAretha Franklin and the Blues Brothers with backing vocals by Brenda Corbett, Margaret Branch, Carolyn Franklin, Jake, and Elwood3:13
8."Theme from Rawhide"Dimitri Tiomkin, Ned WashingtonElwood, Jake, and the Blues Brothers Band2:37
9."Minnie the Moocher"Cab Calloway, Irving MillsCab Calloway with the Blues Brothers Band3:23
10."Sweet Home Chicago"Robert JohnsonThe Blues Brothers with lead vocals by Jake Blues (dedicated to the musician Magic Sam)7:48
11."Jailhouse Rock"Jerry Leiber, Mike StollerJake Blues and the Blues Brothers (Over the closing credits in the film, verses are sung by James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and "crew")3:19

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

The film's score includes "God Music" (instrumental with choir vocalese) composed by Elmer Bernstein, who previously had worked with John Landis on National Lampoon's Animal House. Other songs in the film include:

Saturday Night Live promised changes for the 2005–06 season, one of which was broadcasting in high-definition. [1] Lorne Michaels added four new featured players: Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig (partway through the season), and Jason Sudeikis, who was added for the last three episodes of the previous season.

Hader quickly became popular for his impersonations, such as Vincent Price, Lindsey Buckingham, Al Pacino, Alan Alda, James Carville, John Boehner, Julian Assange, and many others. Hader also created multiple signature characters. These characters included New York City correspondent Stefon, Italian talk show host Vinny Vedecci, and Hollywood gossip reporter Brady Trunk as well as many others.

Hired along with Samberg were his longtime friends and The Lonely Island collaborators Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, who joined the writing staff. The three would create a new SNL mainstay feature in the SNL Digital Shorts, the most popular being "Lazy Sunday". Wiig, who first appeared when Jason Lee hosted, gained popularity with impersonations of Drew Barrymore, Felicity Huffman and Megan Mullally, also creating memorable characters such as the Two A-Holes (with Sudeikis) and Target Lady. Lorne Michaels extended her contract until the 2009–10 season (though she wouldn't officially leave the show until the 2011–12 season).

Leaving after this season were Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey, who had committed to working on Fey's new sitcom 30 Rock, as well as Horatio Sanz, Finesse Mitchell, and Chris Parnell, who were let go due to budget cuts. Fey had missed several episodes early in the season while on maternity leave, as had Maya Rudolph. Horatio Sanz took Fey's place on Weekend Update while she was away.

This season featured the first former female cast member as a host. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a cast member from 1982 to 1985, hosted in May 2006.

Opening montage Edit

The opening montage for the 2005 season was identical to that of the 2004 season, except for several minor variations. The names were displayed in a different font. The montage was also produced in widescreen and high definition. [1]

Cast Edit

Opening montage Edit

The opening montage introduced on the 32nd-season premiere involved the cast on a roof-top party in New York City. It was a completely new production from the previous montage, featuring a completely new logo and VTR. The font was in a plain greyish colour with bold lettering, where each word is progressively larger than the last in both the title and cast credits, with footage of New York City in the background. The musical guest and host's pictures are simply seen over top of the background footage instead of inserted onto a billboard like the previous season.

With the Jaime Pressly episode airing on October 7, 2006, the montage was changed slightly to include an SNL logo changed to a design and typeface identical to the 1981–1985 SNL logo. The pictures of the host and musical guest were placed over the entire screen, instead of over the New York City footage. This new montage was also used for the rerun for the Dane Cook/The Killers episode, replacing the originally-aired one.

Also changing for the October 14, 2006 repeat was the logo. The logo kept the same look, but condensed to look thinner, and to fit wide screen.

Bumper format Edit

The commercial bumpers featured the host and musical guest in a solid color background, that featured many colors. The logo usually featured the current logo of "Saturday Night Live", or bold lettering of "SNL". The font is Gotham Ultra Bold.

Cast changes Edit

SNL had a smaller cast in the 2006–2007 season due to “massive budget cuts” at NBC. Lorne Michaels said that cutting staff was chosen over reducing from 20 the number of original episodes produced. [2] A separate announcement confirmed the departure of Tina Fey, who left to focus on her new show 30 Rock. [3] Rachel Dratch, one of the stars in the 30 Rock pilot (though subsequently replaced by Jane Krakowski), also did not return. [4]

In September 2006, it was announced that Seth Meyers would replace Tina Fey as co-anchor on Weekend Update. [5]

Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, and Jason Sudeikis were all promoted to repertory players at the beginning of their second season (the third for Sudeikis including his role as a featured player).

The final cast list included just 11 members, the lowest number since the 1997–1998 season, and the first time since the 1997–98 season that no featured players were hired.

Cast Edit

The 2007–2008 season of Saturday Night Live began on September 29, 2007 with LeBron James hosting the episode and musical guest Kanye West. Production was suspended due to the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike, after which only four episodes were produced. The show's first episode after the writers' strike was aired on February 23, 2008, with former head writer and cast member Tina Fey as host. [6]

Opening montage Edit

The opening montage for the 2007–2008 season was identical to that of the previous season, though the artwork for the host and musical guest is now a black and white portrait.

Bumper format Edit

Instead of featuring a solid color background, the background colors for the bumpers were usually white. There were rare occasions of the background being black, or gray. The logo was the same as last season, either featuring the full current logo, "Saturday Night Live", or featuring a bold lettering of "SNL". The logos featured different colors.

Cast Edit

The 2008–2009 season of Saturday Night Live began September 13, 2008 with host Michael Phelps and musical guest Lil' Wayne.

Opening montage Edit

The opening montage remains the same as the last two seasons, but this time, the majority of the opening is in black and white, while the cast credits remain in color. The "SNL" logo and the cast credits appear smaller to fit into the 4:3 "safe area". In the second episode of the season, the video for Casey Wilson's credit was changed. In the fourth episode, the show went back to being shown in letterbox in some markets.

Bumper format Edit

The bumpers now have variously colored backdrops instead of the plain white from last season. The season's first three episodes had the "SNL" logo within the 4:3 "title-safe area." From episode 4 and on, however, the logo has been in the 16:9 title-safe area.

