Michaels Hints at Retirement, Names Fey as Successor
Saturday Night Live creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels has suggested that Tina Fey, one of the show’s most successful alumnae, “could easily” take over his role running the iconic late-night sketch comedy series should he decide to step down.
In an interview with CBS Mornings earlier this week, the 78-year-old Michaels responded to questions about when he might retire and who he sees as his possible successor.
“I won’t want to give up the show,” Michaels said, but added there is a “natural progression” where he names a successor. He singled out Fey, saying she “could easily” take over.
Fey’s History with Saturday Night Live
Tina Fey first joined Saturday Night Live as a writer in 1997 and quickly became a breakout star on the show, anchoring the Weekend Update segment for nine years. She went on to create and star in 30 Rock, a sitcom loosely based on her experiences at SNL.
While focused on 30 Rock for most of the late 2000s, Fey continued to make frequent cameo appearances on SNL. She also co-anchored a number of Weekend Update reunion spots with other SNL alums.
In recent years, rumors have occasionally surfaced that Michaels was grooming Fey to potentially take over. But Michaels’ comments this week were the strongest public indication yet that he sees her as his likely successor.
What This Means for Michaels’ Future at SNL
At 78 years old after nearly 50 years running Saturday Night Live every season since its 1975 premiere, Lorne Michaels is inevitably facing questions of retirement. But he has always closely guarded details about his future plans.
If he were to hand the reins to Fey in the coming years, it would likely happen gradually rather than him stepping aside completely all at once.
Fey taking over would represent the biggest leadership transition in SNL’s history. The show has been practically synonymous with Michaels’ leadership and comedic sensibilities since the beginning.
While Michaels says Fey “could easily” replace him, it remains to be seen if she would want the demanding job running SNL every week. As a successful sitcom creator and film writer/actor, she may prefer to stay focused on other projects rather than return full-time to SNL.
What Past Cast Members Are Saying
Former SNL cast members have had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the idea of Fey taking over for Michaels.
“It makes perfect sense. If anyone can fill Lorne’s shoes, it’s Tina,” Rachel Dratch, an SNL veteran who frequently collaborated with Fey, told the Los Angeles Times.
Seth Meyers, who anchored Weekend Update after Fey, called her the “ideal choice” to lead SNL into a new era.
“No one understands the creativity and chaos behind the scenes at SNL better than Tina,” Meyers told People. “She would no doubt do an amazing job, just as Lorne has for the past 40+ years.”
|Tina Fey joins SNL as a writer
|Fey begins co-anchoring “Weekend Update” segment
|Fey leaves SNL to focus on 30 Rock
|Fey returns frequently for SNL cameos while starring in 30 Rock
|Rumors surface of Michaels grooming Fey to take over SNL
|Michaels says Fey “could easily” replace him as SNL leader
What This Means for SNL’s Future
Saturday Night Live entering a new era without Lorne Michaels at the helm would represent a major transition for the show after half a century of his leadership.
Handing control to an alumna like Tina Fey, with her abundantly clear talents and showrunning experience, provides some continuity. But there would still be open questions about whether SNL can maintain its cultural relevance under new leadership.
Recent seasons of the show have faced criticism for relying too heavily on celebrity cameos as a crutch. Fey would need to consider reforms, potentially shortening episodes, focusing more on emerging talent, and adapting an increasingly mobile media environment.
But NBC executives suggested Fey has the skills to modernize SNL while still delivering comedy that connects across generations–the essence of what has allowed the show to endure since the 1970s.
“There’s tremendous confidence that, if needed, Tina would have creative approaches to keep SNL fresh while upholding everything that makes it special,” said Susan Rovner, chairman of entertainment content for NBCUniversal television.
For now, Lorne Michaels remains at the helm of the iconic show he created nearly 50 years ago. But his comments indicate Tina Fey looms as the heir apparent when he inevitably cedes control in the coming years. The next chapter for Saturday Night Live promises to have plenty of suspense as a new era draws closer.
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