Skip to main content
Year
1975
Month Day
October 11

"Saturday Night Live" debuts

On October 11, 1975, Saturday Night Live (SNL), a topical comedy sketch show featuring Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman, makes its debut on NBC. The 90-minute program, which from its inception has been broadcast live from Studio 8H at Rockefeller Center, includes a different guest host and musical act each week. The opening sketch of each show ends with one actor saying, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

Created by the Canadian-born comedy writer Lorne Michaels, SNL has introduced a long list of memorable characters and catchphrases—from Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Roseannada, to the Coneheads, to Billy Crystal’s Fernando (“You look mahvelous”), to Dana Carvey’s Church Lady (“Isn’t that special?”), to bodybuilders Hans and Franz (“We’re going to pump you up”), to Coffee Talk host Linda Richman (“like buttah” and “I’m all verklempt”)—that have become part of pop-culture history. The show, whose cast has changed continually over the years, has also launched the careers of such performers as Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, David Spade, Jon Lovitz, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Amy Pohler and Kristen Wiig. Some SNL sketches have even been turned into feature films, the two most successful examples being 1980’s The Blues Brothers and 1992’s Wayne’s World.

The show was originally known as NBC’s Saturday Night because there was another show on ABC called Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. However, NBC eventually purchased the naming rights, and since 1977 the edgy comedy program has been called Saturday Night Live. Lorne Michaels served as the show’s producer from 1975 to 1980, followed by Jean Doumanian from 1980 to 1981. Dick Ebersol helmed the show from 1981 to 1985. Michaels returned to the program that year, and has remained executive producer ever since.

The influential comedian George Carlin hosted the debut episode of SNL. Later that year, Candace Bergen became the first woman to assume SNL hosting duties. She went on to host the program four more times. In 1982, seven-year-old Drew Barrymore hosted the show, becoming the youngest person ever to do so. 

SNL is known for its topical parodies and impersonations, and for pushing boundaries with its sketches. The show is also recognized for its political humor. Chevy Chase famously portrayed President Gerald Ford as a klutz, while Dana Carvey spoofed President George H.W. Bush and his “read my lips” line. Amy Poehler played Senator Hillary Clinton in numerous skits (including one with the senator herself); later Kate McKinnon played her as a presidential candidate. Tina Fey memorably portrayed the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Alec Baldwin played President Trump and several cast members have played President Biden

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

John Lennon’s “Imagine" is released

October 11, 1971 sees the release of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” one of the most influential songs of the 20 century. Lennon began writing the song while still a member of the Beatles, at a time when the band had achieved unprecedented popularity but struggled to cope with their new ...read more

Bruce Springsteen scores his first pop hit with “Born to Run”

By 1975, 26-year-old Bruce Springsteen had two heavily promoted major-label albums behind him, but nothing approaching a popular hit. Tapped by Columbia Records as the Next Big Thing back in 1973, he’d been marketed first as the “New Dylan” and then as America’s new “Street ...read more

Pope John XXIII opens Vatican II

Pope John XXIII convenes an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church—the first in 92 years. In summoning the ecumenical council—a general meeting of the bishops of the church—the pope hoped to bring spiritual rebirth to Catholicism and cultivate greater unity with the ...read more

Boer War begins in South Africa

The South African Boer War begins between the British Empire and the Boers of the Transvaal and Orange Free State. The Boers, also known as Afrikaners, were the descendants of the original Dutch settlers of southern Africa. Britain took possession of the Dutch Cape colony in 1806 ...read more

Apollo 7 launched

Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission, is launched with astronauts Walter M. Schirra, Jr.; Donn F. Eisele; and Walter Cunningham aboard. Under the command of Schirra, the crew of Apollo 7 conducted an 11-day orbit of Earth, during which the crew transmitted the first live ...read more

Jimmy Carter wins Nobel Peace Prize

On October 11, 2002, former President Jimmy Carter wins the Nobel Peace Prize “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” Carter, a peanut farmer ...read more

Viet Minh take control in the north

The Viet Minh formally take over Hanoi and control of North Vietnam. The Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh (Vietnam Independence League), or Viet Minh as it would become known to the world, was a Communist front organization founded by Ho Chi Minh in 1941 to organize resistance against ...read more

Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham marry

On October 11, 1975, William Jefferson Clinton marries Hillary Rodham in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Bill and Hillary met in 1972 while both were studying law at Yale University; both also worked on George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign. After marrying, they settled in ...read more

Meriwether Lewis dies along the Natchez Trace, Tennessee

On October 11, 1809, the famous explorer Meriwether Lewis dies under mysterious circumstances in the early hours of the morning after stopping for the night at Grinder’s Tavern along the Natchez Trace in Tennessee. Three years earlier, Lewis and his co-commander, William Clark, ...read more

Yellow fever breaks out in Philadelphia

The death toll from a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia hits 100 on October 11, 1793. By the time it ended, 5,000 people were dead. Yellow fever, or American plague as it was known at the time, is a viral disease that begins with fever and muscle pain. Next, victims often ...read more

Soviet-U.S. arms control talks break down over President Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative

Following up on their successful November 1985 summit meeting in Geneva, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meet in Reykjavik, Iceland, to continue discussions about curbing their intermediate missile arsenals in Europe. Just when it appeared that ...read more

Benedict Arnold fights valiantly at Valcour Island

On October 11, 1776, a British fleet under Sir Guy Carleton defeats 15 American gunboats under the command of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold at the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, in what is now Clinton County, New York. Although nearly all of Arnold’s ships were ...read more

Bulgaria enters World War I

On October 11, 1915, Prime Minister Vasil Radoslavov of Bulgaria issues a statement announcing his country’s entrance into the First World War on the side of the Central Powers. Secretly courted by both sides in World War I as a potential ally in the tumultuous Balkan region, ...read more