Now I Know: On Tape From LA, It's Saturday Night!

I may have two Johnny Carson stories this week. Or maybe I'll save the other one for a week or two. Dunno. Also, I know that Burbank isn't technically in LA. -- Dan

On Tape From LA, It's Saturday Night!

On October 11, 1975, comedian George Carlin came down from the balcony in one of NBC's studios and made his way to the center of the stage. For the next three-plus minutes, he treated audiences in person and watching at home to a monologue about football and baseball. (You can watch it here.) And with that, a television franchise was born: Saturday Night Live, the iconic sketch comedy show, debuted. It's been on ever since, running for nearly 1,000 episodes over 48 seasons, earning 93 Primetime Emmys, and launching the careers of countless comedic actors.

And we probably have Johnny Carson to thank for it.

As you probably know, Carson was the host of  NBC's late-night talk show, The Tonight Show, from 1962 until 1992. "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," as the program was called during his run, made NBC a lot of money --- it was widely reported as among the most profitable shows in all of television in the early-to-mid 1970s, and likely led the list. NBC aired a new episode of the show every weeknight and then ran a "Best of Carson" re-run on one of the weekend evenings (local affiliates were allowed to choose which night), effectively filling up the programming calendar from 11:30 pm until 1 am the next day, six days a week.

Carson himself, though, wasn't a big fan of that weekend re-run. He wasn't against re-running an old episode -- hardly -- he just didn't like the idea that it was happening on the weekend. Producing something new every day, five days a week, is hard work in the media world (trust me), and Carson wanted to be able to take one day off during the normal Monday through Friday workweek. So, as Looper reported, "he told NBC he'd only make four new shows each week, moving 'The Best of Carson' to a weeknight." And Carson had all the leverage, so the network agreed.

"The Best of Carson," though, was a great fit for late-night weekend programming -- it cost almost nothing to make, and the time slot wasn't one that was drawing enough viewers to warrant a major investment in original programming. But the network still needed to fill the 90 minutes that Carson caused them to vacate, and per the AV Club, Carson's coup "reignited the daydream some at the network had of colonizing that patch of broadcast real estate with original programming" -- they just needed to do it on the cheap. Sketch comedy was inexpensive, and live TV -- which doesn't require rounds and rounds of editing -- was similarly less expensive than highly-produced shows. So, as Salon explained, "NBC president Herbert Schlosser and vice president of late-night programming Dick Ebersol tapped Lorne Michaels, a veteran of Rowan and Martin’s 'Laugh-In,' to create something edgy and new."

The end result: Saturday Night Live. The show gained a cult following after its very first episode and quickly became a mainstream hit as well. Carson, however, was not a fan: per Looper, he found SNL to be "crude and sophomoric." He never appeared on the show (but was parodied on it) -- but at least he got to take more vacation time.

Now I Know is supported by readers like you. Please consider becoming a patron by supporting the project on Patreon. 

Click here to pledge your support. (If you do, in gratitude, you'll have an ad-free Now I Know experience going forward.)

Bonus fact: When "Saturday Night Live" debuted in 1975, it wasn't actually called that. ABC had a show called "Saturday Night Live with Howard Cossel," but it was widely considered a disaster. (It was a variety show hosted by a sports broadcaster and that apparently wasn't a very good formula for success.) Cossel's program was canceled after only 18 episodes; NBC purchased the rights to the show's name in 1976 and started using it midway through SNL's second season.

From the ArchivesTelevision Dreams: If you watched TV before Carson was on it (roughly), you probably dreamed differently. (To be clear, though, this really has nothing to do with Johnny Carson.)
Like today's Now I Know? Share it with a friend -- just forward this email along.
And if someone forwarded this to you, consider signing up! Just click here.
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward
Archives · Privacy Policy

Copyright © 2023 Now I Know LLC, All rights reserved.
You opted in, at via a contest, giveaway, or the like -- or you wouldn't get this email.

Now I Know is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Some images above via Wikipedia.

Now I Know's mailing address is:
Now I Know LLC
P.O. Box 536
Mt. Kisco, NY 10549-9998

Add us to your address book

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your email address or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp

Older messages

Now I Know: How 1930s Syria "Solved" Its Drought Problem

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

What goes down prevents other things from going down if it also goes back up? View this email in your browser · Missed one? Visit the Archives I'm back from vacation... but it didn't do me much

Now I Know: The Different Coin

Monday, September 4, 2023

Part two of the puzzle (and don't worry if you missed part one). View this email in your browser · Missed one? Visit the Archives It's Labor Day here in the States, and I'm taking the day

Now I Know: The Two Coins

Friday, September 1, 2023

A puzzle, but it's short... maybe! View this email in your browser · Missed one? Visit the Archives Happy Friday! Today is a re-run, but it's still something different for a Friday... you'

Now I Know: A More Equitable Form of Speeding Tickets?

Thursday, August 31, 2023

A $100000 fine is a lot, though, no matter how you cut it. View this email in your browser · Missed one? Visit the Archives Hi! I'm still on vacation and here's another re-run, (from 2012) but

Now I Know: Leave it to Beaver

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

A dam shame. View this email in your browser · Missed one? Visit the Archives Hi! This is a re-run from January 2016 (it's my vacation week!). Definitely read the "From the Archives" for

Friday Finds (Experts, Text, Sloganeers, Sivers, Andreessen)

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Read in your browser here. Hi friends, Greetings from Silicon Valley! I'm out here for a How I Write interview with Marc Andreessen, the man who single-handedly ruined college for me, when I

Email Marketing Promo for Authors w/our Saturday Newsletter to Readers

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Get emailed to our mailing list. ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ enable images to see this Welcome to Saturdays Newsletter Book

❓ Buying a FedEx Route Business: Your next boring business idea is at your doorstep… literally

Friday, September 22, 2023

Welcome to another edition of a Cashflow playbook! ​ ​ Buying a FedEx Route Business: Your next boring business idea is at your doorstep… literally Intro: Benefit from the e-commerce boom with FedEx

🎙️ Find That Pod #229

Friday, September 22, 2023

Check out these 5 great podcasts...and bring some awesomeness to your ears. Let's take a look at this week's recommendations. ADVERTISEMENT News Without Motives. 1440 is the daily newsletter


Friday, September 22, 2023

Elon Musk's 4 rules for building rockets ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

You Too? I Thought I Was The Only One

Friday, September 22, 2023

The Internet helped me find my people. It can help you find yours, too. And I want to show you how. Are you satisfied with your environment? Or have you outgrown it? Write of Passage logo transparent-1

Now I Know: Taking Time to Reflect in a Busy World

Friday, September 22, 2023

G'mar chatima tova View this email in your browser · Missed an issue? Click here! If you're new to Now I Know, you'll notice that today's format is different than the rest of the week.

Influence Weekly #303 - Inside the Company Minting the Next Generation of Youtube Stars

Friday, September 22, 2023

Paramount to help brands create influencer content around Super Bowl, sporting events Influence Weekly #303 September 22nd, 2023 Executive Summary Inside the Company Minting the Next Generation of

🎤 S.W.I.P.E.S. Email (Friday September 22nd, 2023)

Friday, September 22, 2023

The SWIPES Email Swipe📁 • Wisdom🧠 • Interesting🧐 • Picture🖼 • Essay📄 • Sketch✍🏼 ​Join Copywriting Course | 1-on-1 Work | Submit Copy For Review​ twitter ​ youtube ​ instagram ​ linkedin ​ tiktok ​

Do This Now for a Bigger Sale Later

Friday, September 22, 2023

Prepping your brand for a sale is a good idea, even if you never sell it. ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