|Premier:||September 24, 1994|
|Last episode:||May 13, 1995|
|Weekend Update anchor(s):||Norm MacDonald|
Season 20 ran from the fall of 1994 to the spring of 1995.
Lorne Michaels credits this season as the closest he's ever been to being fired. The show's quality had started to slide over the past season, and the decline continued this year. Phil Hartman had left at the end of the previous year, and Mike Myers would leave mid-season; Michaels attempted to bolster the case with new hires Laura Kightlinger, Chris Elliott, Janeane Garofalo, and Mark McKinney (who was added mid-season), as well as Molly Shannon (as a replacement for the departing Mike Myers) and Morweanna Banks (as a replacement for Garofalo).
The sagging ratings were also hurt by the March 1995 issue of New York magazine, which ran a cover story entitled "How 'Saturday Night Live' Became a Grim Joke". The story told, in great detail, the backstage wrangling that was occurring at SNL, detailing the expensive sets and the experience of Janeane Garofalo, who'd hated her time at SNL and finally quit in February. Rumors were already flying that other networks were smelling blood in the water and planning competing shows for the timeslot (only one materialized, Fox's MadTV). Longtime viewers complained that certain sketches, such as "Total Bastard Airlines", were not only one-joke sketches but grating and lacking any comedy at all, and as such the ratings dive was indeed deserved.
With the negative press and looming competition, a massive change was deemed necessary. Following the end of the season, most of the cast and writers quit or were fired- longtime cast members Kevin Nealon and Al Franken quit at the end of the season, as did newer hire Ellen Cleghorne, and many familiar faces who remained were dropped, including head writer Jim Downey and actors Chris Farley and Adam Sandler. (Downey was forced out as head writer but would remain at SNL, credited as "Weekend Update Producer".) Also, director Dave Wilson, who was with the show for majority of its existence, retired at the end of the season; long time musical director G.E. Smith called it quits.
For the following season, only Norm MacDonald and David Spade would remain from the start of the season, though Spade remained specifically to integrate the new cast, appearing only as himself. Tim Meadows was initially fired but was rehired, and would remain for several more years. Midseason replacements Mark McKinney and Molly Shannon were also retained.
- Mark McKinney: First January 14
- Mike Myers: Last January 21
- Molly Shannon: First February 25
- Janeane Garofalo: Last February 25
- Morwenna Banks: First April 8
(1994 - 1995)