Cast Edit

The 2009–2010 season of Saturday Night Live began September 26, 2009 with host Megan Fox and musical guest U2.

Opening montage Edit

The opening montage introduced on the 35th-season premiere featured the cast in random places in New York City. The montage features the same logo as the previous seasons but instead of the greyish color it's now a light greenish color with bold lettering. The host and musical guest are pictures cover the entire screen when introduced. In the second episode the host and musical guest have a small picture that is circled with bright colors, the background features it going down a city street.

Bumper format Edit

The commercial bumpers featured the host and musical guest in a light color background. The logo usually featured the current logo of "Saturday Night Live", or bold lettering of "SNL" (often with the number "35" attached to commemorate SNL's 35 years on the air).


Prior to the start of the season, Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah, and Jon Rudnitsky were released from the cast. [5] [6] Killam, despite having signed a seven-year contract that would have taken him to the end of this season, was dropped from the cast due in part to issues concerning his work directing the film Killing Gunther, which would have limited his time on the show. [7]

The show added three new featured players: SNL staff writer and Wild 'n Out alumn Mikey Day, Chicago improviser Alex Moffat and stand-up comedian and impressionist Melissa Villaseñor. [8] [9]

Contrary to rumors, stand-up comedian Chris Redd was not hired this season, but he did join the show as a featured player during the following season. [10] [11]

Michael Che, Pete Davidson, and Leslie Jones were all upgraded to repertory status. [12]

Though not a member of the cast, it was announced on September 28, 2016, that Alec Baldwin signed through this season to take over impersonating Donald Trump from Darrell Hammond, who continues on as the show's announcer. [13]

This was also the final season for cast members Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer and Sasheer Zamata. [14]

During this season, Dick Ebersol-era cast member Tony Rosato died at the age of 62 from a heart attack. Rosato is now the second SNL cast member to have never worked under Lorne Michaels to die (Jean Doumanian-era cast member Charles Rocket, who committed suicide in 2005, was the first) and the oldest cast member to die, beating Tom Davis, who died of cancer at 59.

Cast roster Edit

Prior to the start of the season, short film director Matt Villines (of the directing duo Matt & Oz) died of cancer. [15]

Writers Edit

In August 2016, writing duo Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider were promoted to co-head writers. [16] In addition, eight new writers were hired for the upcoming season: Kristen Bartlett, Zack Bornstein, Joanna Bradley, Anna Drezen, Julio Torres, Nick Kocher, Brian McElhaney, and Drew Michael. [17] [18] After tweeting a controversial joke about Barron Trump, writer Katie Rich was suspended indefinitely. [19] In January 2017, writer Kent Sublette was elevated to head writer bringing the head writing team to four. [20]

