When Saturday Night Live returns tonight for its 39th year, executive producer Lorne Michaels won’t be fretting.
“We’re gonna do a good show,” he declared. “Every time Tina has come back, the show’s been great.”
He’s talking about former SNL regular and frequent guest Tina Fey, of course, back to host the season premiere at 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
Joining Michaels for a phone interview, Fey suggested a couple of ways in which she might be serving SNL well.
“One, I have nothing to promote,” she said, “so we’ve got plenty of time for other things. Two, I’m always happy to play straight person, so, hopefully, the cast will get to do more than when they have other kinds of hosts. You might get to see those new guys more. Although I’m not promising their parents anything.”
The “new guys” are the half-dozen rookie cast members – Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, Mike O’Brien, Noel Wells and Brooks Wheelan.
“I think if they have one line as a waiter in a sketch, they’ll be thrilled,” Fey said.
The newcomers are helping fill the larger-than-usual void left last season by exiting stars Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis.
“It’s always been that way,” Michaels said, pointing to SNL alums Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler and Fey, who all got big laughs as part of Sunday’s Emmy broadcast.
“You feel really proud that they’re as good as they are, and that you were part of that,” he said. “But Saturday Night Live has always been about reinvention, and we’re doing it again. That’s what keeps the show alive.”
On Monday, he and Fey flew back from Los Angeles, where the show landed its 40th Emmy (the most for any series in history) and Fey shared the comedy-series writing Emmy with Tracey Wigfield for 30 Rock. On arriving in New York, they went straight to the week’s first SNL meeting at 10 p.m.
This season promises to be busier than usual for Michaels, a famous multitasker, whose duties now include The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon hosting from New York starting early next year. With the promotion, Fallon will leave Late Night, also part of Michaels’ empire. Seth Meyers takes over that hosting assignment.
For now, Meyers will remain at the Weekend Update anchor desk, joined by sophomore SNL player Cecily Strong.
“Count on Seth through February,” Michaels said, “and I think he knows he can stay after that. It will be up to him to assess if he can handle the workload.”
At age 68, after decades running the comedy juggernaut he launched in 1975, doesn’t Michaels get a little tired of the grind?
“ Very tired of it,” he replied. “But then that music starts at 11:30, and you remember it’s a very exciting place to be.”