The Year of Saturday Night Live: An Anniversary, A Documentary, An App, Oh My

By  · Published on February 13th, 2015


NBC’s venerable sketch comedy series, Saturday Night Live, turns forty this year, and not only is the network going all out with a massive, super-sized, star-studded special edition (oddly enough, one that airs on a Sunday), but the show is also on the receiving end of two very different tributes: a new app (for the kids) and a fresh documentary (for the movie lovers). It’s a delicious comedy-centric meal for everyone. Open wide!

Saturday Night Live first hit the small screen on October 11, 1975, styled as NBC’s Saturday Night. Although its name eventually (and mercifully) changed, the show’s format has remained remarkably the same: a sketch comedy series with a celebrity guest that airs ‐ live ‐ on Saturday nights. The show has, of course, encountered its share of ups and downs (remember when creator and producer Lorne Michaels left? remember that year they fired everybody? what times!), but in its fortieth year, it continually strives to stay relevant and fresh. Forty might seem like a weird anniversary to celebrate ‐ fifty certainly has a better ring to it ‐ but after 779 episodes, the year of SNL is here, and it really wants to please SNL fans of every stripe.

The Special

The meatiest of this year’s anniversary offerings, NBC has worked ‐ apparently pretty tirelessly and for quite awhile, judging by the murderer’s row of talent they have assembled ‐ to put together a most excellent anniversary special. Announced nearly a year ago, this weekend’s very special, uh, special will clock in at three and a half hours and is set to feature a lineup of stars and guests that’s almost unfathomable. The show is already so big that it’s had to expand from the previously planned three hours to include yet another thirty minutes. This is an opus! Will everyone have two minutes of screen time? How does everyone fit in that (relatively small) studio? Are there some people who don’t even realize they’re appearing on the show? Am I appearing on the show?

As of this writing, the show’s guests include (brace yourself):

Fred Armisen
Dan Aykroyd
Alec Baldwin
Jim Carrey
Dana Carvey
Chevy Chase
Dane Cook
Bradley Cooper
Billy Crystal
Jane Curtin
Miley Cyrus
Robert De Niro
Jimmy Fallon
Will Ferrell
Tina Fey
James Franco
Will Forte
Zach Galifianakis
Ana Gasteyer
Bill Hader
Jon Hamm
Tom Hanks
Derek Jeter
Norm Macdonald
Peyton Manning
Steve Martin
Melissa McCarthy
Paul McCartney
Tim Meadows
Seth Meyers
Garrett Morris
Eddie Murphy
Bill Murray
Mike Myers
Kevin Nealon
Laraine Newman
Jack Nicholson
Edward Norton
Joe Piscopo
Amy Poehler
Colin Quinn
Chris Rock
Paul Rudd
Maya Rudolph
Andy Samberg
Adam Sandler
Jerry Seinfeld
Molly Shannon
Martin Short
Paul Simon
David Spade
Emma Stone
Jason Sudeikis
Taylor Swift
Justin Timberlake
Christopher Walken
Kerry Washington
Kanye West
Betty White
Kristen Wiig

We wrote it out as a list to help convey the full thrust of the talent involved. Thrusty, right? Will more people show up? Probably. Will it be almost too crammed with talent? Also probably. Will you maybe fall asleep and then wake up after a restful nap, with the show still going on? Definitely. Now that’s a show!

The App

Are your emojis lacking that special panache of a good SNL sketch? Do you often find yourself searching for a dick in a box emoji? Do you frequently feel the need to watch old SNL episodes while commuting but don’t have the space on your technological device to store them? Enter the SNL App, which is exactly what it sounds like: an app made of enough SNL content that we’re fairly confident you won’t be able to consume all of it during this anniversary year.

The new (free) app includes over 300 ours of video from all seasons and all episodes (although all the content is available, new users can take a quick quiz to let the app know what SNL stuff they are partial to, allowing the app to serve up tailor-made content; even with just two questions, the app already seems to know exactly what I like best), never-before-seen content, a super-fast search, a swipe-happy interface, and sixty new emojis.

And, no, really ‐ there is a dick in the box emoji. It is adorable and extremely festive.

The Documentary

If, after three and a half hours of new SNL programming and a mess of minutes spent noodling around on the app, you still feel the need to consume still more SNL information ‐ perhaps something focused on the past? ‐ then the Tribeca Film Festival has you covered. The New York City film festival, which takes place every April, has announced their opening night film, and oh look, it’s a Saturday Night Live-centric documentary!

Bao Nguyen’s Live From New York! while open the festival on Wednesday, April 15, and promises to “[explore] the show’s early years, an experiment that began with a young Lorne Michaels and his cast of unknowns, and follows its evolution into a comedy institution. Archival footage is interwoven with stolen moments and exclusive commentary from SNL legends, journalists, hosts, crew and others influenced by the comedy giant. Live From New York! captures what has enabled SNL to continually refresh itself over nearly 800 episodes and keep America laughing for 40 years.”

Of the new documentary ‐ and, most likely, everything else listed here ‐ Michaels commented, ‘After 40 years, the timing just felt right.” Oh, Lorne.

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SNL 40 will hit the small screen this Sunday, February 15, from 8PM to 11:30PM.