SNL’s 40th Anniversary Special!!

00315538Saturday Night Live celebrates its 40th anniversary with a live, three-hour prime time special on NBC on Sunday, February 15, 2015. In honor of television’s longest running comedy turning the big 4-0, Saturday Night Live FAQ author Stephen Tropiano has provided a list (in chronological order) of 40 memorable moments from Seasons 1-40 (along with the show’s original airdate). You can watch many of these sketches, along with your personal favorites, at the Saturday Night Live archive at (



Saturday Night Live: 40 Memorable Moments

1) In one of the edgiest sketches in SNL history, Chevy Chase gives job applicant Richard Pryor a racially charged “Word Association Test.” (12/13/75)

2) Lorne Michaels offers The Beatles a check for $3,000 to reunite on the show. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were reportedly watching and considered heading down to 30 Rock to make a surprise appearance. (4/24/76)

3) In “The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise,” NBC cancels Star Trek but Captain Kirk/William Shatner (John Belushi) isn’t ready to give up command of The Enterprise (5/29/76).

4) Paul Simon regrets opening the show wearing a giant turkey costume and singing “Still Crazy After All These Years.” (11/20/76)

5) After making a major slip up in a public service announcement parody for “The Right to Extreme Stupidity League,” Candice Bergen tries to hold it together as co-star Gilda Radner improvises. (12/11/76)

6) “New kid” Bill Murray delivers an on-air apology for not being funny. “It’s not that I’m not funny,” he admits, “it’s that I’m not being funny at the right time.” (3/19/77)

7) Miskel Spillman, 80, winner of the SNL’s first and only “Anyone Can Host” contest, gets stoned (off-camera) by John Belushi before her opening monologue (12/17/77)

8) The Conehead Family–Beldar, his wife Prymaat, and daughter Connie–are contestants on Family Feud.


9) From Season 3, a pair of brilliant, self-referential “Schiller Reels” by filmmaker Tom Schiller: Don’t Look Back in Anger, in which an elderly John Belushi visits the graves of some of his former cast members (3/11/78); and La Dolce Gilda, a parody of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, featuring Gilda Radner as she struggles with her new found fame. (4/15/78).

10) Cooking guru Julia Child (Dan Aykroyd) cuts “the dickens” out of her finger, turning her show, The French Chef, into a bloody mess. (12/9/78)

11) Hands down the worst sketch in SNL history: “Commie Hunting Season,” in which a group of white rednecks go out to shoot Commies, Jews and African-Americans (complete with the N-word). No one–in the studio audience or at home–was laughing. No one. (11/22/80)

12) Charles Rocket drops the F-bomb. In a parody of “Who Shot J.R.?” Rocket is asked during the “goodnights” by host Charlene Tilton how it feels after being shot. He responds, “It’s the first time I’ve ever been shot in my life. I’d like to know who the fuck did it.” It didn’t matter. Rocket and most of the Season 6 cast would be gone after the next episode. (2/21/81)

13) The slam dancing fans of the punk rock group Fear create chaos in Studio 8H during their performance. In exchange for booking the band, John Belushi makes his final SNL appearance in the show’s cold opening. (10/31/81)

14) A rare appearance by legendary Beat writer William Burroughs, who reads excerpts from his novels, Naked Lunch and Nova Express. (11/7/81)

15) “Buckwheat is shot!” Buckwheat (Eddie Murphy) takes a bullet–or did he? (3/12/83).

16) William Shatner loses it during a Q & A session at a Star Trek convention and tells the show’s obsessive fans to get a life. (12/20/86)

17) The Church Lady (Dana Carvey) welcomes ex-PTL Club leaders Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker (Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks) to Church Chat. (“Isn’t that special?”) (3/28/87)

18) On the 14th season finale, an emotional Steve Martin pays tribute to original cast member Gilda Radner, who died that day of cancer at the age of 42. (5/20/89)

19) Wayne’s World hosts Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) welcome Aerosmith to their show. (“We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”) (2/17/90)

20) A shirtless Chris Farley is fearless competing against Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze to be a Chippendales dancer. (10/27/90)

21) Tom Hanks hosts SNL for the fifth time and is invited into the “Five-Timers Club” lounge where he meets other five-time hosts Paul Simon, Steve Martin, and Elliot Gould. SNL staff writer and future talk show host Conan O’Brien plays Sean the Doorman and former cast members Dan Aykroyd, Jon Lovitz, and Martin Short tend the bar and wait tables. (12/8/90)

