Behind-the-Scenes Photos from 40 Years of SNL

If the three-hour-plus SNL 40th Anniversary Special wasn’t enough to sate your curiosity about all of the backstage shenanigans at Studio 8H, you’re not alone. Fortunately for SNL diehards everywhere, Alison Castle, an editor at art book publishers extraordinaire TASCHEN, was given an all-access pass to the show’s full archives and spent the better part of the 39th season on the set, gaining an inside perspective on how each episode goes from concept to “Lights, Camera, Action.”

The result is Saturday Night Live: The Book, an encyclopedia-history book hybrid that takes readers behind the scenes of the series’ production process (past and present) with an illustrated breakdown of the cast and crew’s six-day work week; an in-depth interview with creator Lorne Michaels; a season by season cheat sheet featuring every cast member, host, and musical guest; and more than 2300 intimate images—many of them never seen before, some of which you'll find below.

1. The Cleverest of All Sharks

Edie Baskin

After making its debut in the first season, the Land Shark became one of SNL’s first recurring characters, with John Belushi playing the role of Matt Hooper. Gilda Radner seems rather unfazed by it all in 1976. 

2. No Blues Here

Edie Baskin

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd do their best version of The Untouchables, as seen through the eyes of the crew in 1976. 

3. Durable and Delicious

Edie Baskin

In 1976, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, and Gilda Radner couldn’t decide whether Shimmer Non-Dairy Floor Wax was best used as a cleaning agent or a dessert topping. In this image, taken during dress rehearsal, the Shimmer bottle itself had yet to have its on-screen label affixed. 

4. You sure do ask a lot of questions for a guy from New Jersey!

Edie Baskin

Gilda Radner, as Roseanne Roseannadanna, and Jane Curtin proved that SNL was just as much a Girl’s Club back in 1979. 

5. Eddie Murphy Does James Brown

Mark Mullen

James Brown was among Eddie Murphy’s most famous impersonations. In this shot, taken in 1983, he proclaims “Haaaiiii! Too hot in the hot tub! Burn myself!” as host of James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub Party. 

6. I must say

Suzy M. Drasnin

Martin Short rehearses an Ed Grimley sketch in 1984, minus the signature high-waisted pants, orange plaid shirt, and sky-high cowlick. 

7. Lorne and Steve

Suzy M. Drasnin

Lorne Michaels joins frequent host Steve Martin for a promo shoot in 1989. In 2011, Alec Baldwin became the show’s most prolific host, with 16 appearances. Steve Martin is just one appearance behind at 15.

8. He's like the Wind

Edie Baskin

Chris Farley became a breakout star in his very first SNL season in 1990 when he went toe to toe with guest host Patrick Swayze in a Chippendales audition. Ultimately, the part went to Swayze’s character, with Farley being told that: “Barney, we all agreed that your dancing was great. Your presentation was very sexy. I guess, in the end, we all thought that Adrian’s body was much, much better than yours.” 

9. In the Cards

Mary Ellen Matthews

Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler do some last-minute cue card review with Wally Feresten during the commercial break leading up to their Weekend Update in 2007. 

10. "Palin"-around

Dana Edelson

As Sarah Palin chats backstage with Alec Baldwin and Lorne Michaels in 2008, Tina Fey can be seen on the monitor doing her spot-on impression of the wannabe Vice President.

11. The SNL Storage Room

Mary Ellen Matthews

The makeup lab’s storage room (seen here in 2009) is a treasure trove of plaster casts and molds, including head casts of each current cast member as well as frequent hosts and special guests. 

12. Strategery

Dana Edelson

Former castmember Will Ferrell reviews dialogue for his monologue with Wally Feresten while being made up as George W. Bush for his guest host cold open in 2012. (Writer Colin Jost can be seen in the background.)

13. Two Things Everyone Loves: Cats and Lasers

Dana Edelson

Steven Spielberg plays along as director of Laser Cats 7 with Bill Hader and Andy Samberg in Lorne Michaels’ office in 2012. 

14. Say Cheese!

Dana Edelson

Ever wonder how they get those really cool still shots of each week’s guest hosts? Louis C.K. shows how it’s done in 2014. 

See Also...

32 Famous People Rejected by Saturday Night Live
9 Saturday Night Live Movies That Were Never Made

By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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