Friday, February 13, 2015

Our brush with "SNL" greatness — Laraine Newman

As kids growing up, we would wait until our parents went to bed on Saturday nights and sneak to the stop of the staircase. We'd try to stifle our giggles as our older brother and sisters would laugh uproariously below. Little did we know at the time that Saturday Night Live  would last for 40 years and that we would have the great fortune of sitting down with both Garrett Morris and Laraine Newman on separate occasions for the Archive of American Television.

Those childhood memories came rushing back as Morris delivered his most famous late night line — "Baseball's been berry, berry good to me." And Newman regaled us with behind-the-scenes tales of her early days on SNL. As NBC gets ready to celebrate the show’s 40th anniversary this Sunday, we took a look back at our sit down with Newman.

Just 23 when the late night juggernaut debuted in 1975, Newman didn’t have a lot of experience under her belt. As a teenager, she had been a member of a Los Angeles improv troupe. At the age of 15 she saw a performance by iconic mime Marcel Marceau. She was so taken by his craft that she worked her way backstage and introduced herself to the French master. Three years later she found herself in Paris studying the art form with Marceau himself.

After returning to L.A. and doing a brief stint in secretarial school, she became a founding member of The Groundlings along with her sister Tracey, who would go on to produce TV series like Ellen and According to Jim. Her stint with the iconic improve group led to an appearance on The Lily Tomlin Special and her introduction to a young producer named Lorne Michaels. The results landed Newman on the SNL cast without so much as an audition.

But joining the Not Ready for Primetime Players on Saturday Night Live wasn’t without its challenges for the actress. She admits that when she first heard the show described as a Monty Python meets 60 Minutes, she had no idea who the British comedy stars were. Plus, she had to uproot herself from her Los Angeles home and move to New York City.

Working for just $750 a week, Newman quickly became a household name along with Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtain and Garrett Morris. And she quickly became so recognizable that even John Lennon and Yoko Ono would stop her on the street to introduce themselves to a member of the hottest cast in the world.

With five years and characters like Sherry the Valley Girl and Lina Wertmüller under her built, Newman left SNL. She has gone on to have a flourishing voice over career on shows like Histeria!, As Told By Ginger and The Oblongs. But she will always be known to fans for her hilarious turn on TV’s greatest sketch comedy series.

When we sat down with her in March of 2013, she reflects on that very first episode of Saturday Night Live all those years ago. Watch what she has to say in this clip from our interview with her for

Check out the full interview at

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