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Live From New York, It's Lorne Michaels


And let's go behind the scenes of a show that began just after the Vietnam War ended and premieres its 41st season in a much-changed world tomorrow night.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Live from New York, it's Saturday night.


MONTAGNE: Our colleague David Greene spent yesterday afternoon at 30 Rockefeller Center, watching the cast and crew of "Saturday Night Live" prepare for the big night.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: So if you guys have your badges, you're just going to use those to scan in over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The young lady will take you right up.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: The elevator stops at the eighth floor, home of Studio 8H.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: So this is backstage of "SNL" right here.

GREENE: The hallway here is filled with stacked-up sets and performers waiting to be called to the stage. A lot of people look familiar...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: All right, stand by, please.

GREENE: Especially one.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Three, two...


MILEY CYRUS: Hey, I'm Miley Cyrus. And I am the host and musical guest on the season premiere of "SNL."

GREENE: Miley Cyrus is wearing pink gingham overalls and an ice cream cone ring that is the size of an actual ice cream cone. She's taping spots to promote the show. Now up above the stage is an office. And it belongs to Lorne Michaels, a legend of comedy. From Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner to Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon, the biggest names in comedy have played on his stage. Lorne Michaels has been doing this since 1975. And yet, it is still not easy.

So are you excited about this season?

LORNE MICHAELS: Yeah (laughter). Excited is not a word I would use. But the hardest part about the first show is that everything's rusty. Over the summer, when people have those three months off, most of the encounters they have with people are really positive. People tell them how much they liked the scene they were in. And so when you come back into what is a fairly brutal regime - regimen, rather - you kind of - you realize that it's like childbirth. You just remember the baby, you know, like...

GREENE: You don't remember the process.

MICHAELS: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

GREENE: Tina Fey wrote that one of the most important parts of your job is keeping the creativity in check. Do people come back from being off and it's sort of like they have all of these wild ideas, and it's about you kind of saying, OK, we've got to focus here?

MICHAELS: I quite often say that my job is to discourage creativity. As I've said too many times, we don't go on because we're ready. We go on because it's 11:30. We're in a very sort of archaic form. The early days of television were this. And this is a return to those roots. It needs everything to go right in order to work.

GREENE: You're describing it as archaic. And I'm fascinated because your host for the first show...


GREENE: I mean, a host you've used before, Miley Cyrus...

MICHAELS: Yeah, Miley...

GREENE: Is such a modern celebrity with this huge social media following.

MICHAELS: We'll do that all year long. I mean, that's - Amy Schumer is next week, no less a social media phenomenon. I think Miley's just pure talent.

GREENE: There is this news report that Hillary Clinton is going to be on the show.

MICHAELS: Yeah, no, there is that news report.

GREENE: So is that happening?

MICHAELS: I never really know what's going to go on. We're doing something in and around that, yeah. But I also don't know where in the show that would happen, how it would happen or if it would happen. So...

GREENE: I mean, we're just sitting here, and there's all this rehearsal happening literally outside the window of your office.


GREENE: What are you most nervous about right now?

MICHAELS: What we're opening with - I'm worried about three different film shoots. I'm worried about how various cast members will perform. And also, I'm always worried about length, what I might have to cut to make it work.

GREENE: That's a long list.

MICHAELS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it is a long list. These are the things that keep you up at night. But fortunately, I work at night. So it's not so bad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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