We’ve been enjoying Saturday Night Live’s 40th season celebrations so far. And today marks another important moment in the show’s long-running history: the series anniversary has arrived. NBC aired SNL’s very first episode on October 11, 1975. The late, great George Carlin was the host, with musical guests Billy Preston and Janis Ian. Chevy Chase was the first person to announce, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” Network execs only intended to air six episodes, but SNL’s provocative humor, pop culture prowess, and rotating players had audiences hooked. Through the best and worst of times, SNL was there with a snappy, smart-ass one-liner to see us through. Here are ten of the most memorable. Keep the list going, below.
Spoofing VH1’s Behind the Music, Christopher Walken played fictional record producer Bruce Dickinson (nope, not the guy from Iron Maiden) who was obsessed with the cowbell in Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” His passionate pleas for intense percussion, (“I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!”) escalate to an uproarious crescendo.
“Schwing!” and “We’re not worthy!”
Nerdy, adolescent catchphrases uttered by slacker metalhead brothers from another mother Wayne and Garth (Mike Myers and Dana Carvey), trapped in the lexicon of the late ’80s and early ’90s.
“I live in a van, down by the river!”
Chris Farley’s highly caffeinated motivational speaker, Matt Foley, showed off the actor’s greatest asset: his wild physical comedy style. Sweating, screaming, and squirming in his pants, Farley’s hilarious character invited us to laugh at his bad luck, which caused him to live in a van down by the river.
“I’m Chevy Chase… and you’re not.”
Before Chevy Chase became an insufferable a-hole (more so than before, anyway), now famous for his outbursts with Community show runner Dan Harmon, he was watching his star rise on SNL as the show’s original Weekend Update anchor and top physical comedian. “I’m Chevy Chase… and you’re not” became his opening Weekend Update catchphrase that captured his epic snark and first set the tone for the show’s parodic news coverage.
“Consume mass quantities!”
The Conehead family, the wacky aliens from “France” (Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman), offered this metaphor for our pop culture consumption, poking fun at our frequently grotesque appetites.
“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”
Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley embodied everything annoying about the relentless armchair psychiatrists rampant in self-help culture—though we could do without the awful effeminate shtick, today.
“Sometimes, when I get nervous, I put my fingers under my arms, and then smell them like this….”
Unpopular, socially hopeless, and in love with the smell of her own armpits, Molly Shannon’s Mary Katherine Gallagher evoked everyone’s awkward teen years. The success of Shannon’s character also heralded a friendlier climate for female writers and featured players on the show.
“Well isn’t that special?”
The conservative political reign of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush was the perfect era in SNL history to introduce Dana Carvey as the Church Lady (aka Enid Strict). It was a chance to spoof the public scandals of the day with appearances from celebrity guests (like the real Sean Penn during his dramatic, much publicized relationship with Madonna).
“You look marvelous!”
All the ’80s smarm and decadence in a single line. (See a better video over here, sadly not embeddable.)
The city of Chicago embraced the “Bill Swerski’s Superfans” sketches, which featured absurd banter amongst sports fans, ending in a toast exclaiming: “Da Bearss” or “Da Bullss.”