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'Saturday Night Live' anniversary special grows to 3 1/2 hours; lineup includes West, Wiig

In this Sept. 13, 2008 photo released by NBC, Tina Fey portrays Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, left, and Amy Poehler as Sen. Hillary Clinton during a skit on "Saturday Night Live," in New York. The long-running sketch comedy series will celebrate their 40th anniversary with a 3-hour special airing Sunday at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.
Image Credit: AP Photo/NBC, Dana Edelson
February 13, 2015 - 1:31 PM

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The "Saturday Night Live" 40th anniversary special apparently is bursting at the seams with talent.

NBC said Thursday it's expanding the special by a half hour, to a total of 3 1/2 hours.

Everyone who has been an "SNL" regular, guest host or musical guest has been invited. Attendees announced so far range from Dan Aykroyd, Alec Baldwin and Robert De Niro to Kanye West, Betty White and Kristen Wiig.

"SNL" debuted as "NBC's Saturday Night" on Oct. 11, 1975, with comedian George Carlin as host, and Billy Preston and Janis Ian as its musical guests. NBC is rebroadcasting that first episode Saturday at 11:30 p.m. EST.

The "SNL 40th Anniversary Special" airs Sunday from 8 to 11:30 p.m. on NBC.



Cassandra Szklarski

Credit: YouTube: It's a Date - Saturday Night Live
Dan Akroyd joins Steve Martin to revive their SNL characters of 'a couple of wild and crazy guys'.

TORONTO - Its famous tagline is: "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"

But given the number of Canadian comics that have graced Studio 8H at 30 Rockefeller Center, we could legitimately add "eh!" to the end of that motto.

"Saturday Night Live" celebrates its 40th anniversary with a star-packed special on Sunday, and it never would have survived to that point without Lorne Michaels, the Toronto-bred visionary who created the venerable sketch comedy institution in 1975 and shepherded it through most of the ensuing decades.

Here's a look at five of the most influential "SNL" Canadian cast members — and their best character creations:

1. Dan Aykroyd (1975-79) — One of the original Not Ready For Primetime Players, Aykroyd established his demented point of view through such wacky characters as the alien patriarch Beldar Conehead, Czech brother and self-described "wild and crazy guy" Yortuk Festrunk, and the "Bass-o-Matic" TV huckster. But his most enduring character may well be Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers, the spirited rhythm-and-blues siblings (led by John Belushi's frontman Jake Elwood) whose popularity transcended the show to see an album release and a hit Hollywood movie, not to mention live tours, a film sequel and various incarnations since Belushi's death.

Runners-up: Julia Child-inspired "The French Chef," Jimmy Carter, "Weekend Update" co-host to Jane Curtin.

2. Martin Short (1984-85) — Short arrived on "SNL" along with beloved alter-egos Ed Grimley, Irving Cohen and Jackie Rogers Jr., already formed from his "SCTV" days, injecting polished lunacy into the sketch series. But one of the most hilarious has to be Lawrence Orback, who along with brother Gerald (played by Harry Shearer) was a male synchronized swimmer hoping for a berth at the '88 Olympics. Never mind the fact that there is no such category and Lawrence can't swim.

Runners-up: Jerry Lewis, Katharine Hepburn.

3. Phil Hartman (1986-1994) — It's hard to choose just one from the several dozen characters and impressions the late Hartman unleashed during his acclaimed run. Equally adept at being the straight man as delivering zingers, the versatile funnyman established himself as one of the most consistently reliable players to earn a laugh. A quirky favourite: Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, whose winning legal arguments swayed jurors despite the fact he was "just a caveman" with a "primitive mind," who nevertheless drove a BMW and earned a nomination to the U.S. senate.

Runners-up: Bill Clinton, Frankenstein, Frank Sinatra.