  • The Weeknd performs "Starboy" and "False Alarm" and also appears on Weekend Update during a bit titled "The Weeknd Update". takes over the task of impersonating Donald Trump from Darrell Hammond, who continues on as the show's announcer. [13] He appears in the show's cold open, a parody of the first presidential debate.
  • Hammond and Larry David appear in the Family Feud: Political Edition sketch as Bill Clinton and Bernie Sanders, respectively. , Alex Moffat and Melissa Villaseñor's first episode as cast members. [21]
  • Twenty One Pilots performs "Heathens" and "Ride". appears as Donald Trump in the cold open. and Jimmy Fallon appear on Weekend Update.
  • Bruno Mars performs "24K Magic" and "Chunky" and appears in the "Drive-Thru Window" sketch. appears as Donald Trump in both the cold open and the pre-recorded "Melanianade" sketch.
  • Lady Gaga performs "A-Yo" with Mark Ronson on guitar and "Million Reasons". appears as Donald Trump in the cold open and as a pilot in the "Cockpit" sketch.
  • Hanks makes his debut appearance as David S. Pumpkins in the "Haunted Elevator" sketch.
  • Solange performs "Cranes in the Sky" and "Don't Touch My Hair" with Sampha. appears as Donald Trump in the cold open. appears as The Church Lady on Weekend Update. baseball players Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, and David Ross appear in the "Surprise Bachelorette" sketch. They also appear with Bill Murray on Weekend Update, singing "Go, Cubs, Go".
  • A memorial photo of NBC Universal employee John Homer is shown in silence before the goodnights.
  • During the repeat of this episode on December 31, 2016, an image of Carrie Fisher, who died on December 27, is shown in silence after Weekend Update.
  • A Tribe Called Quest performs "We the People . " and "The Space Program" with Consequence and Busta Rhymes.
  • The cold open addresses the aftermath of Donald Trump's unexpected election victory, with Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton performing "Hallelujah", a song by Leonard Cohen, who had died earlier that week. appears in the "Election Night" sketch. appears in the pre-recorded "Walking DeadChappelle's Show" sketch, reprising his role as Beautiful.
  • Chappelle's Show co-creator Neal Brennan guest-wrote on this episode and directed the Walking Dead sketch. [27]
  • The xx performs "On Hold" and "I Dare You". and Jason Sudeikis appear as Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, respectively, in the cold open. and Will Forte appear in the opening monologue. has a vocal cameo in the "Secret Word" sketch.
  • Shawn Mendes performs "Mercy" and "Treat You Better". appears as Donald Trump in the cold open. appears on Weekend Update, opposite Vanessa Bayer's impersonation of Aniston's Friends role Rachel Green, and in the "Film Screening" sketch.
  • Chance the Rapper performs "Finish Line/Drown" with Noname and "Same Drugs" with Francis Farewell Starlite. He also appears in the pre-recorded "Jingle Barack" sketch and the "New York Now" sketch. and John Goodman appear in the cold open, as Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson, respectively, and appear in the opening monologue. appears in the "Robot Presentation" sketch and as one of "Vladimir Putin's Best Friends from Growing Up" on Weekend Update. appears in the pre-recorded "Jingle Barack" sketch.
  • Sturgill Simpson performs "Keep It Between the Lines" and "Call to Arms". appears as Donald Trump in the cold open. appears in the opening monologue.
  • A tribute to former cast member Tony Rosato, who died on January 10, is shown before the goodnights.
  • Alessia Cara performs "Scars to Your Beautiful" and "River of Tears". appears as Donald Trump in the cold open. appears as Sean Spicer in the "Sean Spicer Press Conference" sketch.
  • Stewart accidentally says "fuck" during the monologue.
  • Lorde performs "Green Light," sings "Liability" with Jack Antonoff on piano, and appears in the "Day Without a Woman" sketch. appears as Donald Trump in the cold open and in the pre-recorded "Ivanka Fragrance" sketch.
  • The Chainsmokers performs "Paris" with Emily Warren and "Break Up Every Night". appears as Donald Trump in the cold open and as both Trump and Bill O'Reilly in the O'Reilly Factor sketch.
  • An image of Don Rickles, who died on April 6, is shown in silence before the goodnights.
  • Harry Styles performs "Sign of the Times" and "Ever Since New York" and appears in the opening monologue, as Mick Jagger in the "Celebrity Family Feud" sketch, and in the "Civil War Soldiers" sketch. appears as Donald Trump in the cold open. plays guitar during Fallon's opening performance of "Let's Dance". appears as Sean Spicer in the "White House Easter Message" sketch, which was actually shot in Los Angeles. [40] reprises her role as Denise from The Boston Teens in the "Harvard University" sketch.
  • This is the first SNL episode ever to be broadcast live in all four time zones within the contiguous United States. Previously, the show aired live only in the Eastern and Central time zones, and was tape-delayed in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. [4]
  • LCD Soundsystem performs "Call the Police" and "American Dream". makes a voiceover cameo appearance in the cold open as Donald Trump.
  • HAIM performs "Want You Back" and "Little of Your Love" and appears in the opening monologue and in the "Kyle and Leslie" filmed sketch. appears as Donald Trump in the cold open and in the Sean Spicer sketch and as himself in the opening monologue. and Ryan Reynolds appear in the opening monologue. appears during the goodnights to welcome McCarthy to the Five-Timers Club.
  • Katy Perry performs "Swish Swish" and "Bon Appétit" with Migos, and appears in the "Rap Song" sketch.
  • A 15-year-old boy named Russell Horning appeared in Perry's first musical performance, performing his signature arm-swinging dance move known as the Floss while wearing a backpack on stage. The performance gained social media attention with many dubbing him as the "Backpack Kid", and his dance move becoming an imitating trend among children, teens, and celebrities.
  • Other dancers who appeared in Perry's first musical performance included Indya Moore, Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza, Vivacious, Yuhua Hamasaki, Scarlet Envy, and Brita Filter. and Scarlett Johansson appear in the cold open as Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump, respectively, performing a rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Additionally, Baldwin appears in the opening monologue to welcome Johnson to the Five-Timers Club. appears in the opening monologue and as David S. Pumpkins in the "Rap Song" sketch.
  • An image of Brad Grey, who died on May 14, is shown in silence after Weekend Update. , Bobby Moynihan and Sasheer Zamata's final episode as cast members. [14]
TitleOriginal air dateRatings/Share
(Adults 18-49)
"Weekend Update at the RNC [45] "July 20, 2016 ( 2016-07-20 ) N/A
Colin Jost and Michael Che host a special edition of Weekend Update from the 2016 Republican National Convention live on MSNBC. Kate McKinnon appears as Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
"Weekend Update at the DNC [46] "July 27, 2016 ( 2016-07-27 ) N/A
Colin Jost and Michael Che host a special edition of Weekend Update from the 2016 Democratic National Convention live on MSNBC.
"The 2016 SNL Election Special [47] "November 7, 2016 ( 2016-11-07 ) 2.1/7 [48]
Recent political sketches involving the 2016 US presidential election, hosted by Tom Brokaw.
"SNL Thanksgiving Special [49] "November 23, 2016 ( 2016-11-23 ) 1.6/5 [50]
Thanksgiving-themed comedy from the Saturday Night Live crew is presented.
"SNL Christmas [51] "December 14, 2016 ( 2016-12-14 ) 1.6/5 [52]
Holiday-themed comedy from Saturday Night Live is presented.

The forty-second season of SNL had a larger-than-usual ratings bump, partially due to sketches surrounding the 2016 presidential election and later the presidency of Donald Trump. According to Forbes writer Madeline Berg, the program "had its best season in 24 years, with an average of 11.3 million viewers in live-plus-seven-day ratings, which marks an increase of 26% from [the previous season]." [53] The Dave Chappelle/A Tribe Called Quest episode saw the highest ratings for the show since Donald Trump's hosting the previous season, and highest in the 18-49 rating demographic since December 2013. [28] The show received its best ratings for an October broadcast in eight years with the Tom Hanks/Lady Gaga episode, [25] while the Alec Baldwin/Ed Sheeran episode in February received the best overall ratings for the season thus far, posting its highest metered-market household rating in six years. [13]

Republican candidate Donald Trump — who hosted SNL the previous season and eventually secured the presidency in November — was unhappy with his portrayal on the show by recurring guest Alec Baldwin. On multiple occasions, both before and after winning the election, Trump used Twitter to publicize his thoughts on the impersonation, as well as the show: "Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks," he tweeted the morning after the Emily Blunt/Bruno Mars episode on October 16, 2016. [54] "It is a totally one-sided, biased show —nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?", he posted on November 20 after the Kristen Wiig/The xx episode, suggesting the show follow the equal-time rule, despite the presidential race being over. [55] His criticism continued preceding his inauguration: he dubbed it "unwatchable" on December 4, [56] and tweeted "Saturday Night Live is the worst of NBC. Not funny, cast is terrible, always a complete hit job. Really bad television!" after the Felicity Jones/Sturgill Simpson episode on January 15, 2017. [57]


Conception and development Edit

In 1974, NBC Tonight Show host Johnny Carson requested that weekend "Best of Carson" reruns of his show (known as The Weekend Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson) come to an end. This way, Carson could take two weeknights off and feed affiliates the specials on those nights. As Carson's show was extremely popular, NBC heard his request as an ultimatum, fearing he might use the issue to move to another network. To fill the gap, NBC brought in Dick Ebersol to develop a late-night variety show for airing on Saturday nights. Ebersol's first order of business was to hire a young Canadian producer named Lorne Michaels as the showrunner.

