Saturday Night Live was originally known as NBC’s Saturday Night to avoid any confusion with the ABC show Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. Having been developed to fill the gap left by the Johnny Carson’s request to stop showing The Best of Carson reruns of The Tonight Show at the weekend, the new show was intended to be a variety show featuring a mix of comedy sketches, political satire, and guest musical performances.
Dick Ebersol had been brought in by NBC president Herbert Schlosser to create the show, and he in turn approached Canadian television producer Lorne Michaels to oversee the show. Together they refined the show’s concept and recruited a number of young comedians to join the cast who would later become household names. Comedians such as Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and Chevy Chase had been recruited from The Second City improvisational theatre troupe and The National Lampoon Radio Hour. The original theme music was composed by Howard Shore, who has since become a renowned film composer and Academy Award winner.
The very first episode was hosted by stand-up comedian George Carlin and featured music from Janis Ian and Billy Preston. Comedy sketches featuring the cast, known as the ‘Not Ready for Prime Time Players’ were not a prominent feature, although the episode did begin with a cold open sketch which has become a tradition.
The show was renamed to Saturday Night Live in March 1977, having gradually developed the format and built a dedicated following. It has continued to be broadcast from Studio 8H at 30 Rockefeller Center ever since.