35 years ago tonight, on Friday, October 10, 1975, I attended the dress rehearsal for a new late night comedy show called “NBC’s Saturday Night;” a dress rehearsal that lasted 2 ½ hours.
The title of the new program was actually producer Lorne Michaels’ second choice. ABC had already used the title he wanted for its new variety show, “Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell,” which premiered several weeks earlier in prime-time. (I attended the premiere of that show as well.)
“Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell” was intended to be an “Ed Sullivan Show” for the next generation. Like Sullivan, Cosell had no discernable show-business talent; he simply introduced the acts. However I seem to remember being in the audience when Howard Cosell and Barbara Walters sang a duet one week. Was I dreaming? This show was also broadcast from “The Ed Sullivan Theater.”
One interesting note: The Cosell show had a small comedy troupe called “The Prime Time Players.” That’s why Michaels had the original cast of “NBC’s Saturday Night” introduced as “The Not Ready for Prime Time Players.”
One more tidbit… Two members of Cosell’s “Prime Time Players” would later join the NBC show: Bill Murray and his brother Brian Doyle Murray.
Remembrances: “Home Base” (where the host opens the show) was on the audience side of the studio that night. My friend Jerry and I sat next to “home base” looking up at guest host George Carlin during his monologue. After the show he gave me his autograph on the back of a newspaper coupon for McDonalds (see above). One of the most memorable acts that night was a comedian who was bumped from the next night’s live premiere: Billy Crystal.
It’s now in its 36th season… but the dress rehearsal for the first ever episode of “Saturday Night Live” (nee “NBC’s Saturday Night”) took place on this date in TV history.