As New York City television production was in decline in the mid-1970s, NBC decided to base the new show at their studios in 30 Rockefeller Center. Michaels was given Studio 8H, a converted radio studio that was most famous for having hosted Arturo Toscanini and his orchestra in the 1950s. The studio had fallen into disuse, and was largely being used for election coverage by the mid-1970s.

Original team Edit

The first cast members hired were Second City alumni Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, National Lampoon "Lemmings" alumnus Chevy Chase (whose trademark became his usual falls and opening spiel that cued the show's opening), Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris and George Coe. The original head writer was Michael O'Donoghue, a writer at National Lampoon. 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 bandleader on the show. Paul Shaffer, who would go on to lead David Letterman's band on Late Night and then The Late Show, also served as bandleader 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 satirised current events. O'Donoghue had worked alongside several cast members while directing the show. Actors and writers from Radio Hour received much more exposure and recognition on Saturday Night Live.

The 1975–76 season began on October 11, 1975, with host George Carlin. The show was originally called NBC's Saturday Night, and would not be called Saturday Night Live until near the end of the 1976–77 season. The show was also intended to have just six episodes, and to be hosted by a permanent guest host instead of a rotating celebrity host (Albert Brooks was apparently picked as a permanent host). The show was originally much more of a typical variety show than it would later become, with the first episode featuring two musical guests (Janis Ian and Billy Preston) and the second almost entirely featuring music. Sketch comedy would begin to dominate the show over the course of the season.

George Coe and Michael O'Donoghue would appear regularly throughout the season, even though they were only credited for the first few shows of the season. O'Donoghue would also appear regularly until the end of the 1978–79 season, although he was never again credited as a cast member.

Formula for success Edit

Michaels fought network executives to accept his vision for the show, which was far removed from then-standard variety show conventions. One executive, visiting a dress rehearsal, noticed that the band was dressed in blue jeans and asked when their tuxedos would arrive. Before the show's premiere, Michaels remarked that he knew what the "ingredients would be, but not the proportions" and that the show would have to "find itself" on air. Indeed, the cast (known as the "Not Ready for Prime Time Players") would not be heavily featured in the show until the third episode, quickly becoming the focus of the show.

The 1975–76 season (and early episodes of the 1976–77 season) featured a recurring Muppets segment called The Land of Gorch. This segment was poorly received by the audience and was dropped. Films by Albert Brooks were also sometimes shown in these early episodes, although these were also dropped due to negative viewer reception.

It was also one of the only shows that consistently produced topical political satire. In 1976, Ron Nessen, press secretary for President Gerald Ford, hosted the show. Ford himself appeared in a pre-taped opening sequence. The show had been very critical of Ford (with Chase's bumbling impression becoming very popular with audiences) and promised to give him a break that night. On October 30, 1976, "Weekend Update" (a topical news sketch performed in every episode) played the 1974 broadcast of Ford pardoning President Richard Nixon. Many backstage felt that this decision was instrumental in helping Jimmy Carter win the 1976 election, especially among younger voters. Chase's departure for the show early in the 1976–77 season coincided with the 1976 presidential election, in which Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter was elected the 39th President of the United States of America. Cast member Dan Aykroyd was selected to portray Carter in subsequent seasons. His impression emphasized Carter's southern roots and the country twang in his voice. An episode hosted by Ralph Nader in January 1977 depicts Carter as a Confederate general, using his status as president-elect to take over the nation. Political parody was relatively new to American mainstream television in 1975 comedy shows in the past had rarely dared to push the envelope. By satirizing the head of the nation, Saturday Night Live redefined the parameters of acceptable television content and became "the first television show to speak the nation of the time", according to NBC executive Dick Ebersol.

Chevy Chase Edit

Perhaps due to his recurring news parody sketch "Weekend Update", Chevy Chase was the first breakout star of Saturday Night Live, appearing on magazine covers, doing interviews, and receiving two Emmy awards in 1976 (one for performing and one for writing). As well as "Weekend Update", Chase would open each show with a pratfall before screaming the now-famous "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" On September 18, 1976, during the Ford-Carter debate sketch Debate '76, Chase tumbled off his podium. Because it lacked padding, he broke his groin. Dan Aykroyd, playing Jimmy Carter at the time, tried to help him, also falling. During the next two episodes, Chase appeared by phone with a picture of him calling from the hospital. A caption stated "VOICE OF CHEVY CHASE". He returned on October 16, 1976, via wheelchair.

Michaels later stated that he knew that Saturday Night Live could go in one of two directions: "It would either stay what it was. or it would morph into The Chevy Chase Show". Chase received offers to star in films. NBC offered him a prime-time series, but because he had signed a one-year contract, Chase would be free to leave television for a film career. [1]

Though Chase had never been friendly with most of the cast (a rivalry with John Belushi went all the way back to their work on The National Lampoon Radio Hour, and by the time he left, he couldn't even get along with Lorne Michaels), Chase returned to host the show several times over the next two decades. Relations were often strained the cast (whatever their own personal conflicts) would usually unite in opposition or disgust towards him, even hiding so that they would not have to share an elevator with him.

During Chase's 1978 hosting stint, Chase got into a brawl with Bill Murray mere moments before broadcast. [2] In 1985, he horrified many of the cast by suggesting a sketch where openly gay performer Terry Sweeney develops AIDS and then show the audience how much weight he loses each week. In 1997 after being just in general difficult to work with, Chase was banned from ever hosting again. Despite this, Chase would occasionally make cameos following his ban from the show.

the opening Montage of the Season showed a New York City in a slideshow version while Don Pardo announces the musical guest, the special guests, the host, and The Not Ready for Prime Time Players in big white letters.

Cast Edit

The Not Ready for Prime Time Players Edit

By the 1976–77 season, Saturday Night Live had grown into something of a television phenomenon. Like Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In several years earlier, it was, in many ways, a show that appealed to a younger audience, which made it appealing to advertisers. Recurring characters and catchphrases from the show soon entered the popular vernacular.

In March 1977, the show was renamed from NBC's Saturday Night to Saturday Night Live.

