'SNL' 40 Red Carpet: Past Stars, Current Cast Recall Favorite Moments, Working With "Childhood Heroes"

Colin Quinn, Cheri Oteri and Chris Parnell were just some of the 'SNL' alumni who spoke with THR on the red carpet before Sunday night's live show.
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Cheri Oteri on the red carpet ahead of 'SNL's' 40th anniversary special.

Saturday Night Live castmembers, hosts and musical guests past and present reunited in New York on Sunday night to celebrate the show's 40th anniversary.

Before making their way into 30 Rock's Studio 8H, the stars braved the frigid temperatures to walk the (heated) red carpet.

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Eddie Murphy made his first return to SNL in more than 30 years and was spotted dashing past a group of reporters and fans seated on bleachers across the carpet to speak to NBC's Al Roker. Surprise guest Sarah Palin also seemed to steal the show on the carpet, enthusiastically chatting with a group of reporters about her favorite sketches and how the first time she saw Tina Fey's famous impression of her she "did a double take."

"To this day, people attribute to me quotes and funny lines that she said, and they think that I said them," Palin was overheard telling reporters. "Good, bad or ugly, that's the way it is."

Other star-studded scenes from the red carpet included Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg catching up before posing for a photo with some of the show's current castmembers; Jim Belushi chatting with Jon Lovitz, with the pair later joined by Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde; and Glenn Close posing for a photo with several members of 'N Sync.

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The Hollywood Reporter asked former castmembers which moments from their time on the show they would never forget — good or bad.

Cheri Oteri said there are "so many," but she particularly recalls when she played Barbara Walters interviewing Snoop Dogg.

"He was just a musical guest. No one had ever seen him act before," she said. "That was probably a big thing for me because when I wrote it, I don't think anyone thought it was going to do well. And it ended up doing real well."

Colin Quinn said he thinks of the time Robert De Niro made a (nearly) surprise appearance, popping up at the end of a sketch he and Jim Breuer did in which he was playing De Niro and Breuer was playing Joe Pesci. Quinn said they didn't know the renowned actor would be there until about 20 minutes before the sketch aired. Ellen Cleghorne also remembers a famous guest: Michael Jordan, whom she spotted in the studio on her first day at SNL.

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Melanie Hutsell's favorite SNL moment was when she participated in a Brady Bunch-Partridge Family battle of the bands, which also holds a special place in her heart because she wrote it.

"It was a dream come true for me," she said. "I wrote the sketch myself, which was always a thrill. Anytime you wrote something and got it on, it felt like a miracle."

Hutsell said leading up to the anniversary celebration she'd been messaging with fellow SNL alum Julia Sweeney about what each of them would wear. She said she wasn't sure what to expect from the anniversary special, having just arrived in freezing New York on Friday morning.

The former castmember said she still watches the show with the enthusiasm of a football fan heading into a new season.

"Every fall, I feel like the Saturday Night Live season is to me the way football is to my dad and it's sort of like, 'Who's playing this year?' It's been really fun for me to see the show evolve and see so many great women come through and do so well. It's just been amazing to see that growth," Hutsell said.

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Chris Parnell recalled watching U2 deliver a spectacular performance.

"Bono came off the stage, walked around the whole studio singing and the audience was just going crazy and the camera men were struggling to keep up with him and keep a shot," Parnell said of the performance during a Val Kilmer-hosted episode. "It was just this really wild, rock 'n' roll live moment, with Bono and U2. It was pretty exciting."

Parnell played several characters during his time on the show, but he said he wasn't really nervous about any of his impressions.

"The impressions I usually did, a lot of them were political. I don't think anybody really cared or took them that seriously," he said. "I did [Tom] Brokaw and I introduced myself to him once in the NBC gym. He was totally great. I guess he would have been the only one I would have worried about, and he didn't mind."

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Parnell also revealed that he would, hopefully, make an appearance in Sunday night's show, saying he "shot a little pretaped something." And he said he was excited to get to work with fellow SNL alum Adam Sandler on a special celebrating where they both got their start.

