Coming to multiplexes near you, it’s Saturday Night! A movie based on the chaotic opening night of Saturday Night Live is now in active development at Sony Pictures. Deadline is reporting that Jason Reitman is directing an original screenplay based on the real-life accounts of the opening night of SNL in 1975.
Reitman will be re-teaming with Gil Kenan, his co-writer on the highly successful Ghostbusters: Afterlife from 2021. The duo have conducted extensive interviews with all the living cast and crew members, as well as those behind the show’s development, to produce the screenplay. Kenan will take over directing duties from Reitman on the sequel to Afterlife which is due to release this December. Reitman is a four-time Academy Award nominee, twice as director for Up in the Air and Juno, while Kenan received an Academy Award nomination for his work on Monster House.
SNL is approaching its 50th anniversary. A late-night sketch comedy show, which comments irreverently on topical and political issues, it’s become a cultural landmark of American comedy and has been the launching platform for a countless number of film and television stars over the decades, while A-list stars battle for the opportunity to host the show and perform the opening monologue.
What was the Opening Night of SNL Like?
SNL was born as a result of Johnny Carson asking for weekend broadcasts of The Tonight Show (which were ‘best of’ clip shows) to be cancelled so that he could take two weeknights off. As a result, with a 90-minute slot to be filled on Saturdays, NBC needed a variety show to replace it. Dick Ebersol was brought in to brainstorm, and hired Lorne Michaels to run the show.
The week leading up to the show bordered on disastrous, with a number of sketches requiring cutting due to ‘issues of taste and decency’ on one hand, and the risk of things going wrong on live television. The opening season would also feature short films by Albert Brooks, which would eventually be culled due to financial and creative reasons. The very first sketch to air was called ‘The Wolverines’, and it starred John Belushi. It featured an immigrant character learning English, and his tutor making him say nonsensical phrases. Following the cold open, Chevy Chase appeared with a headset becoming the first person to utter the phrase “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”
George Carlin hosted the show, performing three monologues on the evening, and was unable to take part in any sketches due to being “completely stoned”, according to the book Live from New York, and Paul Simon briefly appeared to promote his hosting stint the weekend after. Billy Preston and Janis Ian were the musical guests. The episode also featured Andy Kaufman as a guest star, while Belushi, Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris and Michael O’Donoghue debuted as the core cast members for the first season.