The opening montage is the official start to each episode of Saturday Night Live. It begins immediately after the cold open when a cast member yells "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!". The opening credits is a montage of New York nightlife, showing many famous NYC Landmarks, restaurants, and entertainment districts. It begins with the announcer saying "It's Saturday Night Live!" with the show's title on the screen. It then accredits all cast members, who are shown enjoying NYC nightlife, followed by the night's Musical Guest and Host. The montage transitions back into Studio 8H, showing the Central Station clock, and moving to the main stage where the show's host delivers a monologue.

Generations[edit | edit source]

Original cast (seasons 1-5)[edit | edit source]

In the beginning, only a vague concept existed of what Saturday Night Live would be, with no good idea on how much of the show would be occupied by sketches. The original montage reflected this- only a textual list of cast members was presented, with no names read aloud. As it became more obvious that the show would focus primarily on the sketches, announcer Don Pardo began reading the names. By the end of the first season, the list of names had been replaced by individual photos of each cast member; this opening would remain in use throughout season 2.

For season 3, the opening was completely revamped. While Howard Shore's original theme music remained, the still pictures and titles were replaced by video from a light screen in New York's Times Square. The shots used changed more than once during the season, but always kept the Times Square theme. This opening also marked the beginning of Pardo's opening line, "It's Saturday Night Live!" and the last time the cast was referred to as the "Not Ready For Primetime Players."

For season 4, the montage reverted to still photos, albeit different ones from the first season, and without names shown. Season 5 switched to a low-framerate, stop motion inspired system. The featured players also appeared for the first time, and notably, only featured players who appeared in an episode would be listed. The opening music changed from the original theme music, though the new theme was similar.

Season 6[edit | edit source]

Season 6 debuted with a massive shakeup, which included changes to the montage. The cast was shown in stills, with their names flying in as if on a ribbon. The music heavily changed from the previous season. (Indeed, this would be the only season in which the ending "goodbyes" music would also change.) However, due to the shakeups that took place, this theme was only seen for twelve episodes. For the last episode of the season, the original season 1 music returned and was combined with a hastily-produced montage that featured stills taken behind-the-scenes.

Seasons 7-10[edit | edit source]

Season 7 introduced a new montage style that would persist for three seasons. Initially, announcer Don Pardo was absent, replaced by Mel Brandt; Pardo returned for season 8. The music changed again, to an uptempo theme, significantly faster than previous years. Cast photos were still, but shown in a new style- the photo would appear, then after a beat, the cast member's name would be superimposed over the entire photo.

Season 10 kept the music from the previous three years, but changed to a new style, where the cast members were shown as giants among New York City buildings, interacting with the environment— Jim Belushi rearranged subway cars, Mary Gross sprayed a helicopter with bug spray, and Christopher Guest took a bath in Yankee Stadium. This opening placed the host and musical guest(s) at the end of the montage, a style that has remained.

Seasons 11[edit | edit source]

With Lorne Michaels returning for season 11, the montage style changed again. The music changed to a slower tempo, more like the original theme, but even more notably, like almost every theme SNL has used since. In fact, this montage could be seen as setting the trend for what would continue until today. For most episodes, the repertory cast members were shown in video clips that would freeze with a title up, while featured players were shown in stills. However, three episodes used a different montage that went with a faster pace (albeit keeping the slower music), showing still cast photos in rapid succession like the season 7-9 opening.

Seasons 12-15[edit | edit source]

With a new cast in place, a new montage was made for season 12, which remained in use for season 13. It began with cast members fleeing something not shown, and showed repertory cast members in video clips, and featured players in stills. No titles were shown with cast names. The music remained the same from season 11. For the first time, the band was introduced after the last featured player.

Season 14 introduced new video, with new video clips of the cast in black and white in a bar setting. The music and overall style remained the same as the previous two years.

Season 16-19[edit | edit source]

Season 16 changed the cast videos again, though the music and overall style still remained unchanged. A notable addition was the middle cast category, with cast members introduced in the same style as repertory cast members. This middle cast category was dropped for season 19, but the montage remained otherwise the same, using the same video clips.

Season 20[edit | edit source]

After four years with the same theme, the montage changes again. The music has also changed slightly, but is still a rendition of the music used since 1985. This montage has a 20th Anniversary theme, and is in black and white, and it consists of the cast members' photos being projected onto various objects around New York.

