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How The Muppets Saved Saturday Night Live

Nowadays, NBC's Saturday Night Live - which begins its 42nd season tonight - is a comedy institution. But when executive producer Lorne Michaels pitched doing a live sketch show, the network was iffy on it and the show never would have made it on air if it hadn't been for the Muppets.

“NBC was so scared of what Lorne...was doing that they insisted on Jim Henson and the Muppets [to] soften it,” Bernie Brillstein - Henson's former manager - told Salon in 2013. “In the first contract for ‘SNL,’ there were three essential factors: Lorne Michaels, Jim Henson and the Muppets, and Albert Brooks’s [short] films.”

The deal wasn't a tough sell for Michaels. "I’d always liked and been a fan of [the Muppets] and Jim’s work,” he told Salon. “When we were starting ‘Saturday Night,’ I knew that I wanted as many different styles of comedy as I could possibly have, and I knew some of what the ingredients would be."

But not everyone was onboard. Apparently, Michael O'Donoghue - SNL's first head writer - was against the collaboration. And one argument in Michaels' office got so heated that he hung a Big Bird doll in effigy and said, "I won't write for felt."

So drafting Muppets sketches fell mainly to writers Tom Davis and Al Franken, who has since become a U.S. Senator for Minnesota. But back then, he and Davis were best known for being the show's foremost, ahem, cannabis consumers. And their recreational vice of choice shows in the product. Here's a sampling of SNL's short-lived Muppet sketches, which took place in the fictional "Land of Gortch."

Banner image: MARCH 11, 2014: Muppets' characters Kermit the Frog & Miss Piggy at the world premiere of their movie Disney's "Muppets Most Wanted" at the El Capitan Theatre, Hollywood. (Featureflash Photo Agency /


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