American Comedy – Saturday Night Live (SNL)
First premiered in 1975, the internationally famous Saturday Night Live (SNL) is one of the longest-running comedy program on American television. Over the decades, it has firmly established itself as an important part of the American culture that it reflects.
The format of Saturday Night Live (SNL)
SNL is a sketch comedy. This means that the weekly show comprises a series of short scenes (called “sketches”) each lasting just a few minutes. These sketches often parody contemporary culture, politics, and events.

As its name suggests, most segments of the 90-minute show is produced in front of a live audience and broadcast live on NBC every Saturday. The program is filmed in NBC’s New York studios in the famous Comcast Building (the centerpiece of the Rockefeller Center).

Every week, the audience watches the culmination of a week’s worth of writing. They watch a group of actors and comedians coming together to perform in a challenging live format. And they enjoy the satirising of politics and the symbolic use of popular culture.
The interaction with a live audience was considered so important to the energy of the show that the audience was paid a fee during the Covid pandemic in 2020. This was to circumvent Covid regulations so that they could attend as “paid contractors”.

The show is a great way to have a laugh, learn about American culture, and improve your English — all at the same time!
SNL sketch parodying smart speakers for the “silver generation” (senior citizens)
“Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”
At the end of the first opening sketch, the famous catchphrase “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” is announced to begin the show proper.

This is typically delivered straight into the camera by the cast who would break character and shout it. Other times, the catchphrase is delivered by the host of the show or the musical guest (who plays a few sets during the show).
The famous catchphrase delivered by Gilda Radner, one of the seven original cast members of SNL.
Famous guests
Every episode features a different guest host. SNL is so important that many famous politicians and celebrities have become agreed to be guest hosts, musical guests, or to make cameo appearances. This is sometimes out of vanity, but other times for more practical reasons of gaining publicity and demonstrating their sense of humor.

Famous guests that have appeared on SNL include
  • Politicians
  • Barack Obama (2007) before he was President
  • Donald Trump (2004; 2015) before he was President
  • Hillary Clinton (2008; 2015)
  • Musicians and bands
  • 50 Cent (2003; 2005)
  • ABBA (1975)
  • Christina Aguilera (2000, 2003, 2004, 2006)
  • Actors, TV hosts and Comedians
  • Tom Hanks (1985, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2020)
  • Cameron Diaz (1998, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014)
  • Oprah Winfrey (1986)
  • Robin Williams (1981, 1984, 1986, 1988, 2010)
  • Artists
  • Yoko Ono (1981)
  • Andy Warhol (1981)
  • Sportspeople
  • Lance Armstrong (2005)
For a show with such a long history and diverse cast, SNL is not without its controversies.

Over the years, many guests have been banned for smoking marijuana on camera (Cypress Hill), making lewd comments (Martin Lawrence), or trying to make a political protest (Rage Against The Machine). However in 1991, actor Steven Seagal was banned for being the most unfunny guest host ever. He was considered so bad that SNL removed the episode from their website and even Netflix.
In 2018, Kanye West (a musical guest on the show and a pro-Trump supporter) went into unscripted rant against alleged left-wing media bias against President Donald Trump. This happened right after his final performance and led to the audience booing him. West was subsequently accused for being unprofessional, while he accused the staff for discriminating against him for his political views.
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