9 Things We Learned When Alec Baldwin Interviewed Lorne Michaels

lorne michaelsLorne Michaels

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Alec Baldwin’s podcast, “Here’s The Thing,” has him interviewing a number of different people in show business and politics.This week he points the microphone at Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels.

Michaels is famously hesitant to appear in public forums, so we were excited to hear the two in conversation — Baldwin is a longtime SNL host, so Michaels opens up to him quite easily.

They go over Michaels’s entire career, from his early days in radio to his present work developing shows for cable.

And of course, Saturday Night Live.

He started out in radio.

'It was a show called 'Five Nights a Week at This Time' and we did political satire. Every week we thought we were potentially bringing down the government, and the fact that no one was listening didn't occur to us for at least the first year, but we loved doing it.'

He started in television after getting fired from radio.

'The funny part about the show, 'The Russ Thomson Show,' was at a certain point five or six months into it the producer of the show came in and met with us and he said, 'The show's not working. We don't know whether it's you guys or Russ, so we thought we'd start with you guys.''

'On 'Laugh-In,' the writers would write and then it would be edited by a head writer and then we did not go to the read-through. We were at a motel in Burbank and we would all have lunch together and that was fun and --'

'You didn't even have offices?'

'No, we had offices but they were in a motel.'

Despite his New York street cred, he loves Los Angeles.

'You have a real fondness for Los Angeles.'

'Yeah, I love Los Angeles.'

'You have a very, very warm spot for Los Angeles and you, who are an uber New Yorker --'

'Yes. The nice part about being Canadian is you don't have to make that decision.'

The first SNL set was rejected until Lorne visited the president of NBC with a model.

He tries very hard not to be a perfectionist.

His office is pretty much unchanged since day one of SNL.

Before leaving the show in 1980 (he returned in '85), Michaels didn't fire anyone.

'Listen, in the first five years I didn't fire one person, so when I came back I was sort of more psychologically built for that...I had to accept that some people were not gonna make it and that I'd better deal with that when it happened as opposed to just pretending...I learned how to be a boss.'

He enjoys the rules and parameters of broadcast television.

'To me there's no creativity without boundaries. If you're gonna write a sonnet, it's 14 lines, so it's solving the problem within the container. I think for me, commercial television and those boundaries, I like it. I like that you can't use certain language. I like that you have to be bright enough to figure out how to get your ideas across in that amount of time with intelligence being the thing that you hope is showing. Not officially, but you want it to be, 'Oh, that was kind of bright.' We have really good writers here. I think I can safely say that a lot of people in comedy did their best work here.'

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