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'SNL's' Lorne Michaels talks Betty White, Sarah Palin

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The Hollywood Reporter: With 126 nominations, "Saturday Night Live" has surpassed "ER" to become the most nominated show in Emmy history. After 35 years, what do awards mean to you?

Lorne Michaels: Nothing, until you're sitting there and then they mean everything!

THR: What about "SNL" are you most proud of?

Michaels: I'm built to always be thinking about the show we are about to do. But I am certainly proud of all of the work we've done. I have great affection for everyone who's ever been a cast member.

THR: You were recently in Chicago and L.A. scouting talent for the show. Can we expect more staff changes this year?

Michaels: Yes. Kristen (Wiig) and I saw some shows at Second City and the Groundlings in L.A. We're also holding auditions soon in New York. We're always in the process of putting together the strongest possible cast.

THR: "SNL" has racked up dozens of nominations for its cast members over the years, including another for Wiig this year. Is it strange that such a performance-driven variety show is in the same Emmy category as "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report?"

Michaels: Yes. I honestly don't think "funny" is the criteria there; more a feeling of what the shows represent within the industry. When we began in 1975, the "variety" category was huge, with shows like "The Smothers Brothers." It has really diminished since then.

THR: You also produce "30 Rock" and are planning a live episode in October. Are you nervous?

Michaels: Yeah. I think the worst that could happen is that it's very, very bad.

THR: Aside from "30 Rock," what show makes you laugh?

Michaels: I am a huge "South Park" fan. They are doing the bravest work out there.

THR: Speaking of brave, Betty White said she was terrified to shoot her Emmy-nominated guest spot on "SNL" in May. Did you realize you were overseeing a pop-culture milestone?

Michaels: Weirdly enough, I think I maybe did. I had asked Betty a few times in previous decades to host the show. She's as close as people in comedy get to elegance. She worked without complaint for 14 hours a day. I think everybody just took their cue from her. I mean, who's going to complain when the 88-year-old isn't complaining?

 

THR: That show was also a reunion of former cast members Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph and Ana Gasteyer. Was it emotional?

Michaels: I don't think any of us knew how powerful it would be until that night. The girls who came back ... most of them brought their children. And it was also the day before Mother's Day. The level of emotion in the room really surprised all of us.

THR: What do you have planned for "SNL" next season that could top the Betty White episode? Perhaps an official Sarah Palin hosting gig?

Michaels: We will have to see how the fall elections go. It's hard to predict now. We certainly could have never predicted that John McCain would choose a running mate who looked a lot like Tina Fey.

THR: Will you ever retire?

Michaels: I don't plan to ever retire. As long as I'm not feeble and can still work at that pace, I'll be there.