Let a young Lorne Michaels school you on one of comedy's most important truths

Back in 1970, the 'SNL' creator told CBC host Elwood Glover why comedians need to be 'politely hostile.'

Even back in 1970, the 'SNL' creator knew comedians need to be 'politely hostile'

Watch a young Lorne Michaels speak on one of comedy's most important truths

5 years ago
Even back in 1970, the 'SNL' creator knew comedians need to be 'politely hostile.' 0:55

Five years before he created the cultural phenomenon that remains Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels was a guest on the CBC program Luncheon Date. At the time, Michaels was promoting his CBC variety series The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour, which he was the writer, producer and co-star of. Sitting with Luncheon host Elwood Glover, Michaels made it clear during the interview that he was already aware — thanks in part to the legendary Mel Brooks — of some of the comic philosophies that remain evident as SNL continues into its much-discussed 42nd season.

"Mel Brooks once defined comedy as 'polite hostility,'" Michaels said on the program. "And I think once you sort of lose the edge of hostility — the hostility that comes with just existing day to day. Once you lose that, once you limit yourself to saying, 'Well, that's not funny,' or 'That can't be funny' or 'You can't do jokes on that,' then you've limited yourself to the point where you're ineffective as a comedian."

It's hard to argue with the man who helped launch the careers of the hardly ineffective likes of John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon. And last week, his contributions to comedy led him to receive America's highest civilian honour last week: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to SNL creator Lorne Michaels. (Cheriss May/Getty Images)

For more throwbacks like this one, visit the CBC Digital Archives.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?