Bill Murray Edit

Bill Murray's first appearance was on January 15, 1977, shortly after Chase left to pursue a movie career. Murray had a shaky start, forgetting his lines and seeming awkward. Many fans of Chase saw Murray as a replacement for him and had been sending hate mail. By the end of the second season, he began to develop a following with a sleazy know-it-all persona. Many of his characterizations, such as Nick the Lounge Singer and Todd DiLamuca (originally Todd DiLabounta before the real DiLabounta threatened to sue), became popular with audiences.

The opening Montage the season was the same as last season except the word The Not Ready for Primetime Players is now shown in the big white letters and after Don Pardo calls them The Not Ready for Primetime Players he introduces them showing a still photo of them with the name underneath them in the big white letters.

Cast Edit

The Not Ready for Prime Time Players Edit

The 1977–78 season was the final season of Saturday Night Live in which the cast was referred to as the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. Two notable "featured players" were hired during this season: writer Al Franken and his comedic partner Tom Davis.

Cast Edit

The Not Ready for Prime Time Players Edit

The 1978-79 season would be the last for popular cast members Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, who would leave to work on their film The Blues Brothers (based on their Saturday Night Live characters). Belushi and Michael O'Donoghue (who also departed at the end of the season) both made cameos in the 100th episode of the show.

Cast Edit

The 1979–80 season would see the hiring of many writers as featured players, usually temporarily. Harry Shearer was the only one promoted to repertory status. Paul Shaffer was a major part of the show's band and had a role in several sketches (mainly a Don Kirshner impression) before 1979. Tom Schiller was a longtime filmmaker for Saturday Night Live (off and on in 1976–94). Jim Downey had been a writer and bit player since the 1976–77 season and would continue to write for the show on and off for the next 25 years. Alan Zweibel had been a writer since the show's beginning. Brian Doyle-Murray (Bill Murray's older brother) returned to the cast two years later for a season.

Drugs were a major problem during the show's first five years. "The value system that was around there was, as long as people showed up on time, did their job, it was nobody's business what they did in their bedroom or in their lives. That value system turned out to be wrong", Michaels later said. Aykroyd said that "The cocaine was a problem. Not for me, it was never my favorite. but it was around a lot, and it was affecting the work, the performance, the quality of the scripts. wasting time, and that was bad". [1]

Laraine Newman had developed serious eating disorders as well as a heroin addiction. She spent so much time in her dressing room playing Solitaire that for Christmas 1979, castmate Radner gave her a deck of playing cards with a picture of Laraine on the face of each card. Garrett Morris was feeling degraded from years of small roles and what he saw as racist sketches. At one point, the writers were going to have him do a fake ad for "Tarbrush" toothpaste, which would dull African-Americans' supposedly shiny teeth (the bit was pulled "mercifully" at the last minute). Morris also struggled with his status on the show, and began free-basing cocaine. During rehearsals for the Kirk Douglas-hosted show, Morris ran screaming onto the set, saying that someone had put an "invisible robot" on his shoulder who watched him everywhere he went. He pleaded with crew to get the robot off of him. [3]

Radner, meanwhile, was resented by many because she and Michaels had spent much of the year working on a Broadway play/album, Gilda Live. She had recently broken off a relationship with Bill Murray, and they could barely speak to one another. Murray resented that the other male cast members had left him stranded and essentially forced him to play every male lead on the show. Exhausted, Gilda had few starring roles during the 1979–80 season.

The most energetic and diverse performer during this season was Jane Curtin, who was thrilled to see the "Bully Boys", as she called them (Aykroyd and Belushi), depart and who debuted a number of new characters and impressions while she had the chance (she became noted this season for her impersonation of Nancy Reagan). Featured players/writers Al Franken and Tom Davis also contributed more heavily during the season, giving themselves more prominent roles as Aykroyd and Belushi departed. Another surprise contributor was writer Don Novello, whose "Father Guido Sarducci" character was especially popular and appeared repeatedly during the 1979–80 season.

Michaels' departure Edit

In May 1980, as the season was wrapping, Lorne Michaels decided he was ready for a break. Knowing that most of the cast and many of the writers would be departing, he attempted to persuade the network to put the show on hiatus for six months to recast NBC refused this attempt to let the show survive in reruns for half a year. Michaels' contract was up for renewal, and he felt somewhat slighted by NBC in negotiations. Michaels had always held a tense relationship with then-NBC President Fred Silverman, and it was not helped by SNL's numerous on-air taunts about NBC's abysmal prime-time performance during Silverman's tenure. In fact, SNL was one of the few truly popular shows on the network during this period, but Michaels and his representatives felt renewing his contract was a secondary priority to NBC executives behind Johnny Carson's, which was also up for renewal.

Michaels subsequently took his name off the show and left at the end of the season, along with the rest of the original cast and the writing staff, most of whom followed suit due to loyalty towards Michaels. Among these was Franken, whom Michaels had originally hand-picked as his successor. Franken had, earlier in the season, written and delivered a monologue on the show called "A Limo For A Lame-O" that directly insulted Silverman, who had not been warned about the sketch and thereafter despised Franken. Harry Shearer, who had zero allegiance to Michaels, informed the incoming executive producer, Jean Doumanian, that he would stay as long as she let him completely overhaul the program. Doumanian refused, so Shearer also bid farewell (he would return briefly during the 1984–85 season).

The remaining cast appeared together for the last time on May 24, 1980, for the final episode of the season. The episode, hosted by longtime loyal host Buck Henry, gave a heartfelt goodbye from all the members of the cast, and Henry himself who, after hosting ten times in five years, never returned to the show (barring a brief appearance on the 1989 15th Anniversary Special). Almost every writer and cast member on the show, including Lorne Michaels, left the show after this episode. Brian Doyle-Murray was the only writer from this season to stay on for the 1980–81 season.


