There is no one who has had more success and holds more influence in late-night at the moment than Lorne Michaels. Next season will mark the 40th anniversary of the Canadian native’s signature series, Saturday Night Live, which redefined variety shows. He has executive produced NBC’s Late Night since 1993 and last year added oversight of The Tonight Show, which he helped bring back to New York. Hosted by his SNL pupils Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, the new Tonight Show and Late Night have been ratings powerhouses. In a rare interview, Michaels, 69, talks about his longtime connection to The Tonight Show that goes back over 50 years when he first saw it live, shares behind-the-scene SNL stories of how he almost became the host of Weekend Update and how his recurring cameos on the show came about and reflects on SNL’s “hard” rebuilding season and possible casting changes.
DEADLINE: When did you become interested in late-night?
LORNE MICHAELS: I think probably in high school. I would stay up to watch The Tonight Show, first with Jack Paar and later Johnny Carson. They were 90-minute shows then. I’d have early classes, so I’d watch the first 15 minutes and say, “I’m just going to watch the monologue, and then maybe I’ll see what Johnny does at the end.” And then, it’d be 1 in the morning, and credits would be rolling. (more…)