It’s fitting that few people are aware of the work that Saturday Night Live creator and producer Lorne Michaels put in before he broke-through with the legendary sketch show and the Not Ready for Primetime Players more than 40 years ago.
Michaels isn’t the first name or even the 10th name you think of when you think about Saturday Night Live. He’s a behind-the-scenes kind of guy who went from being a writer on Canadian radio to a joke writer for Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In before it became his responsibility to hand-pick the cast, keep the lights on, and keep the trains running on time for Saturday Night Live. It’s not the sexiest job, but it’s the most important one and it’s seemingly perfect for Michaels and the show, two entities that experienced a concurrent five-year down period that began when Michaels left the show prior to the 1980 season.
Before Michaels settled into his role as unseen ringleader, though, he did try his hand at being an on-camera talent with the CBC’s The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour, a show similar to Laugh-In that was hosted by Michaels and his comedy partner, Hart Pomerantz.
The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour is a minor footnote in Michaels’ career now, but he has credited it as being the place where he “learned how to do television” and it’s also the place where he realized that he was “more interested in the production” than in “the performing.” Despite that realization, though, Michaels briefly considered hosting Weekend Update while the show was in its planning stages. He’s also spent a fair amount of time in front of the camera on SNL, playing himself — or a heightened version of himself. As these clips show, he’s not half bad at either.
Lorne Michaels’ most famous on-camera appearance on SNL has to be his mock offer to pay The Beatles $3,000 to reunite on the show after a promoter had offered the legendary band $50 million to reunite. It was ballsy, irreverent, and a perfect bit for the show’s thumb-in-the-eye style. It also nearly worked a week later when John Lennon and Paul McCartney pondered showing up to claim half the money.
While that legendary moment never came to be, Michaels did stretch the bit out over the years, upping the offer to $3,500, discussing it with George Harrison, and telling McCartney years later that Harrison had the money.
The 1985-1986 Season