Not Ready (For the Nursing Home) Players
Updated: Oct 2
Saturday Night Live's very first episode was way, way back in 1975. The first casts were loaded with comedy legends who were unknown to the masses at the time of their casting. The events of the first five years have been well chronicled in numerous books, including Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests. The very first comedians were known as the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. (Current ages listed below.)
Dan Aykroyd: 68
Chevy Chase: 76
George Coe: deceased
Jane Curtin: 73
Garrett Morris: 83
Laraine Newman: 68
Michael O'Donaghue: deceased
Gilda Radner: deceased
Bill Murray: 70
John Belushi: deceased
By 1980, each member had either quit, or was dismissed, from the late night comedy show. For the next 40 years, SNL has been a revolving door of young performers. But I noticed in the promotions for their 46th season, SNL is an old show filled with old people.
In a divided nation, 75 year old Lorne Michaels cast 58 year old Jim Carrey as Joe Biden opposite 62 year old Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump. How old was Chevy Chase when he played Gerald Ford? 32? Hosting the new season is 55 year old Chris Rock.
And even though I love Kenan Thompson, he's now in his 40s (!) and most of the cast is in their late 30s. The exceptions? Flaky Pete Davidson and Musical guest Megan Thee Stallion.
Now I'm not saying that the current cast is no good, or Alec Baldwin isn't funny, what I'm saying is that Saturday Night Live isn't the same show anymore. Not better, not worse, just different. Now it is a corporate comedy entity.
(Unless we're talking about the end of the 2019-2020 season. SNL at Home was bad.)
Which makes SNL just another comedy show. Not unlike Jimmy Fallon's show, or Seth Meyers' show, or Conan O'Brien's show, or Jimmy Kimmel's show, or James Corden's show. (Stephen Colbert is a Tool.) The edginess of Saturday Night, which started to get sanded off in 1980, has long since been smoothed over.
Saturday Night Live used to be where young comedians like Lilly Singh would end up. Instead Lilly Singh was given a talk show in the old Bob Costas time slot, but she made her money on YouTube. In general, when you think of young comics in the year 2020, do you think of NBC, or YouTube?