4. Mike Myers (1989-1995) — Myers earns the distinction of having spawned what's considered the biggest Hollywood crossover from the "SNL" stage — "Wayne's World" and metalhead cable-access TV star Wayne Campbell. The long-haired hat-wearing slacker, along with sidekick and best friend Garth Algar (played by Dana Carvey) coined catchphrases (including "Party on!" and "Schwing!") while playing air guitar, discussing "babes" and worshipping Aerosmith.

Runners-up: turtleneck-clad German artist Dieter, Jewish New Yorker Linda Richman, Chicago Bears superfan Pat Arnold.

5. Norm Macdonald (1993-98) — Macdonald is arguably best known for his ignoble exit from "SNL," which followed a controversial stint in the "Weekend Update" chair where he took sardonic cracks at Michael Jackson, Frank Stallone and especially O.J. Simpson. He was one of those cast members viewers either loved or hated, and his willingness to tackle taboo topics only made each camp more rooted in their passion.

Runners-up: Burt Reynolds, Larry King, Bob Dole.



Nick Patch

Credit: YouTube
Neil Young- Rockin' In The Free World Live (SNL 1989)

From the very beginning, "Saturday Night Live" celebrated Canada's musical talent.

With Canucks Howard Shore and Paul Shaffer shepherding the show's crack house band from the start, the first season featured performances by Anne Murray and Gordon Lightfoot — although one of his three songs was interrupted by John Belushi's samurai character.

Michael Buble, Alanis Morissette, Sum 41 and Robbie Robertson also made more than one appearance.

With the venerable show celebrating its 40th anniversary with a star-studded special this Sunday, The Canadian Press looked back at five Canadian musicians who made a special impression on the Studio 8H stage.

Anne Murray

The "Snowbird" singer performed in the ninth-ever episode of "Saturday Night Live" back in 1976, providing a soft-pop counterpart to such edgier inaugural-season performers as Gil Scott-Heron and Patti Smith. She returned for another performance in April 1980. Years later, she was depicted in a sketch by Melanie Hutsell, during which "Murray" sang "O Canada" at a Toronto Blue Jays game while the Philadelphia Phillies bench gradually covered her in chewing tobacco. That sketch aired Oct. 23, 1993 — the very same day Joe Carter's walk-off home run gave the Jays their second consecutive World Series.

Neil Young

Young didn't appear for the first time on "SNL" until the Season 15 premiere in 1989, when — with torn jeans, a leather jacket and an impassioned sneer — he raged through a famously incendiary "Rockin' in the Free World" as well as two other songs. He's returned several times since, most recently in 2005 when he participated in a sketch as a drugged-out hillbilly — Slurpee in hand — who asks Amy Poehler to "score me some of those prescription pads."

Avril Lavigne

The style trend-setter managed three "Saturday Night Live" appearances in a little over four years, between 2003 and '07. She holds the distinction of both impersonating another celebrity in a sketch — as Elle Fanning in "The Dakota Fanning Show" — and being impersonated herself, with a slumping Amy Poehler loosely strapping on a red tie and interrupting Weekend Update to yell: "I'm a punk rocker! I'm wearing a boy tank top! Look at my mad face!"

Arcade Fire

The critically cherished Montreal band has been treated uncommonly well by Lorne Michaels' comedy institution. Singer Win Butler smashed his guitar in their first appearance in 2007, they appeared in a "Digital Short" during their 2010 appearance and in the 2013 season premiere they were the subject of a sketch in which host Tina Fey had to differentiate between the band's members and the show's just-hired new cast. They were then granted a rare post-"SNL" timeslot to play a long set featuring new music from their about-to-be-released "Reflektor." Oh, and in 2012, they backed Mick Jagger on "The Last Time." No big deal, right?


Along with Justin Bieber, the innovative Toronto rapper earned the rare honour of acting as both "SNL" musical guest and host. He impersonated both Jay Z and Lil Wayne during his hosting stint, but the highlight was an original song performed during a bar mitzvah sketch that underscored the Grammy winner's dual heritage: "Please don't forget I'm black, please don't forget I'm Jewish/ I play ball like LeBron and I know what a W-2 is."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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