Seasons 21-22[edit | edit source]

Along with a virtually all new cast, this season also came with an all new opener. With G.E. Smith gone as bandleader, Lenny Pickett takes over, and the theme music is a jazzier version of the 1994-1995 theme. This montage has a theme similar to that of the NBC studios where SNL is broadcast, and consists of black and white images of the cast at a party, with purple and green titling. The SNL logo introduced here is used through the 2005-2006 season.

The 1996 (season 22) montage also uses a "30 Rock" theme, and is virtually identical to the 1995 montage, but with brand new cast photos, and slight change in font.

Season 23[edit | edit source]

This opener is the only montage in SNL's history that did not feature any images of New York City. Instead, it featured colored bars that spun and revealed each cast member photo, along with mention of a TV Funhouse cartoon appearing on some episodes and/or a special guest.

Seasons 24-25[edit | edit source]

This montage was used for two seasons, including SNL's 25th Anniversary season. It is similar to the 1997 montage in that various colored bars were used. However, there are various striking differences between the two montages. Whereas the first one had all bars moved sideways in vertical positions, this one included bars moving from different directions in horizontal positions. Also, unlike the previous montage, shots of New York City were featured within the moving bars. The bars were also different colors. Finally, as opposed to the cast members/musical guest/host photos occupying the entire screen, they were represented in a small box in a beige color.

For the season 25 intro, one difference is that the SNL logo now has a small "25" superscript after it to commemorate its 25th Anniversary and Season 24 featured players, Jimmy Fallon, Horatio Sanz, and Chris Parnell are now added to the main cast while Rachel Dratch (and later Maya Rudolph for the last 3 episodes of the season) would be added in the featured player credits.

Seasons 26-27[edit | edit source]

This opening montage was used for three seasons. It contains various shots from around New York City and features the cast members in a nightclub. It was also the first opening montage since the 1993–94 season in which the cast members moved on-screen. The music that would accompany the opening credits for this season and the next two would garner some criticism from some SNL "purists" because of its heavy use of turntables and DJ equipment.

For season 27, there were a few cast changes, and this time without the World Trade Center in the skyline shot. Ana Gasteyer's clip was changed. The theme had a minor change also.

Season 28[edit | edit source]

This season's montage was basically a "film negative" version of the 2000 montage, using new effects when displaying the cast's title cards. Horatio Sanz's clip was changed. This is also the last opening montage to mention the Saturday Night Live Band in the intro, a tradition which had happened the past 17 years (1986-2003).

Season 29[edit | edit source]

A brand new opening for 2003 has a Grand Central Terminal theme (complementing the new stage), with a "first-person" camera following the cast members who are found around various sections of the subway, and local eateries. This opener is the first not to credit the Saturday Night Live Band, which now seems permanent.

Seasons 30-31[edit | edit source]

Another brand new montage for 2004 opens on a shot of the Brooklyn Bridge, and shows the cast engaging in conversations around a local nightclub. The text for the cast members' names are capatlized, white, and each letter of their name is spread out.

For season 31 -- the 2005-2006 season, the intro was in HD (high-definition), as s31 was the first season of the show to be in HD. The names were also displayed in a different font.

Seasons 32-34[edit | edit source]

The opening montage introduced on the 32nd-season premiere involved the cast on a roof-top party in New York City. It was a completely new production from the previous montage, featuring a completely new logo and VTR. The font was in a plain greyish colour with bold lettering, where each word is progressively larger than the last in both the title and cast credits, with footage of New York City in the background. The musical guest and host's pictures are simply seen over top of the background footage instead of inserted onto a billboard like the previous season.

With the Jaime Pressly episode airing on October 7, 2006, the montage was changed slightly to include an SNL logo changed to a design and typeface identical to the 1981–1985 SNL logo. The pictures of the host and musical guest were placed over the entire screen, instead of over the New York City footage. This new montage was also used for the rerun for the Dane Cook/The Killers episode, replacing the originally-aired one.

Also changing for the October 14, 2006 repeat was the logo. The logo kept the same look, but condensed to look thinner, and to fit wide screen.

For season 33, the artwork for the host and musical guest is now a black and white portrait.

Lastly, for season 34, the majority of the opening is in black and white, while the cast credits remain in color. The "SNL" logo and the cast credits appear smaller to fit into the 4:3 "safe area". In the second episode of the season, the video for Casey Wilson's credit was changed. In the fourth episode, the show went back to being shown in letterbox in some markets.

