Pitch: Since 1975, Saturday Night Live has been a weekly comedy institution and television show considered by many to be one of the most important of all time. I don’t need to name some of the illustrious alumni, most of them being among America’s top comedy talents of the last three decades; needless to say, SNL is the launching point for many of the world’s funniest people.
However, it hasn’t always been all laughs.
In 2002, Live from New York: An uncensored history of Saturday Night Live was published, providing the first real in-depth examination of the history of the show, as told by performers, writers, guests and people who lived through it. While most people know that the 30-plus year run of the show has had its up and downs, few realize how amazing it is that SNL is still on the air.
Sex, drugs, deceit… The early years of SNL read more like a Shakespearean tragedy then they do the origin of one of the country’s most beloved comedies. Ego, youth, drugs (there were a lot of drugs), and inexperience were the order of the day; the unlikely story of how SNL came together may surprise a lot of fans.
Live from New York would be a feature film telling the tale of that first season and it’s first cast; the genius and purported “villainy” of its creator, Lorne Michaels, and how a group of talented artists created something the likes of which the world had never seen, culminating in the now infamous first episode of Saturday Night Live.
It’s the birth of SNL, as told by the people who were there.
Lorne Michaels (Fran Kranz)
The man who started it all. Quiet, reserved and brilliant, Lorne Michaels is the mastermind of one of the biggest comedy revolutions of all time; and from first-hand accounts, when he’s not busy being Lorne Michaels, he’s actually a pretty funny guy. Another pretty funny guy (who’s also got great dramatic “chops”) is Fran Kranz (Cabin in the Woods, Much Ado about Nothing, Dollhouse), who I think can balance the quiet “storm” that is Lorne, with the fact that at the end of the day, the man was and is a giant comedy nerd.
Dan Aykroyd (Pete Holmes)
The big teddy bear. Very Canadian, very loud, and very funny, Dan Aykroyd is the heart of the original line-up. Pete Holmes has made a name for himself in the last few years, as being an incredibly funny stand-up and, a nice guy. Aykroyd may have not been the star of the show, but he very capably provided the comedic consistency those early years needed most; and Pete, while never trying to “up-stage”, knows a thing-or-two about comedic consistency. Also… they’re both pretty “smiley.”
John Belushi (Bobby Moynihan)
It may seem fairly “predictable” to cast an SNL alumni in this film, but there may be no better choice for fan-favorite Belushi than current SNL cast-member (and fan favorite), Bobby Moynihan. First off, he obviously shares a physical appearance with the man. If you’ve seen his comedy work, you also know he has the same intensity and stage presence that Belushi did. The fact that he has been on the show since 2008 would definitely color his performance, knowing the ins and outs of 30 Rock better than almost anyone. Lastly; dude is really, really, funny.
Chevy Chase (Anders Holm)
Chevy Chase; undeniably the break-out star of the first cast, and undeniably, one of the film’s “bad guys”. Chevy seemed done with SNL the day he arrived, not in performance (because we all know he sort of stole the show), but in attitude. Chevy was cocky, to say the least. If you’ve ever seen Workaholic, you know Anders can do cocky. This young comedy star has a lot of similar traits to Chase in his character on Workaholics; arrogance, mean-spiritedness… hilarity. These are two guys (or at least “characters”) that you can’t help but love to hate.
Jane Curtin (Riki Lindhome)
Often referred to as “Queen of the Deadpan”, Jane Curtin was a vital cast-member of the early season of SNL (and went on to do great things in both film and television). Riki Lindhome of Garfunkel and Oates fame knows a thing or two about deadpan and hilarious subtlety. Jane Curtin was not a broad performer by any means, and Riki’s quietly intense brand of humor should fit perfectly with the woman who would be Mrs. Conehead.
Garrett Morris (Donald Glover)
Not only was Garret Morris’ casting on SNL a smart move (the man is hilarious), but it broke important ground in terms of television race-relations. Donald Glover is no stranger to breaking ground; as both an actor/comedian and as a rapper (Childish Gambino), Glover has quickly cemented himself a place in today’s comedy landscape. A truly talented comedian played by a truly talented comedian; and they both love striped shirts!
Laraine Newman (Wendy McColm)
Though Laraine was a cast member for the first five years, her experiences on SNL weren’t always the happiest; but through it all, she remained a fantastic performer, as well as a friend to many of her fellow cast-members. Wendy McColm is very rapidly making her way into the ranks of very well-known comedians, with her appearances on countless web-series and nationally-broadcast commercials. Young, funny (and the fact that she’s a redhead certainly doesn’t hurt), and a role-model to other female comedians, McColm would bring gravitas and comedy “licks” to a role that truly deserves it.
Gilda Radner (Kristen Schall)
Oh, Gilda. Taken way before her time, Gilda Radner was one of the funniest people on the planet, regardless of sex. Zany, different and willing to do just about anything for a laugh, it’s tough to find a replacement for someone so unique. Luckily, Kristen Schall is pretty damn unique herself. From her delivery to her choices in projects, Schall has proven that she is an important comedian to watch… and a dangerous one. Few people could bring the pure manic energy to the screen, that Gilda brought to the stage; and Schall would do a fantastic job of it.
We cut from that first curtain call in 1975 to six months later… and the cast is flipping out; Chevy Chase has just left the show. A replacement is being brought in and the cast is up-at-arms about it.
I’ve got a good feeling about this guy. He’s something… special.
Which is met from derision by the cast.
Then, we hear a knocking on the writers room door. In walks… Bill “Ghostbustin’ Ass” Murray.
Things are about to get interesting.