Backstreet Boy A.J. MacLean was there with fellow band member Howie Dorough after Lorne Michaels requested the group attend the 40th anniversary extravaganza (the other three band members had prior commitments, MacLean said).

He also recalled a fond memory from when the group performed on SNL.

"We did a kind of a percapella version of 'All I Have to Give' around one microphone and it's probably one of our best vocal performances ever," he said. "They wanted us on five mics. We said, 'Let's try something new.' We did it doo-wop style. It sounded amazing. That's probably one of our favorite highlights."

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MacLean also shared that his favorite SNL sketch from the show's 40-year history was the famous "More Cowbell" bit, calling it "one of the most amazing ones in history."

"Not so much that Will Ferrell is a genius but to always watch Jimmy Fallon break character and laugh is probably one of the best things about SNL," he said.

Meanwhile, SNL's current castmembers talked to THR about the crazy, exciting week of preparation that went into the anniversary celebration.

"It's pretty exciting. I mean, everybody's around; you don't have to do much. It's like just trust Norm MacDonald and trust all of these guys that are a part of the show," Michael Che said, calling working on the 40th anniversary special "one of the greatest weeks I've ever had in comedy." Che added that he got to work with Chris Rock a little bit but couldn't give away any more. Leslie Jones said she got to work with her Ghostbusters predecessor Dan Aykroyd. Pete Davidson was glad he got to hang out with Bill Hader but said even he didn't know everything planned for Sunday night's show.

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Colin Jost said the week of preparation had been "very fun," recalling that spending time with Norm MacDonald was a highlight. "He's one of the funniest guys ever," Jost said. "So just to casually talk to him was a huge thrill.

"It's mostly watching your idols mess around and have fun and rehearse and be in the same space together," he added. "So I'd say its 90 percent fun and 10 percent crazy work of figuring out how to fit everyone in."

Kate McKinnon echoed that, saying she couldn't pinpoint just one person she was excited she got the chance work with.

"There's too many, so many of my childhood heroes, it's so bizarre," she said.

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Other guests who shared their favorite SNL sketches with THR included Oscar nominees Bennett Miller and J.K. Simmons, both of whom said they were looking forward to a fun Oscars weekend.

Miller said his favorite SNL sketch is "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer," and Simmons, who called his recent SNL-hosting experience "intimidating and terrifying and really fun," loved Garrett Morris' news for the hearing impaired on "Weekend Update" in the early days of the show.

"They had a little inset of Garrett Morris just screaming at the camera what Jane Curtin said," Simmons explained. "That's when I knew I was not watching normal TV comedy."

All of the members of the new, all-female Ghostbusters cast were on the SNL red carpet, including Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, along with director Paul Feig.

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As for her role in the film, Jones said, "All of it [has] not sunk in yet. It's all still surreal."

And Feig said it's a testament to Michaels' ability to cast funny women on SNL that his female Ghostbusters cast is so SNL-heavy.

"Lorne Michaels is such a genius of casting that he finds the funniest people, and my only criteria for anything is I just want people who make me laugh," Feig explained. "It just happens to work out, especially these days, he's got some of the funniest women working. There are so many funny women in the cast right now that it's hard not to get everyone in there, and I want to work with everyone, but it just happened to work out that his batting average is so high that I can't deny it. I don't care where they come from, but I would never say that, 'Three of you are from the show, I can't do it.' Nobody cares, as long as it's funny."

Other stars spotted walking the red carpet included Martin Short, Sigourney Weaver, Jim Carrey, Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon, Jerry Seinfeld, Seth Meyers, David Spade, Amy Poehler, Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg, Chris Kattan, Chevy Chase, Victoria Jackson, Rudy Giuliani, Lorne Michaels, Diane Sawyer, Larry David, J.B. Smoove, Sarah Silverman, Keith Richards, Tom Hanks, Will Forte, Will Ferrell, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Maya Rudolph, James Franco, Martin Short, Rachel Dratch, Bob Odenkirk, Horatio Sanz, Kerry Washington, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Penny Marshall, Ari Emanuel, and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.

Feb. 15, 9:41 p.m. This story has been updated with more red-carpet quotes and anecdotes.

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