From 1965 until 1975, NBC ran The Best of Carson reruns of The Tonight Show, airing them on either Saturday or Sunday night at local affiliates' discretion (originally known as The Saturday/Sunday Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson). In 1974, Johnny Carson announced that he wanted the weekend shows pulled and saved so they could be aired during weeknights, allowing him to take time off. [5]

In 1974, NBC president Herbert Schlosser approached his vice president of late night programming, Dick Ebersol, and asked him to create a show to fill the Saturday night time slot. [ citation needed ] At the suggestion of Paramount Pictures executive Barry Diller, Schlosser and Ebersol then approached Lorne Michaels. Over the next three weeks, Ebersol and Michaels developed the latter's idea for a variety show featuring high-concept comedy sketches, political satire, and music performances that would attract 18- to 34-year-old viewers. [6] [7] By 1975, Michaels had assembled a talented cast, including Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Michael O'Donoghue, Gilda Radner, [6] and George Coe. [8] The show was originally called NBC's Saturday Night, because Saturday Night Live was in use by Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell on the rival network ABC. [9] After the cancellation of the Cosell show, NBC purchased the rights to the name in 1976 and officially adopted the new title on March 26, 1977. [10] The show was originally conceived with three rotating permanent hosts: Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor, and George Carlin. When Pryor dropped out because his brand of comedy was not censor-friendly, the concept was dropped. [11]

Debuting on October 11, 1975, [7] the show quickly developed a cult following, [12] eventually becoming a mainstream hit and spawning (in 1978) "Best of Saturday Night Live" compilations that reached viewers who could not stay awake for the live broadcasts. But during the first season in 1975 and 1976, some NBC executives were not satisfied with the show's Nielsen ratings and shares. [13] Lorne Michaels pointed out to them that Nielsen's measurement of demographics indicated that baby boomers constituted a large majority of the viewers who did commit to watching the show, and many of them watched little else on television. [14] In 1975 and 1976, they were the most desirable demographic for television advertisers, even though Generation X was the right age for commercials for toys and other children's products. Baby boomers far outnumbered Generation X in reality but not in television viewership with the exception of Michaels's new show and major league sports, and advertisers had long been concerned about baby boomers' distaste for the powerful medium. NBC executives eventually understood Michaels's explanation of the desirable demographics and they decided to keep the show on the air despite many angry letters and phone calls the network received from viewers who were offended by certain sketches. [15]

They included a Weekend Update segment on April 24, 1976, the 18th episode, that ridiculed Aspen, Colorado murder suspect Claudine Longet and warranted an on-air apology by announcer Don Pardo during the following episode. [16] Herminio Traviesas, a censor who was vice president of the network's Standards and Practices department, objected to cast member Laraine Newman's use of the term "pissed off" in the March 13, 1976, episode with host Anthony Perkins he was in the process of placing the show on a permanent delay of several seconds, instead of live, but he changed his mind after Newman personally apologized to him. [17]

Chevy Chase left the show in November of the second season and was replaced a few months later by the then-unknown comic actor Bill Murray. Aykroyd and Belushi left the show in 1979 after the end of season four. In May 1980 (after season five), Michaels—emotionally and physically exhausted—requested to put the show on hiatus for a year to give him time and energy to pursue other projects. [18] Concerned the show would be canceled without him, Michaels suggested writers Al Franken, Tom Davis, and Jim Downey as his replacements. NBC president Fred Silverman disliked Franken and was infuriated by Franken's Weekend Update routine called "A Limo For A Lame-O", a scathing critique of Silverman's job performance at the network and his insistence on traveling by limousine at the network's expense. Silverman blamed Michaels for approving this Weekend Update segment. [19] Unable to get the deal he wanted, Michaels chose to leave NBC for Paramount Pictures, intending to take his associate producer, Jean Doumanian, with him. Michaels later learned that Doumanian had been given his position at SNL after being recommended by her friend, NBC vice president Barbara Gallagher. [20] Michaels's departure led to most of the cast and writing staff leaving the show. [21]

The reputation of the show as a springboard to fame meant that many aspiring stars were eager to join the new series. Jean Doumanian was tasked with hiring a full cast and writing staff in less than three months, and NBC immediately cut the show's budget from the previous $1 million per episode down to just $350,000. Doumanian faced resentment and sabotage from the remaining Michaels staff, particularly males who did not appreciate a woman believing she could take Michaels's place. [22] The season was a disaster ratings plummeted, and audiences failed to connect to the original cast's replacements, such as Charles Rocket and Ann Risley. [21] Doumanian's fate was sealed when, during a sketch, Rocket said "fuck" on live television. [23] After only ten months, Doumanian was dismissed. [24] [25] Although executives suggested SNL be left to die, network chief Brandon Tartikoff wanted to keep the show on the air, believing the concept was more important to the network than money. Tartikoff turned to Ebersol as his choice for the new producer. Ebersol previously had been fired by Silverman. Ebersol gained Michaels's approval in an attempt to avoid the same staff sabotage that had blighted Doumanian's tenure. [26]

Ebersol's tenure saw commercial success, but was considered lackluster compared to the Michaels era, except for the breakout of new cast member Eddie Murphy during the 1980–81 sixth season. [27] Murphy, the main draw of the cast, left in 1984 to pursue his already successful film career, and Ebersol decided to again rebuild the cast. He broke with history by hiring established comedians such as Billy Crystal and Martin Short who could bring their already successful material to the show. [26] Ebersol's final year with this new cast is considered one of the series' funniest, but had strayed far from the precedent-shattering show Michaels had created. [28] After that season, Ebersol wanted a more significant revamp, including departing from the show's established "live" format. [ citation needed ] Following unsuccessful forays into film and television, in need of money, and eager not to see Tartikoff cancel the show, [29] Michaels finally returned in 1985 after Ebersol opted out. The show was again recast, with Michaels borrowing Ebersol's idea to seek out established actors such as Joan Cusack and Robert Downey Jr. [30] The cast and writers struggled creatively and, in April 1986, Tartikoff made the decision to cancel the show, until he was convinced by producer Bernie Brillstein to give it one more year. [31] The show was renewed but for the first time in its history, for only thirteen episodes instead of the usual twenty-two. [32] Michaels again fired most of the cast and, learning his lesson from the previous seasons, sought out unknown talent such as Dana Carvey and Phil Hartman instead of known names. [32]

