The Lorne Supremacy: how Lorne Michaels reshaped the world of comedy
The Saturday Night Live honcho is the ultimate Hollywood kingmaker. Here, a who’s who of his star system
Lorne Michaels, the Toronto-raised creator of Saturday Night Live, has plucked dozens of unknowns from obscurity and turned them into stars. He’s created box office heavyweights like Will Ferrell and Mike Myers, whose films can net $200 million worldwide. He transforms people like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler into prime-time icons. And last month, he took over The Tonight Show—a comedic brass ring—and placed his protégé Jimmy Fallon in the host’s chair. Here, the people who owe their careers to the prescient producer.
One of Michaels’ most popular finds. His latest movie, Anchorman 2, netted over $100 million at the box office.
Myers managed to bypass the SNL audition process—Michaels hired him after just an interview.
Michaels defended Sandler’s juvenile humour to the NBC brass. The network eventually fired him.
Michaels hired Rock and Adam Sandler on the same day. Rock later left for In Living Color.
Before Carell starred on The Office, Michaels used his voice talents in SNL’s “Ambiguously Gay Duo” sketch.
Wayans got his start on SNL, but blew his relationship with Michaels after he deliberately threw an on-air sketch. Michaels fired him mid-show.
Michaels hired McKay as SNL head writer in the ’90s. Later, McKay created the website Funny or Die and directed the Anchorman series.
When Michaels started producing The Tonight Show this year, he hired Fallon as host.
Michaels tapped O’Brien to host Late Night from 1993 to 2009. He now hosts his own show on TBS.
Before the Report, Michaels hired Colbert to voice Ace in SNL’s “Ambiguously Gay Duo” sketch.
Michaels selected the former SNL head writer to replace the outgoing Jimmy Fallon on Late Night.
Michaels cut him from SNL’s first season for budget reasons, but hired him to replace Chevy Chase in season two.
Michaels’ original “Weekend Update” host left after one season. He’s regretted it ever since.
Michaels almost passed on Belushi—Gilda Radner had to beg him to hire the comic.
Michaels hired Crystal as a recurring guest star throughout SNL’s first season, but cut him after the first dress rehearsal.
Michaels cast Short in his feature film writing debut. They reunite this year for John Mulaney’s self-titled sitcom.
Michaels hired his countryman Aykroyd as one of seven original cast members.
The Canadian filmmaker broke out directing Michaels-minted stars Aykroyd and Murray in Ghostbusters.
Michaels hired Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney as SNL writers, then produced the Kids’ show on CBC.
Michaels wrote Jim Henson’s puppets into SNL’s first season, after which Henson’s manager leveraged the exposure to get him his own show.
When Michaels appointed Tina Fey head writer in 1999, he ushered in a new golden era for SNL. After she left, Michaels produced 30 Rock.
Michaels found Poehler at the UCB improv group in Chicago, which has since become one of his favourite comedy feeding farms.
Michaels passed on CK at his 1993 SNL audition, but the comic was quickly hired to write for Late Night.
Michaels decided to cast Wiig less than a minute into her SNL audition.
Michaels pulled Morgan out of poverty in the Bronx to star on SNL. “It’s like auditioning in front of Darth Vader,” Morgan has said.
Tina Fey was terrified to ask Baldwin to star in 30 Rock. When Michaels asked, he said yes immediately.
Michaels is producing Rudolph’s new variety show, which premiered in February.
Michaels produces Armisen’s hipster-spoofing sketch show, Portlandia.
Michaels was so impressed by Arnett’s guest role on 30 Rock, he cast him in his sitcom Up All Night.
Under Michaels, Samberg became famous for his Digital Short videos. He won a Golden Globe for his role on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Since working in Michaels’ writers’ room, Taccone has gone on to act on the HBO comedy Girls and FX’s The League.
Michaels hired Schaffer, Samberg and Taccone (the Lonely Island) after Jimmy Fallon introduced him to their work.
Michaels chose Strong to co-host “Weekend Update.” Past hosts include mega-stars Fey, Fallon and Poehler.
In 2006, Michaels and Tina Fey plucked the future Community star out of UCB to write for 30 Rock.
Rich was just 23 when Michaels hired him. Now both Jason Reitman and Seth Rogen have bought film rights to his work.
Michaels will produce a self-titled sitcom from his former SNL writer, known for creating Stefon, the “Weekend Update” nightclub correspondent.
Until his retirement in 2013, Michaels’ right-hand man was SNL’s top political satirist.
When Michaels returned to SNL after a five-year absence, he brought Smigel with him.
Odenkirk wrote for Michaels in the ’80s and ’90s, creating Chris Farley’s most famous character: the guy who lives in a van down by the river.
After a stint under Michaels, Daniels went on to produce The Office and Parks and Rec.
Michaels’ co-producer moonlights as Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show announcer.
Michaels’ former SNL writer recently teamed up with Andy Samberg for the Fox sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine.