Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Dana Carvey, Jane Curtin and Chevy Chase
In 36 years on the air, NBC's weekly sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live has become part of who we are—the funny part. From the catchphrases we can't stop quoting to the characters we love to see, Saturday night belongs to SNL.

Only 128 cast members can say they've been "live from New York," and some the biggest names are ready to reveal the secrets of SNL: former head writer and host of "Weekend Update" Tina Fey, original Not Ready for Primetime Players Chevy Chase and Jane Curtin, impersonation impresario Dana Carvey, and the hilarious Tracy Morgan.

Jane says she doesn't watch her old SNL sketches, but Dana fesses up. "I do. It puts me to sleep at night," Dana jokes. "I usually put on the Church Lady dress and my wife and I cuddle."
Chevy Chase
Whenever he did his impersonation of president Gerald Ford, Chevy ended every sketch with a fall—sometimes even from the top of a White House Christmas tree.

But Chevy says he only got hurt once, when a prop lectern was left unpadded. When Chevy did his trademark tumble, he felt it. "I did urinate blood, and I was in the hospital," Chevy says. "I missed one show. I was in the hospital for a week, but that was the only time really in that entire year where there was any effect."
Tina Fey
Even though it's been on the air for 36 years, Chevy says SNL's comic formula remains the same. "I mean, make 'em laugh is the first thing," he says. "What's changed is the taboos have changed over the years."

Tina says comedians get away with less today than they did when SNL was just starting in the 1970s. "The standards of the network are a little more squirrelly about politically correct language," she says. "You have to find a way to get around it and still do stuff."
Tracy Morgan
In 1986, Oprah hosted SNL and got a firsthand look at the total commitment from everyone involved to get the show ready by 11:30 p.m. on Saturday. "You go in on a Monday [and don't come] out until 1:30 Saturday night." Tracy says. "This is your family. You don't really see your kids. It's really grueling."

"The show's ridiculous; it's impossible," Dana says. "And that's why it's magic...and a lot of times it's not so magic."

Despite the stress of long days of preparation, Tracy says the secret to SNL was always to keep things light. "The key was to have fun," he says. "Don't take it personal, just have fun."
Dana Carvey
The closest thing to a constant presence on Saturday Night Live is its producer, Lorne Michaels. He is the mastermind behind the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players, which included Chevy and Jane, and Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris, John Belushi and Laraine Newman.

Dana says at his audition for Lorne, he went on right after Jim Carrey. "So I go out and it's just silence," he says. "And Lorne, in his fashion, [says], 'When are you going to start being funny?' But I realized later that Lorne was testing me to see if I could be 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and I wouldn't crack."

When Tracy was auditioning for Lorne, he says he had a different concern. "I met Lorne Michaels at Yankee Stadium," he says. "I was working at Gate 4, and that was behind the bleachers. Lorne would come in every week and I would overcharge him for Yankee stuff. I was more concerned about him going, 'Wait a minute. That little baseball bat was only $10. You charged me $15!'"

Tracy says from the day he auditioned for Lorne, his life has been changed. "We've been eating since I met Lorne Michaels," he says. "He's the coolest."
Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Dana Carvey, Jane Curtin and Chevy Chase
Though he was the biggest hit on the first season of SNL, Chevy left after just one season and moved to Los Angeles. Chevy says he still regrets that decision.

"I left because I was in love and infatuated with a girl whom everybody on the show knew was wrong for me and who wouldn't come to New York," he says. "Later, I had a lot of excuses. 'No, not marriage. Making movies.' I really did regret it. I wish I was still there."

"Really?" Oprah asks.

"Well, no, not really," Chevy says.
Jane Curtin
Though some of the funniest women around have been in the Saturday Night Live cast, Jane says it wasn't always an easy place to work in the early days. She says the way women were treated at SNL reflected society. "Women's liberation happened in the '60s, and so women were going out into the workforce and challenging men," she says. "Well, it was not necessarily embraced by the male population—understandably so. They were threatened by the fact that there were all these women going out into the workplace and they were going to have to compete with them as well as the other men."

