Forty years ago, a 27-year-old Canadian earned himself the right to program a Saturday night sketch comedy block on NBC, and American comedy would never be the same. Saturday Night Live premiered October 11, 1975, and went on to become the fount from which mainstream American comedy springs. Tonight, NBC will rebroadcast that first episode, hosted by George Carlin, in preparation for Sunday’s three and half hour anniversary special.
Lorne Michaels, that diminutive, former radio journalist from Toronto, was sure he had something special. But precious few thought he would even survive the show’s rocky first season. (“How are you going to get people to watch television on a Saturday night?”) SNL’s creator proved his doubters wrong, establishing a dynasty that would come to virtually define when and why Americans laugh.
Michaels plucked some of today’s comedic juggernauts — Bill Murray, Chris Rock, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler — from hardscrabble improv troupes…
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