Inset Photo Credit: Peabody Awards [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Lorne Michaels Net Worth: Lorne Michaels is an extraordinary American success story. He was born in Toronto in 1944, but he wasted no time making his way to the US. By 1968, Michaels had launched his career in Los Angeles, writing for Laugh-In and The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show.
In 1975, Michaels moved to New York City. He and co-creator Dick Ebersol got their comedy masterpiece Saturday Night Live on the air, and American television has never been the same.
Today, Lorne Michaels’ fortune tops $500,000,000, and he is widely regarded as one of the most influential men in the world of entertainment.
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Table of Contents
Saturday Night Live: The Gold Standard of Television Comedy
When Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol pitched Saturday Night Live, they could not have known that their compilation of edgy late-night comedy sketches would become an American icon. More than 40 years later, SNL is still relevant.
Each night begins with a cold open, and themes typically connect to the week’s current events. At the end of the sketch, one of the participants breaks character to shout, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”
Though the skits are scripted – to a point – the most important element of SNL is its tendency towards improv.
Members of the cast bring their own personalities into each sketch, making the show completely unique. Some of today’s biggest actors, actresses, and comedians got their start as part of the SNL cast. Alumni include these stars of stage and screen:
- Eddie Murphy
- Steve Martin
- Ben Stiller
- Billy Crystal
- Adam Sandler
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus
- Amy Poehler
These names make up a small fraction of the personalities that have graced the SNL stage.
SNL’s political parodies are, for many, the best part of presidential election years. Fans on both sides of the aisle loved Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford, Dana Carvey as George H. W. Bush, Phil Hartman as Bill Clinton, and Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Who can forget Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump?
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These skits have made a place for themselves in the national conversation, and many analysts believe SNL has measurable influence on public opinion of candidates and elected officials. Not too shabby for a collection of comedians.
One of the most famous Saturday Night Live skits was ripping on Harry Potter.
Michaels didn’t stop with Saturday Night Live. Some of the most popular characters were spun off into shows and films of their own – and if the characters and sketches couldn’t stand alone, the artists could.
It’s interesting to note that Michaels does not believe the success of Saturday Night Live could be replicated today.
In a recent interview, he said that the program was designed to balance skits and sketches so they would appeal to people across the United States.
Today, shows are “narrow cast”, or targeted to a very specific demographic.
Lorne Michaels: The Real Dr. Evil
Saturday Night Live has influenced popular culture for decades, but that isn’t Michaels’ only contribution. He produced a variety of cult classics with catchphrases still in use today.
Wayne’s World, starring SNL favorites Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, gave us “Schwing!”, “That’s what she said,” and “Party on!”
In 2004, Michaels produced Tina Fey’s Mean Girls – an alternately hilarious and horrifying examination of high school cliques. This particular project made a lasting impact.
Since its release, it has been quoted and referenced by world leaders, entertainers, and sociologists in a variety of settings.
Though Michaels is rarely seen on-screen himself, the actors he works with bring his quirks and mannerisms to their portrayal of iconic characters.
When Mike Myers brought the character Dr. Evil to life in the three Austin Powers films, he relied on Michaels’ mannerisms and speaking style.
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Art Imitating Life: 30 Rock
Lorne Michaels isn’t afraid to laugh at himself, which is why he didn’t shrink when Tina Fey created the television series 30 Rock.
In fact, he served alongside her as Executive Producer. The show ran from October 11, 2006, to January 31, 2013, winning a long list of awards along the way. One of 30 Rock‘s biggest honors was bestowed by the Writers Guild of America West, which named it the 21st best-written television series of all time.
30 Rock gives viewers an inside look at what life is really like for SNL writers – sort of. The program is pure satire, much like SNL itself.
Tina Fey based the characters and storylines on her time as head writer for Saturday Night Live.
Alec Baldwin starred alongside Fey as the unpredictable Jack Donaghy, the Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming for General Electric. Fey admits that the Jack Donaghy character is based on Lorne Michaels.
The Transformation of Late-Night Television
Making Saturday nights a little livelier proved to be such a success that Lorne Michaels expanded his portfolio of late-night programming.
He was the Executive Producer for Late Night with Conan O’Brien from 1993 to 2009, then he served as Executive Producer for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon from 2009 to 2014.
Now Michaels works with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show, where Fallon serves as the seventh host of the franchise made famous by Johnny Carson.
Under Michaels’ leadership, Fallon’s Tonight Show has been nominated for nine Primetime Emmy Awards, and it has won twice.
Going for Gold: Lorne Michaels Makes Every Major Awards List
Michaels’ success hasn’t gone unnoticed by industry and professional organizations, and he has a long list of awards to his credit.
His programs are frequently included in the Peabody Awards and the Writers Guild of America’s Awards, and his television programs have earned countless Emmy Awards.
SNL alone has amassed more than 65. Michaels has been awarded 16 individual Emmys for his work as a writer and producer of television.
Michaels has earned a number of other individual awards, in addition to the recognition and acclaim showered on his projects.
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2012, he was honored with a rare Personal Peabody Award.
In 2015, Michaels was included in Time Magazine’s List of the 100 Most Influential People. His name appeared alongside such change-makers as Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, Malala Yousafzai, Barack Obama, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Michaels received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2004, and the ceremony was held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. SNL cast member Dan Aykroyd presented the honor, stating that Saturday Night Live was “the primary satirical voice of the country”.
Canada hasn’t forgotten Lorne Michaels, and he has also been honored many times over in his birth country. He was initiated into the Order of Canada in 2002 for his lifetime achievement, and he received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2003.
In 2006, he was awarded the Governor General’s Lifetime Artistic Achievement Performing Arts Award, which is the highest honor bestowed on artists in Canada.
One of the most notable awards earned by Michaels was the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This is the highest civilian honor given in the United States. It’s interesting to note that it was awarded shortly after the 2016 presidential election – an especially busy time for the writers and cast of Saturday Night Live.
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Lorne Michaels Behind the Laughs
Lorne Michaels was born, raised, and educated in Toronto, Canada, but his goals were centered in the US entertainment industry. He relocated to California in his mid-20s, and he became a US citizen in 1987.
Behind the scenes of Michaels’ comedy success, there have been some ups and downs. He has been married three times. He started dating his first wife, Rosie Shuster, in the early 1960s.
She came from a comedic family, and she worked with Michaels as a writer when Saturday Night Live launched. The two were married in 1971, but they divorced in 1980.
Just a year later, in 1981, Michaels married actress and model Susan Forristal, who is best known for her role in the critically acclaimed Regarding Henry with Harrison Ford. Michaels and Forristal divorced in 1987.
In 1991, Michaels married his former assistant, Alice Barry, and the married has endured. The couple has three children, Sophie Michaels, Edward Michaels, and Henry Michaels. Sophie has expressed an interest in acting. She appeared in several SNL skits and two films.
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Though Michaels is now in his mid-70s, he shows no signs of slowing down. Rumor has it that he is working with Universal Pictures on an adaptation of the Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill’s 2018 biographical novel The Operator. On the lighter side, Michaels is also working with Universal on the comedy Baby Nurse, which will star SNL alumni Leslie Jones and Colin Jost.
That work ethic is one of the reasons that Lorne Michaels net worth has grown into the hundreds of millions. You might be wondering if you can replicate it.
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