Jane says one cast member, John Belushi, was especially tough on women writers. "They were working against John, who said women are just fundamentally not funny. You'd go to a table read and if a woman writer had written a piece for John, he would not read it in his full voice. He would whisper it," she says. "He felt as though it was his duty to sabotage pieces that were written by women."

Tina says her time at SNL showed how things had changed. "By the time I got there, in that read-through room ... our director was a woman; one of our stage managers was a woman," she says. "The more women that were in the room to laugh at the different pieces, then [the more] people were like, 'Oh, okay, maybe we'll put it on.'"

"And I did the Church Lady to increase gender diversity," Dana jokes.

Watch how Dana brought the Church Lady to life
Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Dana Carvey, Jane Curtin and Chevy Chase
Each week, Saturday Night Live's wild card is the celebrity guest host. The host of the show could be an actor whose sensibility fits in perfectly with the cast...or a painfully unfunny athlete or politician.

When Oprah asks for their favorite guest hosts, each of theseSNL veterans has their personal preference.

"Richard Pryor," Chevy says. "But that's way back."

Jane selects Monty Python's Michael Palin. "Oh, yeah, he was good," Chevy says.

Dana picks two of his favorites: Charlton Heston and William Shatner.

Tracy's favorite host was Samuel L. Jackson. "I really enjoyed him," Tracy jokes. "Because I was in every sketch."

For Tina, it's all about her 30 Rock co-star Alec Baldwin. "He was just so skilled it was like having an extra cast member," she says. "You could do whatever you want."
Garrett Morris
The Oprah Show checked in with four more of our favorite SNL veterans!

Garrett Morris, one of the original cast members, was best known for his impersonation of James Brown and his "Weekend Update" news interpretation for the hard of hearing—which just consisted of Garrett yelling the day's headlines.

At 74, Garrett hosts stand-up at the Downtown Comedy Club in Los Angeles.
Julia Sweeney
Best known on SNL for her androgynous character Pat, Julia Sweeney now focuses on writing and caring for her 11-year-old adopted daughter, Mulan. Julia tours with Jill Sobule in a show of stories and songs called "The Jill and Julia Show."

Julia says the secret to Pat is that she started trying to do a male character. "But I wasn't that good at it. I thought maybe it would be funny if I threw in a joke about how you don't know if Pat's a man or a woman," she says. "And immediately that was the funniest part of it."
Molly Shannon
In her six years on SNL, Molly Shannon's biggest character was Mary Katherine Gallagher—a hyperactive Catholic schoolgirl who, when nervous, sticks her hands under her armpits and smells them. Molly says Mary Katherine is an exaggerated version of her own personality. "It's like she's anxious and messed up and trips and falls, but she keeps trying and trying and trying and trying. And then she survives."

Molly recently made her Broadway debut in Promise, Promises, and is the author of the children's book Tilly the Trickster. Molly is also a mother of two—Nolan, 6, and Stella, 7. "I still love working and being a mom," she says. "I feel really lucky that that all came together."
Ana Gasteyer
On SNL, Ana Gasteyer often joined with Will Ferrell as a pair of awkward singing middle school teachers. Her other well-known sketch was the co-host of fake NPR radio show The Delicious Dish.

Ana starred in the long-running Broadway musical Wicked and continues to work on stage and in film and television, developing a new stage and screen project called Another Apology from September L. Davis: The Musical Life of a Misguided Diva. Ana also has two children—a third grader named Frances and a 3-year-old named Ulysses. "Now that my kids are a little older, I kind of rejoined my SNL roots in developing a show about a Broadway diva," Ana says. "It's been incredibly fulfilling to get back into that wig-wearing, big-character world."

More with the cast of SNL on The Oprah Show


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