‘SNL 40’: From Catchphrases to Camaraderie

They’ve been away for years. They’ve seen the chaos and taken part in the craziness. They were burned out and some have made it big along the way.

And yet they still came back.

Through 779 episodes, 141 cast members, 40 years and counting, “Saturday Night Live” has continued to power NBC’s Saturday night lineup through satire, pratfalls and catch phrases.Dan Aykroyd SNL 2015

With all due respect to Sid Caesar and the Wayans brothers, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more iconic comedy TV show than “Saturday Night Live.”

So it should surprise no one that I hunkered down in front of the TV to watch “SNL 40,” commemorating the show’s 40th anniversary on Sunday night.

“SNL” gets its fair share of criticism — some justifiably so — but there’s something special about the groundbreaking show and its history, even though as Dana Carvey — reprising his role as Garth on “Wayne’s World” — said on the special: “Every year some idiot gives ‘Saturday Night Live’ the review ‘Saturday Night Dead’ as if they’re the first person to come up with it.”

“Really original,” added Wayne (Mike Myers) before in unison the two quipped: “Not.”

Good one, Wayne.

Good one, Garth.Eddie Murphy SNL 2015

You’ve heard the cliché, “tough act to follow,” I presume? It seems that will always be the case with “SNL.” You hear things like the new cast isn’t as good as the old cast, which, of course, pales in comparison to the first cast, which revolutionized television. Who could fill John Belushi’s or Gilda Radner’s shoes or, for that matter, John Belushi’s eyebrows’ shoes if they could fit it shoes? Can’t be done, nor should it be attempted.

The thing that’s forgotten, of course, is how incredibly hard it is to write a new show every week and perform it live in front of a studio audience. Things don’t always go well, but then again sometimes when thing don't go well it produces the biggest laughs when actors have to improvise.

As with any reunion special, there were highlights and low lights, but in my opinion the good far outweighed the bad. In addition to a clever “Wayne’s World” top 10 sketch, seeing Dan Aykroyd revive the Super Bass-o-Matic bit, Will Ferrell unleash his inner Alex Trebek once again in a hilarious “Celebrity Jeopardy” routine and a star-studded “Weekend Update” with alumnae Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Jane Curtin alone made the show must-see TV.

If I had to nitpick, my biggest criticism was that Eddie Murphy didn’t reprise any of his classic bits for the show. One more Gumby, dammit or “White Like Me” bit would have brought the house down, dammit. Instead, we got a long, heartfelt introduction from Chris Rock followed by a short “thank you” from Murphy. No idea who made that call, but Murphy did tell Rolling Stone in 2011: “I only want to do what I really want to do. Otherwise I’m content to sit here and play my guitar all day.”

I wish he would have brought his guitar.

Weekend Update SNL 2015

Whether you love “SNL” or hate it, Lorne Michaels’creation has pushed the envelope for four decades, and I truly hope it will continue to do so for years to come.

As I watched the reunion, laughing and remembering some of the great comics and sketches I’ve seen on it over the years, something dawned on me: One of the things that makes “SNL” so special is that so many people who were part of the show chose to return for the reunion without “getting paid-o,” at least according to Adam Sandler, who sang about it while reprising his Opera Man routine.

OK, the cynic would say some of these former cast members probably don’t have anything better to do anyway or enjoy the spotlight, but I don’t think that’s the takeaway. What the show has done over the years is create a home or a family atmosphere that makes many former cast members enjoy returning to it whether it’s through guest appearances or hosting— anniversary or not.

Can you say the same about your company? Would former colleagues look forward to returning to your office if invited or would they toss the invitation in the trash? While it’s impossible to please everyone, it is possible to create a working environment that makes employees feel appreciated. Workers may move on for different opportunities, but if they can say they feel at home at your workplace even after they’ve left, then you’ve done something right.

You might think that’s a difficult thing to do.

If so, let me bring back Wayne and Garth. They’ll tell you: “No … way.”

This blog post originally appeared in Talent Management's sister publication, Workforce.