Season 35-37[edit | edit source]

The opening montage introduced on the 35th-season premiere featured the cast in random places in New York City. The montage features the same logo as the previous seasons but instead of the greyish color it's now a light greenish color with bold lettering. The host and musical guest are pictures cover the entire screen when introduced. In the second episode the host and musical guest have a small picture that is circled with bright colors, the background features it going down a city street. It also had the "SNL 35" bumper, since this was the show's 35th season.

For season 36, all reference to SNL's 35 years on the air were removed, including the intro, and is mostly the same other than Will Forte and Jenny Slate (who both departed the show) removed. Scenes with Vanessa Bayer (sitting at an outdoor cafe), Paul Brittain (riding a bike down Midtown), Taran Killam (playing table tennis), and Jay Pharoah (showing off his breakdancing moves) were added.

Lastly, for season 37, the only changes are as of the Channing Tatum/Bon Iver episode, featured player Paul Brittain is no longer shown in the featured player montage, as he left the cast after the Daniel Radcliffe/Lana Del Rey episode. New featured player Kate McKinnon was added to the featured player montage as of the Sofia Vergara/One Direction episode.

Seasons 38-39[edit | edit source]

The opening montage introduced in the season 38 premiere features still photos of each cast member interspersed among a New York City background. The cast photos are edited to look like separate images merging to form one picture. The first time since the 1999-2000 season to solely have photos of the cast members. The photo of the host features it over a crowded street, while the photo of the musical guest is over the Brooklyn Bridge. As of the Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Mumford & Sons episode, the opening was slightly modified, Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis, and Kate McKinnon's photos were also changed and the photos of the host and musical guest had switched places. (photo of the host behind the Brooklyn Bridge, the musical guest behind the city street).

For season 39, the opening montage is the same as last season's, only Cecily Strong's photo was changed, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Tim Robinson (who is now on the writing staff), and Jason Sudeikis have been removed (and later, Seth Meyers after the Melissa McCarthy/Imagine Dragons episode), and the new cast members were added, starting with Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, Noël Wells, John Milhiser, Michael Patrick O'Brien (credited as Mike O'Brien"), and Brooks Wheelan on the Tina Fey/Arcade Fire season premiere episode, Sasheer Zamata on the episode with Drake as host and musical guest, and Colin Jost on the Jim Parsons/Beck episode.

Seasons 40-43[edit | edit source]

This new montage marked Darrell Hammond's debut as the show's new announcer, who replaced Don Pardo after Pardo's death during the offseason.

A fresh new soundtrack was added, too, extending to two minutes.

The opening montage introduced in the season 40 premiere is in the same vein as the 2009–12 opening, in which we see the cast members engage in various locations of New York City. In addition, there is a completely new logo as well as a revamped theme song, which is a hybrid of the 2009 and 2012 themes.

The new montage began a flickering theme for the text. This montage returned the use of live video for cast members rather than pictures. For Season 40, "40" was put after "Saturday Night Live" or "SNL"; it was removed for Season 41. Starting with season 42, still photos of the host as musical guest were replaced with short video clips.

Seasons 44-45[edit | edit source]

For season 44, new art deco-themed tiles were used for cast members. The Saturday Night Live logo and music remained unchanged.

The intro changed this season, after having been the same for the past four seasons. It featured black and white video which showed each cast members' whereabouts through New York City, which changed to color and a freeze frame over which the names of each cast member would appear in white text with a color background. The SNL logo that debuted in 2014 remained and the theme music is a rearrangement of the 2014 theme. Also, the host and musical guest portions are the same as in the past two seasons, in which they are live short video clips. This intro would be kept through the Daniel Craig and the Weeknd episode.

However, starting with the SNL at Home episodes (beginning: April 11, 2020), due to the coronavirus pandemic, the intro was changed for the last 3 episodes of the season, and showed the cast members at their homes.

Season 46[edit | edit source]

After just two seasons, a new opening intro has been introduced. Like the previous one, it's in black and white and shows the cast both at NBC Studios and around 30 Rockefeller Plaza, with their names appearing in variously colored cursive lettering. Some of the cast are also shown wearing masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The theme music from the previous intro was carried over to this one (with small arrangement changes towards the beginning) and the host and musical guest portions, in which they are short video clips, remain the same.

As of the Issa Rae/Justin Bieber episode, the cards for the host and musical guest are now in color. Though the Dave Chappelle/Foo Fighters intro was in black and white.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

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