It probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels is the one who came up with the show’s opening line. “I wrote it out as a line ’cause I wanted to get the title in,” he told CBS’ Gayle King in 2021, adding, “It’s now just part of the culture.” That “SNL” culture, of course, was initially built by the show’s stars, including original cast member Chevy Chase, who was the first person to utter the opening phrase back in 1975 (above).
In 2018, Chase explained the structure of the now classic line to fellow “SNL” alum, the late Norm Macdonald. “We couldn’t say ‘Saturday Night Live,'” Chase said during his episode of “Norm Macdonald Has a Show,” adding, “There was a show called ‘Saturday Night Live with Howard Cossell’ and I think Lorne felt, and rightfully so, that it’s important to say that it’s live, because there’s so many sketches and actors. It’s not easy.”
Back then, avoiding confusion with Cossell’s show was a big priority for NBC. In its early days, the show was actually called “NBC’s Saturday Night” (via History.com). Furthermore, Chase himself had a different vision of how the line was supposed to be delivered. In sharp contrast to the modern deliveries, which Chase adamantly dislikes, he always did his best to imitate longtime “SNL” announcer Don Pardo. However, Pardo hasn’t served as announcer since his death in 2014, so perhaps it’s understandable why newer cast members have broken from tradition.