Created on: January 20, 2013 Last Updated: January 21, 2013
Since 1975, “Saturday Night Life” (SNL) has been one of the most influential television shows in popular culture, not to mention comedy. It has taken on many of the most controversial issues of the day, and skewered those in government with its witty repartee and hilarious spoofs of current events. It has launched the careers of countless comedic actors and actresses, as well as exposed its audience to breakout (and, often, blockbuster) musical performances.
Most of all, it maintains the earliest television tradition of the live performance. Each week, some of the funniest people in show business come together to make the country laugh at itself and its way of life. Whether it’s ridiculous products, social behavior or political posturing, the show is able to find a humorous take on less-than-sterling American behavior or stereotypes.
Recognition of its greatness
“Saturday Night Live” has been recognized for its greatness in many ways. In 2000, it was inducted into the National Broadcasting Hall of Fame. It has been the winner of 36 Emmys and been nominated for more than 150 (the highest number in Emmy history).
It continues to draw a massive audience each week with some of the highest ratings ever achieved for late-night programming. Called “a national institution,” it won a Peabody Award in 2009 for its political satire.
Testing ground for comedic talent
"SNL" functions best as a testing ground for some of the most promising comedic minds of each generation since it has been airing. Early breakout stars included Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner. Throughout the years, the show continued to draw in comedians who went on to successful careers outside of "SNL," including Eddie Murphy, Dennis Miller, Martin Short, Mike Meyers, David Spade, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Jimmy Fallon, Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Kristin Wiig, as well as many more not named.
In short, in the last half of the 20th century and continuing on to the 21st, just about any and every successful comedic talent has appeared on the show at some point, whether as a repertory or featured player or simply as a guest host. Many alums continue to return to the show over the years or team up to do performances together in other venues.
Its sketches and characters
Not only is "SNL" a proving ground for future performances, much of the material that has appeared in sketch form on the show has been crafted into movie material later, from the “Blues Brothers” to “Wayne’s World” to “MacGruber,” and beyond. The hit comedy “Office Space" was based on an animated short film that appeared on “Saturday Night Live” in 1993, for example.
More than what has come after, however, "SNL" is valued for what the show has to say about the present day. From elections to NPR, from pandering commercials to terrorist videos, "SNL’s" unapologetic fearlessness in taking on popular culture and the things the nation is thinking about has allowed for a more all-encompassing, timely take on comedy in general. "SNL" is fresh, undaunted, and often controversial; it’s little surprise that it is also one of the longest-running and most popular shows on television.
Learn more about this author, Christine Zibas.
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