Reel Corner - March 2015

A Tribute to "Saturday Night Live" and Its Influence on Movies


When “Saturday Night Live” aired for the first time on Oct. 11, 1975, no one knew it was the beginning of a comedy revolution. Never before had the ‘60s generation’s style of irreverent humor and unabashedly anti-authoritarian perspective found a weekly home on American television. Audiences discovered a hip and hilarious cast of “Not Ready for Prime-Time Players,” which included Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris, Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd. This new era comedy show was lead by Canadian Lorne Michaels, an unknown 30-year-old producer.

Although the show’s audience was small at first, a series of breakout performances and memorable characters helped it quickly become an award-winning television phenomenon.

Michaels’ formula of “live sketch” comedy, combined with scouting cutting edge comics and allowing them to develop a character or two was unheard of. Another unique addition to the show was topping off the night with musical guests. SNL introduced new musical talent almost more than any other medium. And, they too, had to perform live. From the biggest names to obscure newcomers, a variety of musical acts crowded the small stage week after week.

“Saturday Night Live” not only became a launching pad for new talent, but it also grew into a real force in politics, society and pop culture. Major politicians, including presidents, seeking to show they have a sense of humor, routinely make cameo appearances on the show, as do musical acts and celebrities looking to capitalize on SNL’s enduring legacy.

“Saturday Night Live” has had its up and downs and has been on the brink of cancellation more than once. Yet it has remained a quotable and quintessential mainstay in American life, arguably the most influential and beloved comedy series in American history.

Eleven movies have been made based on SNL characters, most based on one or two sketches. They are The Blues Brothers, Wayne’s World, Coneheads, Wayne’s World 2, It’s Pat The Movie, Stuart Saves His Family, Blues Brothers II, A Night at The Roxbury, SuperStar, Ladies Man and MacGruber. 

For 40 years, an illustrious group of comedy stars owe their big breaks to Michaels and what has become a late night comedy institution. This show spawned unknown comedians into A-list movie stars. The number of SNL comedians who went on to star in their own television shows and movies is astonishing. And, oh the movies!

Chevy Chase, alone, brought us Christmas Vacation, Caddy Shack, and Foul Play. John Belushi gave us Animal House and Dan Aykroyd brought us Trading Places, Driving Miss Daisy, Dragnet, My Fellow Americans and Ghostbusters, just to name a few. Eddie Murphy starred in Beverly Hills Cop, Nutty Professor and even earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in Dream Girls. Bill Murray is still going strong in his most recent St. Vincent and who could ever forget Groundhog Day or Scrooged?

Of course there is Adam Sandler, who went on to produce, write and act in numerous movies, providing us with some of the best slapstick comedy of modern times. Two other mega stars who launched major movie careers from SNL are Will Ferrell (Elf and Anchorman) and Mike Myers (Austin Powers and Shrek). 

Let us not forget women cast members Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph in Bridesmaids or Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in Mean Girls. The list is endless. 

These are just a few examples of the works and laughs that have resulted from this impressionable groundbreaking show. The actors/comedians who began at SNL have brought significant contribution to films over the last 40 years and I salute them.

Donne Paine, film enthusiast, once lived around the corner from the Orson Wells Theater in Cambridge, Mass., where her strong interest in films, especially independent ones, began. She was a 12-year member of the Hilton Head Second Sunday Film Society, and frequent visitor to the Sundance Film Festival. To support her habit of frequent movie going, Donne is an executive recruiter and staff development consultant. Are you interested in joining a film club? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.