The show ran successfully again until it lost Carvey and Hartman, two of its biggest stars, between 1992 and 1994. Wanting to increase SNL ' s ratings and profitability, then-NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer and other executives began to actively interfere in the show, recommending that new stars such as Chris Farley and Adam Sandler be fired (because Ohlmeyer did not "get" them) and critiquing the costly nature of performing the show live. The show faced increasing criticism from the press and cast, in part encouraged by the NBC executives hoping to weaken Michaels's position. [33] Michaels received a lucrative offer to develop a Saturday night project for CBS during this time, but remained loyal to SNL. [34] 1995 saw the biggest upheaval in the cast in nearly a decade. Popular cast member Mike Myers left after five years, and Farley and Sandler, among others, were fired. A mostly new cast featuring Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri and Darrell Hammond was hired for the new season. [35] The show focused on performers, and writers were forced to supply material for the cast's existing characters before they could write original sketches. [36] By 1997, Ohlmeyer renewed his focus on limiting Michaels's independence, forcing the removal of writer Jim Downey and cast member Norm Macdonald. [37]

Cast Edit

The original 1975 cast of SNL, titled "The Not Ready For Prime-Time Players," [38] [39] a term coined by writer Herb Sargent, [40] included Laraine Newman, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris, and Chevy Chase. Radner was the first person hired after Michaels himself. Although Chase became a performer, he was hired on a one-year writer contract and refused to sign the performer contract that was repeatedly given to him, allowing him to leave the show after the first season in 1976. [41] Newman was brought aboard after having a prior working relationship with Michaels. [42] Morris was initially brought in as a writer, but attempts to have him fired by another writer led Michaels to have Morris audition for the cast, where he turned in a successful performance. [43] Curtin and Belushi were the last two cast members hired. [42] Belushi had a disdain for television and had repeatedly turned down offers to appear on other shows, but decided to work with the show because of the involvement of Radner and writers Anne Beatts and Michael O'Donoghue. [44] Michaels was still reluctant to hire Belushi, believing he would be a source of trouble for the show, but Beatts, O'Donoghue, and Ebersol successfully argued for his inclusion. [44]

After Chase left the show, he was replaced by Bill Murray, whom Michaels had intended to hire for the first-season cast but was unable to because of budget restrictions. [45] When Chase returned to host in 1978, he found the remaining cast resentful at his departure and his success, particularly Belushi. Murray, goaded by the rest of the cast, and Chase came to blows shortly before the show. [46] Chase's departure for film made Michaels possessive of his talent he threatened to fire Aykroyd if he took the role of D-Day in the 1978 comedy Animal House and later refused to allow SNL musician Paul Shaffer to participate in The Blues Brothers (1980) with Aykroyd and Belushi after they left in 1979 to pursue film careers. [47] [48] Michaels began to struggle to hold the remaining cast together in the wake of Chase, Aykroyd, and Belushi's independent successes. Radner had a one-woman Broadway show and Murray starred in the 1979 comedy Meatballs. [49] In 1980, Michaels chose to leave the series to pursue other interests and was replaced by Doumanian, who wanted to give the show a fresh start with a new cast and writing staff. [50] Michaels was followed out the door by the remaining original cast, Curtin, Newman, Radner, Morris, Murray, and additional cast members. [48]

The Doumanian-era cast faced immediate comparison to the beloved former cast and was not received favorably. [24] Ebersol fired the majority of her hires, except for two unknown comedians: Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo. [51] Talent coordinator Neil Levy claimed Murphy contacted and pleaded with him for a role on the show and, after seeing him audition, Levy fought with Doumanian to cast him instead of Robert Townsend. Doumanian wanted only one black cast member and favored Townsend, but Levy convinced her to choose Murphy. Doumanian also claimed credit for discovering Murphy and fighting with NBC executives to bring him onto the show. [52] Even so, Murphy would languish as a background character until Ebersol took charge, [53] after which Murphy was credited with much of that era's success. [54] [55] Murphy's star exploded, and he quickly appeared in films such as 48 Hrs. and Trading Places, before leaving for his film career in early 1984. Much of the Ebersol cast departed after the 1983–84 season and were replaced with established comedians who could supply their own material, but at an inflated cost Billy Crystal and Martin Short were paid $25,000 and $20,000 per episode, respectively, a far cry from earlier salaries. [26] Michaels's return in 1985 saw a cast reset that featured talent such as Robert Downey Jr., Jon Lovitz, and Dennis Miller. [56] The season was poorly received, and another reset followed in 1986. Michaels kept Lovitz, Miller, and Nora Dunn, and brought in new, untested talent such as Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, and Jan Hooks, who together would define a new era on the show into the early 1990s. [57]

In 1989–90, new talent such as Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, and Chris Farley was added. Afraid of cast members leaving for film careers, Michaels had overcrowded the cast, causing a divide between the veteran members and the new, younger talent, increasing competition for limited screen time. [58] By 1995, Carvey and Hartman had left, taking with them a virtual army of characters Myers quit for his movie career, and increasing network pressure forced Michaels to fire Sandler and Farley. The show saw its next major overhaul, bringing in a largely new cast including Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri and Darrell Hammond. Within a few years, Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey also joined the cast. [59] While cast members would leave over the following two decades, the show saw its next biggest transition in 2013, with the addition of six cast members to compensate for the departure of several longtime cast members like Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, and Fred Armisen. [60]

As of Season 46, SNL has featured 156 cast members including, besides the above-mentioned players, Rachel Dratch, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Will Forte, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tracy Morgan, Chris Parnell, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, and many others. Kenan Thompson is the show's longest-serving cast member. Thompson first joined the series in 2003 and has been on the show for eighteen seasons. [61] Those selected to join the cast of SNL are normally already accomplished performers, recruited from improvisational comedy groups such as The Groundlings (Newman, Ferrell, Hartman, [62] Lovitz, Wiig [63] ) and The Second City (Aykroyd, Farley, Fey, [64] Tim Meadows), or established stand-up comedians (Carvey, Sandler, Rock, Norm Macdonald), who already possess the training or experience necessary for SNL. [65]

Of the many roles available in the show, one of the longest-running and most coveted is being the host of Weekend Update, a segment that has alternated between having one or two hosts and which allows the cast members involved to perform as themselves and be on camera for an extended period of time. [ citation needed ] Many of the Weekend Update hosts have gone on to find greater success outside the show, including Chase, Curtin, Murray, [ citation needed ] Miller, Macdonald, [66] Fey, [ citation needed ] Fallon, [67] and Poehler. From 2008, Seth Meyers was the solo host of Weekend Update, [ citation needed ] before being partnered with Cecily Strong in 2013. After Meyers left for Late Night with Seth Meyers in February 2014, Strong was paired with head writer Colin Jost. However, later that year, she was replaced by writer Michael Che. [68] [69] The cast is divided into two tiers: the more established group of repertory players and newer, unproven cast members known as featured players, who may eventually be promoted to the repertory stable.

