These days, Lorne Michaels is practically synonymous with NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” but he wasn’t always holding court over at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
The writer and producer got his start in Toronto, where he studied English at University College, University of Toronto and later landed his first show with writer-comedian Hart Pomerantz, “The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour.” The CBC show aired from 1970 to 1971 and featured future “SNL” player Dan Aykroyd and actor Victor Garber.
Michaels then took his talents to Los Angeles, writing for shows like “Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show,” “Laugh-In” and “Lily,” before NBC’s Dick Ebersol and Herb Schlosser tapped him to create “Saturday Night Live” in 1975.
He put together a cast including John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman and enlisted guest hosts like George Carlin, Steve Martin and Andy Kaufman for the show’s first season. “SNL’s” success opened even more doors for Michaels, who wrote “Three Amigos” with Steve Martin, started his own entertainment company, Broadway Video, and brought the Kids in the Hall troupe to television.
Michaels left “SNL” for five seasons between 1980 and 1985, when the network denied him a six-month hiatus to regroup with the cast. Michaels spent his time away to develop the short-lived “The New Show” on NBC and produced projects like “Simon and Garfunkel: The Concert in Central Park.”
His return to Saturday nights in 1986 was a bust and “SNL” was canceled, although the network retracted the termination and gave Michaels six more episodes to bring the show back to life.
Since then, the program has become a launching pad for talented young comedians like Adam Sandler, Molly Shannon and Will Forte. “SNL’s” cutting-edge comedy and talented cast made it a mainstay in late-night TV for more than 30 years and led to more than 100 Emmy nominations.
Loyal to his players, Michaels has brought some of the show’s most beloved characters to the big screen, producing films such as “Wayne’s World,” “Superstar” and “MacGruber.” He also produces Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” and “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”