Saturday Night Live's 40th Anniversary Packs in the Stars

Rob Moynihan

Saturday Night Live

Live from New York, it's a milestone night as Saturday Night Live celebrates its 40th anniversary with a live three-hour primetime special. The bleachers of 30 Rock's Studio 8H will be packed with many of the show's 120-plus past and present cast members, anchored by surviving members of the original 1975 Not Ready For Prime Time Players, including Dan Aykroyd and Laraine Newman. "I'm excited to be in that room with all those people who are such wonderful comedians and heroes of mine," says Will Forte, who joined the cast in 2002 and spent eight seasons on the show (and whose MacGyver-esque spoof "MacGruber" became one of many SNL sketches to spawn a feature film). "It was the one goal I had when I went into comedy, so to have gotten a chance to be in this dream job and be a part of this fraternity of people has been amazing."

Saturday Night Live
Universal/Courtesy of Everett Collection

It's no secret SNL has also served as an important springboard for the careers of many top comedians, and for Forte, that means a starring role in Fox's buzzy new comedy The Last Man on Earth, premiering Sunday, March 1. "I wouldn't ever have gotten the chance to do this show if I hadn't been on SNL," Forte says. "I can't thank [executive producer] Lorne [Michaels] and the show enough."

Forte points to big ensemble sketches such as musical talk-show parody "What Up With That?" as being seminal to SNL's lasting legacy. "There's a lot of stress involved in the job because you're just pounding out a show every week with tons of all-nighters," he says. "So moments like that are just pure fun and you get really close with everybody."

SNL 40th Anniversary Special, Sunday, Feb. 15, 8/7c, NBC