    (joined 2013) (joined 2012) (joined 2014)ⱡ (joined 2014) (joined 2016) (joined 2017) (joined 2014)ⱡ (joined 2012) (joined 2016) (joined 2013) (joined 2018) (joined 2017) (joined 2012) (joined 2003) (joined 2016)
    (joined 2020) (joined 2019) (joined 2020) (joined 2020) (joined 2019)

The cast were often contracted from anywhere between five and six years to the show, [71] [72] but starting with the 1999–2000 season, new hires were tied to a rewritten contract that allowed NBC to take a cast member in at least their second year and put them in an NBC sitcom. Cast members are given the option of rejecting the first two sitcom offers but must accept the third offer, with the sitcom contract length dictated by NBC and potentially lasting up to six years. [72] The move drew criticism from talent agents and managers who believed a cast member could be locked into a contract with NBC for twelve years six on SNL and then six on a sitcom. The contract also optioned the cast member for three feature films produced by SNL Films, a company owned by NBC, Paramount Pictures, and Michaels. The new contracts were reportedly developed after many previously unknown cast, such as Myers and Sandler, gained fame on SNL only to leave and make money for other studios. [72] In a 2010 interview, Wiig was reported to be contracted to SNL for a total of seven years. [73] The contracts also contain a network option that allows NBC to remove a cast member at any time. [74] In the first season of the show, the cast was paid $750 per episode, rising to $2,000 by season two, and $4,000 by season four. [75] By the late 1990s, new cast members received a salary between $5,000 [72] and $5,500 per episode, increasing to $6,000 in the second year and up to $12,500 for a cast member in their fifth year. Performers could earn an additional $1,500 per episode for writing a sketch that made it to air. [74] In 2001, Ferrell became the highest-paid cast member, being paid $350,000 per season (approximately $17,500 per episode). [76] In 2014, Sasheer Zamata was added as a cast member in mid-season after criticism of the show's lack of an African-American woman. [77] [78] [79]

The Blues Brothers make their world premiere on Saturday Night Live - Apr 22, 1978 -

TSgt Joe C.

It was Marshall Checker, of the legendary Checker brothers, who first discovered them in the gritty blues clubs of Chicago’s South Side in 1969 and handed them their big break nine years later with an introduction to music-industry heavyweight and host of television’s Rock Concert, Don Kirshner. Actually, none of that is true, but it’s the story that Saturday Night Live‘s Paul Shaffer told on April 22, 1978 as he announced the worldwide television debut of that night’s musical guest, the Blues Brothers—the not-quite-real, not-quite-fake musical creation of SNL cast members Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.

The characters and the band that Belushi and Aykroyd unveiled that night took more than two years to evolve. The first incarnation came during SNL‘s first season, in a January 17, 1976, appearance singing “I’m a King Bee” as “Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band.” There were no dark suits, skinny ties or Ray-Bans at that point, but the appearance did feature Aykroyd on the harmonica and Belushi on vocals belting out a blues classic very much in the style of the future Elwood and “Joliet” Jake Blues, albeit while wearing bee costumes. The Blues Brothers’ look—and much of their repertoire—would come together after Belushi’s trip to Eugene, Oregon, during the hiatus between SNL seasons two and three to film Animal House. It was there that Belushi, a committed rock-and-roll fan, met a 25-year-old bluesman named Curtis Salgado, future harmonica player for Robert Cray, frontman for Roomful of Blues and a major figure on the burgeoning Pacific Northwest blues scene of the 1970s. Belushi became a regular visitor to the Eugene Hotel to catch Salgado’s act during the filming of Animal House, and it was from that act and from Salgado himself that he picked up a passion for the blues as well as the inspiration for the Blues Brothers’ sound and look .

Back in New York for the third season of SNL, Belushi and Aykroyd honed their concept for the Blues Brothers Band and recruited an incredible roster of backing instrumentalists drawn from among the finest blues and R&B session musicians in the country. Even if their debut performance on this night in 1978 hadn’t been a huge hit, the band was far too good to break up after a single gig. Indeed, the closing portion of Paul Shaffer’s introduction that night—”Today they are no longer an authentic blues act, but have managed to become a viable commercial product”—ended up being borne out in real life, with the Blues Brothers earning three top-40 hits (“Soul Man,” “Rubber Biscuit” and “Gimme Some Lovin'”), a #1 pop album (Briefcase Full of Blues) and a piece of screen immortality via their 1980 film, The Blues Brothers.

7. Dan Aykroyd and Carrie Fisher became engaged while filming The Blues Brothers.

Carrie Fisher in The Blues Brothers (1980). Universal Studios Home Video

Dan Aykroyd and Carrie Fisher were already a couple, set up by Belushi, who became engaged after Aykroyd successfully administered the Heimlich maneuver on her. "I almost choked on some kind of vegetable that I shouldn't have been eating: Brussels sprouts," Fisher told CNN. "He saved my life, and then he asked me to marry him. And I thought . wow, what if that happens again? I should probably marry him." (The wedding never happened.)

Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)

Proof that lightning rarely strikes twice. Everything about this project was ill-conceived, and yet, that didn't stop production of "Blues Brothers 2000."

John Belushi was long gone (he died in 1982), so for this 1998 sequel, the filmmakers replaced him with John Goodman. And because that's really no substitute, they also added Joe Morton ("Terminator 2"). And a kid. And the Chicago locations so crucial to the first film were replaced by Canadian locales trying to pass as the Windy City. And it was called ​"Blues Brothers 2000," despite the fact that it came out in 1998.

Though the returning Dan Aykroyd and director John Landis tried to recapture the magic with numerous musical guest stars and chaotic car crashes (the most in any movie in history), 2000 is a pale imitation of the original.

Watch the video: Blues Brothers: Soul Man - SNL (August 2022).