Lorne Michaels

Class of 2022

  • Creator and Executive Producer Saturday Night Live

You're always better when you're surrounded by really talented people.

Lorne Michaels was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1944. His grandparents, who owned a movie house in Toronto, had an early influence on his love of movies, comedy, and music. After his father died when Lorne was 14, he began spending time pursuing entertainment as a career. At that time, he changed his name from Lorne Lipowitz to Lorne Michaels.

Lorne enjoyed writing and putting on productions he created at summer camp. When he attended University College in Toronto, he joined the Follies, a footlights-style comedy troupe. After working his way through school at a local department store, he graduated in 1966 with a degree in English. “At university,” he says, “I encountered people who were much smarter than I was. That taught me to have a little modesty and humility. But I loved the shows we put on, and I had some really good professors. That was a good period for me.”


Lorne joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio, where he was a writer and broadcaster. In 1968, he moved to Los Angeles to work as a writer for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, and The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show. He starred with Hart Pomerantz in The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour, a series of comedy specials that ran on CBC in the early 1970s.

In 1975, Lorne created, with fellow NBC employee Dick Ebersol and president of the network Herb Schlosser, the TV show NBC’s Saturday Night, which changed its name in 1977 to Saturday Night Live (SNL). The show has become a vehicle for launching the careers of some of the most successful comedians in the United States.

SNL became the longest-running and most Emmy-nominated (more than 156) weekly late-night television program in TV history. Lorne began as the producer of the show and also a writer. Today, he serves as the executive producer.

When asked about adversities and challenges he has faced in life, Lorne says, “Doing a weekly live show doesn’t give you time to dwell on things that didn’t work well. You live with it for a couple of days and think about it, but we don’t do SNL when we feel it is ready — we go on the air because it’s 11:30. There is no thinking we need another day of rehearsal. We are just hurtling towards that moment. It makes you think faster and you learn to roll with the punches. If something doesn’t work — and there is always something that doesn’t work — well, we have a blank page in six days. You show up on Monday and you still aim high. You can’t force something that isn’t’ working. So, you get more and more grateful for when it really is working. And then there is a kind of magic to it.”

Lorne is also the executive producer of the NBC show Late Night, and was the executive producer of 30 Rock and Up All Night during their runs. He also serves as the executive producer of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

What I’ve Learned

“I think that you are always better when you’re surrounded by really talented people,” Lorne says. “When we add new people to the cast, it’s kind of exhilarating because they bring a different energy. I think the best way for someone to learn is by example. For their first year, I leave the new people alone. They are bright and they figure it out as they go. I try to make sure they are seen in their best light, but you either understand it after a while and it catches on, or you’re not meant for that.”

Accolades and Philanthropy

In 1999, Lorne received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In Canada, he was awarded the Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 2006. He was previously inducted into the Order of Canada in 2002. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2018. In 2008 and 2015, he was named one of Time magazine’s “Time 100” – a list of the most influential people in the world. In 2013, he received the Distinguished Collaborator Award by the Costume Designers Guild and also earned the rare honor of an individual Peabody Award. In 2019, Lorne was honored with the Cannes Lions inaugural Entertainment Person of the Year Award and in 2021 was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors.

Lorne Michaels and his wife, Alice, do philanthropic work through the Michaels Family Foundation. They are generous supporters of higher education and have given gifts to Vanderbilt University, Deerfield Academy, Dartmouth College, and Yale University.