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Lorne Michaels, CM (born November 17, 1944) is a Canadian-American television producer, writer and comedian best known for creating and producing Saturday Night Live and producing the various film and TV projects that spun off from it.

Early life

Michaels was born Lorne David Lipowitz in Torontomarker, Ontariomarker, Canada, the son of Florence (née Becker) and Henry Abraham Lipowitz, who was a furrier. He was the eldest of the Lipowitz children. He has a sister, Barbara Lipowitz, who currently resides in Toronto and a brother, Mark Lipowitz, who died from a brain tumor. Michaels attended the Forest Hill Collegiate Institutemarker in Toronto and graduated from University Collegemarker, University of Torontomarker, where he majored in English, in 1966 . Michaels began his career as a writer and broadcaster for CBC Radio. He moved to Los Angeles from Toronto in 1968 to work as a writer for Laugh-In and The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show. During the late 1960s, Michaels married Rosie Shuster, who later worked with him on Saturday Night Live as a writer. She was the daughter of Frank Shuster, one half of the famous comedy team, Wayne and Shuster. Michaels and Shuster were divorced in 1980.

Saturday Night Live

In 1975, Michaels co-created (with fellow NBC employee Dick Ebersol and president of the network Herb Schlosser) the TV show NBC's Saturday Night, which in 1977 changed its name to Saturday Night Live. The show, which is performed live in front of a studio audience, immediately established a reputation for being cutting edge and unpredictable. It became a vehicle for launching the careers of some of the most successful comedians in the world.

Originally the producer of the show, Michaels was also a writer and later became executive producer. He occasionally appears on-screen as well, where he is known for his deadpan humor. Throughout the show's history, SNL has been nominated for more than 80 Emmy Awards and has won 18. It has consistently been one of the highest-rated late-night television programs. Michaels has been with SNL for all seasons except for his hiatus in the early 1980s (seasons 6–10).

His daughter Sophie once appeared in an episode, during the show's 30th season hosted by Johnny Knoxville during the monologue where Lorne introduces Johnny Knoxville to his daughter and Sophie shocks Knoxville with a taser.

Perhaps Michaels's best-known appearance occurred in the first season when he offered the Beatles $3000 - a deliberately paltry sum - to reunite on the show. He later upped his offer to $3200, but the money was never claimed. According to an interview in Playboy magazine, John Lennon and Paul McCartney happened to be in New York Citymarker that night and saw the show. They very nearly went, but changed their minds as it was getting too late to get to the show on time, and they were both tired.

He has had combative relationships with several cast members, and is generally portrayed by media onlookers as a harsh but effective boss. One source of conflict is his rather active disdain of improvisation during the performances of SNL, despite the extensive background and training in improvisational comedy many of SNL's performers have had.

Other work

Michaels started Broadway Video in 1979, producing such shows as The Kids in the Hall.

During his SNL hiatus, Michaels created another sketch show entitled The New Show, which debuted on Friday nights in prime time on NBC in January 1984.

In the 1980s, Michaels appeared in an HBO mockumentary titled The Canadian Conspiracy about the supposed subversion of the United States by Canadian-born media personalities, with Lorne Greene as the leader of the conspiracy. Michaels was identified as the anointed successor to Greene.

Michaels is also an Executive Producer of "Late Night" on NBC and also works as executive producer of the NBC show "30 Rock".


In 1999, Michaels was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. In 2002, Michaels was made a member of the Order of Canada for lifetime achievement, and awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker.

In 2003, he received a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.

In 2004, he was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Artsmarker. Speaking at the awards ceremony, original Saturday Night Live cast member Dan Aykroyd described Michaels as "the primary satirical voice of the country."

In Canada, Michaels also received a 2006 Governor General's Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.

In 2008, Michaels was awarded the Webby for Film & Video Lifetime Achievement. With the allotted 5-words allowed to each recipient, his five word acceptance speech was "Five words is not enough."

In popular culture

Dr. Evil, a character of Mike Myers's in the Austin Powers films, has been rumored to be partly based on Michaels. Myers has denied the rumors, saying that the two share only a voice.

Mark McKinney of the comedy team, The Kids in the Hall has stated that his character, Don Roritor, the president of Roritor Pharmaceuticals in the film Brain Candy, is based on Lorne Michaels.

Michaels was played by Ari Cohen in the 2002 TV movie Gilda Radner: It's Always Something.

Michaels has been featured on two episodes of The Simpsons:

  • In season four's "Homer the Heretic", Homer initially drools over the prospect of an interview with Michaels in Playdude magazine, then exclaims "wait, that's no good!" and flips the page.
  • In the season ten episode, "Homer to the Max", when Homer and Marge go to a garden party, they see Lorne Michaels (voiced by Harry Shearer, a former SNL castmember) and Homer says "uh-oh, here comes Lorne Michaels. Pretend you don't see him". When Michaels introduces himself, Homer loudly exclaims: "Anyway Marge, how do you feel about the economy?" And Michaels walks off sadly.

In the 2007 episode of The Office, The Job, Jim Halpert, played by John Krasinski, swears he saw Lorne Michaels at a bar in New York while out on the town with his then-girlfriend, Karen Fillipelli.

In a 2008 interview with Playboy Magazine, Tina Fey admitted that Alec Baldwin's character on 30 Rock is inspired by Michaels.

Personal life

Michaels became a U.S. citizen in 1987. He has two sons, Henry and Edward, and a daughter, Sophie. He has been married three times, first to SNL writer Rosie Shuster (1967; div. 1980), then to model Susan Forristal (1984; div. 1987), and currently to his former assistant Alice Barry (1991 to present). Lorne has given money to the campaigns of Senators Barack Obama, Chris Dodd and John McCain over the years.


As producer, except as noted

Selected television credits


  1. Lorne Michaels Biography (1944-)
  2. 2006 Governor General's Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement
  3. Rosie Shuster -
  4. SNL Transcripts: Beatles Offer, April 24, 1976
  5. Order of Canada Citation
  6. Canada's Walk of Fame: Lorne Michaels, television producer, Saturday Night Live
  7. SNL creator Michaels honored, an October 2004 AP story via MSNBC
  8. Shales, Tom. Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. Back Bay Books, 2003.

External links

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