22) David Spade is a snooty, dismissive receptionist at Dick Clark Productions who asks Roseanne (as herself), Dick Clark’s long lost biological mother (Julia Sweeney) and Jesus Christ (Phil Hartman) to take a seat. (2/22/92)

23) Barbra Streisand surprises guests Madonna and Roseanne with a cameo on Coffee Talk with Linda Richman (Mike Myers). Barbra’s nails? Like buttah! (2/22/92)

24) Irish singer Sinead O’Connor stuns the studio audience and sparks a major controversy when she ends her a cappella rendition of Bob Marley’s “War” by ripping up a picture of Pope John Paul II and declaring, “Fight the real enemy!” (O’Connor was protesting the Catholic Church in Dublin protecting pedophile priests). (10/3/92)

25) Phil Hartman as Frank Sinatra, who insults a long list of recording artists, including Liza Minnelli (host Rosie O’Donnell), Barbra Streisand (Mike Myers), and K.D. Lang (Rob Schneider), as they line up to record a duet for Ol’ Blue Eyes’s 1993 Duets album. (11/13/93)

26) In the first of many parodies of Celebrity Jeopardy!, host Alex Trebek (Will Ferrell) endures Sean Connery’s (Darrell Hammond) insults and Burt Reynold’s (Norm MacDonald) and Jerry Lewis’s (Martin Short) stupidity. (12/7/96)


27) The Delicious Dish hosts Margaret Joe McCullin (Ana Gasteyer) and Terry Rialto (Molly Shannon) welcome Pete Schwetty (Alec Baldwin) to their show and enjoy his “Schwetty Balls.” (12/12/98)

28) SNL’s 25th Anniversary Special: Cast members and hosts reunite to honor the show’s 25th anniversary, which includes moving tributes to late cast members John Belushi, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman, and Gilda Radner. (9/25/99)

29) “More Cowbell!” cries record producer Bruce Dickson at the 1976 recording session of Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” Will Ferrell is Gene Frenkel, the overly enthusiastic cowbell player. (4/8/2000)

30) Season 27 opens with a moving tribute to 9/11 First Responders (9/29/01) with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; members of New York City’s Fire, Police, and Port Authority Police Departments; and Paul Simon singing “The Boxer.” (9/29/01)

31) In her debut, Debbie Downer (Rachel Dratch) ruins a family trip to Walt Disney World while host Lindsay Lohan and SNL cast members struggle to control their laughter. (5/1/04)

32) When musical guest Ashlee Simpson starts to sing her second number (“Autobiography”), an audio track of her first number (“Pieces of Me”) starts to play, thereby revealing to all of America that some of the musical performances on SNL are not necessarily live. (10/23/04)

33) An early holiday present from Robert Smigel: A brilliant claymation music video, “Christmas Time for the Jews,” with vocals by the great Darlene Love. (12/17/05)

34) The second “SNL Digital Short” is a rap music video entitled “Lazy Sunday,” in which Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell sing about buying snacks and going to see Chronicles of Narnia. Produced with Samberg’s Lonely Island partners, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, the video went viral. (12/17/05)

35) The best “SNL Digital Short” was “D–k in a Box,” an R & B holiday duet sung by Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake, who give their girlfriends a very special package for Christmas. Samberg, Timberlake, and their collaborators, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma & Asa Taccone, and Katreese Barnes won an Emmy for Best Original Song. (12/16/06)

36) Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin (Tina Fey) and former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (Amy Poehler) deliver a bi-partisan message about sexism toward female candidates in the Presidential campaign. (Palin/Fey’s best line: “And I can see Russia from my house!”) (9/13/08)


37) Two weeks later, Palin (Fey) is interviewed by CBS Evening New’s Katie Couric (Poehler) in a sketch that plays more like a reenactment of the real interview (except for the part when Palin, like a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, wants to use one of her “lifelines” to help her answer a question). (9/27/08)

38) The Season 38th Christmas show opens with a The New York City Children’s Chorus singing “Silent Night” in memory of the twenty children and six adult staff members who lost their lives in the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut the previous day. (12/15/12)

39) Weekend Update cultural correspondent Stefon (Bill Hader), who is in love with anchor Seth Meyers, says goodbye. Meyers finally admits he has feelings for Stefon and in a hilarious video, runs to the church to stop Stefon from marrying CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. (5/18/13)

40) Kate McKinnon’s reprises her impersonation of Justin Bieber in a series of commercial parodies of his latest Calvin Klein commercials. Bieber was a good sport, tweeting, “Well played. LOL.” (1/17/15)




Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Posted on February 13, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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