It’s very hard to imagine Saturday Night Live without Lorne Michaels at this stage. Yes, of course there was a 5 year gap between 1980-1985 where he wasn’t around. But since then, his name has become synonymous with the show, which was not so much the case back in 1980. Everybody, even those who are not massive comedy fans, know who the executive producer of Saturday Night Live is. That’s a pretty rare thing for any show.
So the notion that there may be an SNL once again without him is definitely difficult to wrap your head around. But that being said, as much as he still holds onto this mysterious behind the scenes presence, he is currently 75. Plus, after 40 years (if you adjust for the 5 years he was gone), he has actually been doing the show for more years than he hasn’t. So it stands to reason that he may want to one day step down. We just didn’t want it to be so soon.
When he sat down with Willie Geist this week, he was asked about this. Geist asked him what his game plan was. And, for the first time that we can dig up, he actually mentioned a plan to eventually leave the show in 5 years, timed with the 50th anniversary in 2025. And while he did acknowledge that it could still change, we can definitely see where it’d all make sense to have that as a bookmark for him.
“Well my plan,” he told Geist, “And I’m not sure that I’ll see it through, but my plan is to be here for the 50th. The 40th was great. I like them 10 years apart. And we really did the 25th and waited 15 years for that one. But I don’t have those 15 years. So I think it’ll be the 50th, and then by that point, I really deserve to uh wander off.”
It does raise the question, can the show go on without him? Of course it can. And we imagine whoever does wind up taking it over will be someone with ties already to the show. The difference between now and 1980 will be that Lorne seems to have a much greater pull with the network that he’d be able to theoretically choose his successor himself. Back in 1980, he was pushing for Al Franken to take over for him, but after a sketch where Franken called then NBC President Fred Silverman a “lame-o”, Silverman went behind his back and picked the show’s talent booker Jean Doumanian to take over. Once she was fired after a disastrous 12 episodes, Dick Ebersol, who had helped Michaels create the show back in 1975, was brought in to save it. Then of course Michaels wound up coming back 1985.
We definitely will be curious to see if he follows through with this plan he has laid out. Because once he gets to the 50th, he may decide he’s not ready to leave yet for all we know. I guess we’ll have to wait and see in five years!