Secrets to ‘Saturday Night Live’s’ Unparalleled Success, As Told by Lorne Michaels in 1985

by Sarah Flanigan 4:26 PM PST, February 12, 2015
Playing Secrets to ‘Saturday Night Live’s’ Unparalleled Success, As Told by Lorne Michaels in 1985

These seven words comprise one of the most, if not THE most, memorable lines in television history. The moment you hear them, you know you’re in for a lot of laughs, happiness, and possibly a little bit of surprise for the next hour and a half of your life.

Saturday Night Live is a dynasty on American television and has continued to stay relevant throughout its 40 years on air.

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The visionary behind its legacy is creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels. He knows what works, what doesn’t, and he’s seen his vision through from the very start.

"I felt that if I could do the kind of show that I wanted to do in late night, that it would be a success," Michaels told ET back in 1989, 14 years after the show premiered on NBC. By that time, it had already launched the careers of Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Nora Dunn and Bill Murray, just to name a few.

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But, it turns out, Lorne was making similar predictions four years earlier in 1985, revealing secrets to the show’s success that still ring very true today. Here are a few he told ET three decades ago.

1. It’s not an easy job.

"The show is incredibly hard to do for a performer. It's a grind because things are being changed all the time."

2. The cast must always trust their instincts.

"The fact that you can't possibly fill that much time means that you take chances almost on an unconscious level and you can't actually remember why you did them and when you thought them through, you would never do. Ever."

3. You have to take risks.

"In what we do, you can do 60 or 70 parts in a season, maybe even more. and you can take lots of risks. for example, when Gilda did Roseanne Rosannadanna, originally she wore that wig in a sketch Michael O'Donoghue had written and she liked the wig, got an attitude in the wig, came in and thought she could do this character. for somebody to run into a wig, doesn’t happen normally. It happens when you're working under that amount of pressure and you're desperate for things to do."

4. A strong cast is key.

"You try and find what you hope are the best and the brightest people that you can get and then they come together on that 17th floor at Rockefeller center."

Check out the video above to see what other secrets to success he revealed!