35 years ago tonight, on Saturday, October 11, 1975, America watched the first episode of a new late night comedy show called “NBC’s Saturday Night.” It replaced reruns of Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” at 11:30pm on Saturday nights.
The title of the new program was not producer Lorne Michaels’ first choice. ABC had already used the title he wanted for its new variety show, “Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell,” which premiered in September (see ticket from later episode below).
One interesting note: Character actor George Coe, who appeared in the first several episodes to bring some maturity to certain roles, was listed onscreen that night as a member of “The Not Ready for Prime Time Players.” But SNL writer Alan Zweibel later told me that Coe was never a “Not Ready for Prime Time Player.” Was the onscreen credit another flub? Or did they decide they didn’t need Coe after all?
“Saturday Night Live” has launched the careers of many comedy stars, but the first breakout star from its cast was Chevy Chase, who left the show in November 1976 and became a movie star for a while.
It’s now in its 36th season… but the first ever episode of “Saturday Night Live” (nee “NBC’s Saturday Night”) premiered on this date in TV history.