Behind-the-Scenes Photos from 40 Years of SNL


If the three-hour-plus SNL 40th Anniversary Special wasn’t enough to sate your curiosity about all of the backstage shenanigans at Studio 8H, you’re not alone. Fortunately for SNL diehards everywhere, Alison Castle, an editor at art book publishers extraordinaire TASCHEN, was given an all-access pass to the show’s full archives and spent the better part of the 39th season on the set, gaining an inside perspective on how each episode goes from concept to “Lights, Camera, Action.”

The result is Saturday Night Live: The Book, an encyclopedia-history book hybrid that takes readers behind the scenes of the series’ production process (past and present) with an illustrated breakdown of the cast and crew’s six-day work week; an in-depth interview with creator Lorne Michaels; a season by season cheat sheet featuring every cast member, host, and musical guest; and more than 2300 intimate images—many of them never seen before, some of which you'll find below.

1. The Cleverest of All Sharks

Edie Baskin

After making its debut in the first season, the Land Shark became one of SNL’s first recurring characters, with John Belushi playing the role of Matt Hooper. Gilda Radner seems rather unfazed by it all in 1976. 

2. No Blues Here

Edie Baskin

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd do their best version of The Untouchables, as seen through the eyes of the crew in 1976. 

3. Durable and Delicious

Edie Baskin

In 1976, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, and Gilda Radner couldn’t decide whether Shimmer Non-Dairy Floor Wax was best used as a cleaning agent or a dessert topping. In this image, taken during dress rehearsal, the Shimmer bottle itself had yet to have its on-screen label affixed.

4. You sure do ask a lot of questions for a guy from New Jersey!

Edie Baskin

Gilda Radner, as Roseanne Roseannadanna, and Jane Curtin proved that SNL was just as much a Girl’s Club back in 1979. 

5. Eddie Murphy Does James Brown

Mark Mullen

James Brown was among Eddie Murphy’s most famous impersonations. In this shot, taken in 1983, he proclaims “Haaaiiii! Too hot in the hot tub! Burn myself!” as host of James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub Party.

6. I must say

Suzy M. Drasnin

Martin Short rehearses an Ed Grimley sketch in 1984, minus the signature high-waisted pants, orange plaid shirt, and sky-high cowlick.

7. Lorne and Steve

Suzy M. Drasnin

Lorne Michaels joins frequent host Steve Martin for a promo shoot in 1989. In 2011, Alec Baldwin became the show’s most prolific host, with 16 appearances. Steve Martin is just one appearance behind at 15.

8. He's like the Wind

Edie Baskin

Chris Farley became a breakout star in his very first SNL season in 1990 when he went toe to toe with guest host Patrick Swayze in a Chippendales audition. Ultimately, the part went to Swayze’s character, with Farley being told that: “Barney, we all agreed that your dancing was great. Your presentation was very sexy. I guess, in the end, we all thought that Adrian’s body was much, much better than yours.” 

9. In the Cards

Mary Ellen Matthews

Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler do some last-minute cue card review with Wally Feresten during the commercial break leading up to their Weekend Update in 2007. 

10. "Palin"-around

Dana Edelson

As Sarah Palin chats backstage with Alec Baldwin and Lorne Michaels in 2008, Tina Fey can be seen on the monitor doing her spot-on impression of the wannabe Vice President.

11. The SNL Storage Room

Mary Ellen Matthews

The makeup lab’s storage room (seen here in 2009) is a treasure trove of plaster casts and molds, including head casts of each current cast member as well as frequent hosts and special guests.

12. Strategery

Dana Edelson

Former castmember Will Ferrell reviews dialogue for his monologue with Wally Feresten while being made up as George W. Bush for his guest host cold open in 2012. (Writer Colin Jost can be seen in the background.)

13. Two Things Everyone Loves: Cats and Lasers

Dana Edelson

Steven Spielberg plays along as director of Laser Cats 7 with Bill Hader and Andy Samberg in Lorne Michaels’ office in 2012. 

14. Say Cheese!

Dana Edelson

Ever wonder how they get those really cool still shots of each week’s guest hosts? Louis C.K. shows how it’s done in 2014.

See Also...

32 Famous People Rejected by Saturday Night Live
9 Saturday Night Live Movies That Were Never Made