People Celebrates SNL's 45 years in New Special Edition
“We don’t go on because we’re ready,” producer Lorne Michaels once said of Saturday Night Live. “We go on because it’s 11:30.” But in fact, since its Oct. 11, 1975 debut, the late-night comedy show and its Not Ready for Prime Time Players have indeed been read to make fast, funny sense of the week that just was. And always, to entertain.
Now, 45 years after the show first announced, "Live from New York—it's Saturday Night!" PEOPLE is celebrating the sketches, characters, guest hosts, live music, and laughs in a new special edition all about Saturday Night Live: Inside Every Decade. The issue remembers favorites from the Coneheads, Wayne's World, and the Spartan Cheerleaders, to new classics like Kristen Wiig's tiny-handed singer Dooneese and Kenan Thompson's "Black Jeopardy" host Darnell Hayes.
Never before has SNL's humor been more necessary than in 2020, as the country faced a pandemic. The cast and creators responded by moving into remote production, giving us Tom Hanks hosting from home and Brad Pitt playing public health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. With social distancing measures still in place, SNL is returning to its New York studio 8H for a new season starting October 3, with SNL alum Chris Rock hosting and Megan Thee Stallion as musical guest—just in time for the final weeks of the presidential election year. And all 45 seasons will be available to watch on the Peacock streaming service on October 1.
SNL’s mix of topicality and satire was there from the beginning. Chevy Chase’s fall-prone impression of President Gerald Ford paved the way for Dan Aykroyd’s parody of humble Jimmy Carter, and Dana Carvey’s puckish George H.W. Bush ("Not gonna do it! Wouldn't be prudent!") and, more recently, guest Alec Baldwin’s run as a bombastic Donald Trump. And those are just the Presidents. Who can forget Kate McKinnon’s frustrated Hillary Clinton or Tina Fey’s incomparable, lookalike take on Alaska governor Sarah Palin? Next up: Jim Carrey will bring his take on Joe Biden, while Maya Rudolph continues her role as Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris.
"Weekend Update" has also been a constant. Hosted over the years by Jane Curtin, Dennis Miller, Kevin Nealon, Jimmy Fallon, Cecily Strong and Seth Meyers, among others, it’s where Bill Hader debuted his city correspondent Stefon, who recommended, through Hader's not always successfully stifled laughs, New York's hottest clubs that had "everything," which in one instance meant: "asbestos, lupus, the magazines at Supercuts, Dan Cortese, and a doorman who always high-fives children of divorce." And where Tina Fey popped up with comforting quarantine advice: “If you’re baking cookies and you don’t have any flour, you can just go to bed.”
For the past six years Colin Jost and Michael Che, SNL’s co-head writers, have shared the anchors desk, “So let me get this straight,” Che recently wondered aloud. “I gotta try to survive this summer, the coronavirus, the police, basic cardio and now big-ass murder hornets. Why do I feel like I’m living in the Old Testament?”
PEOPLE's new special edition, Saturday Night Live: Inside Every Decade, is available now wherever magazines are sold.