Saturday Night Live Has Johnny Carson To Thank For Its Existence

"Saturday Night Live" and "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" have quite a bit in common. Both are based on comedy and variety. Both are products of NBC. And both became staples of late-night television for nearly the entire second half of the 20th century. Johnny Carson hosted "The Tonight Show" from 1962 to 1992. Though it was not the first iteration of a late-night talk show, it became a blueprint for Jay Leno who took over for Carson in 1992 and for Jimmy Fallon when he took the reins in 2014.

"Saturday Night Live" began in 1975 and has been on air ever since. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, cast member Dana Carvey impersonated Johnny Carson multiple times on "Saturday Night Live." Carson seemed unbothered at first. Carvey was even an annual guest on "The Tonight Show." However, "Saturday Night Live" eventually lost favor with Carson, as Carvey explained on "The Howard Stern Show" (posted on YouTube).

Johnny Carson only wanted to film four shows per week

When speaking to Howard Stern (posted on YouTube), Dana Carvey explained that Johnny Carson abruptly stopped having him as a guest on "The Tonight Show." He later learned that Carson did not care for the frequent impression of him that Carvey did on "Saturday Night Live." Carvey pointed to one sketch in particular that depicted Carson as "senile."

Despite Johnny Carson growing tired of "Saturday Night Live," Carson inadvertently had a role in the creation of the show. According to Medium, Carson had enough pull with NBC executives (and big enough paychecks) to make the decision to go from five shows per week to four. At the time, reruns of "The Tonight Show" aired on Saturday nights. Doing four shows a week meant that the rerun would have to air on a weekday, freeing up Saturday nights. NBC needed something for Saturdays. Enter Lorne Michaels, the creator of "Saturday Night Live." He promised the network a show that would appeal to a different audience than Carson did, but still within the realm of comedy.

Jimmy Fallon began hosting The Tonight Show in 2014

Even with Lorne Michaels creating a new show, Johnny Carson was still the golden boy of NBC. He met with NBC executive Dick Ebersol before "Saturday Night Live" began. The two agreed that "Saturday Night Live" could not have a guest host who was also going to appear or had appeared on "The Tonight Show" within a few weeks. Basically, "The Tonight Show" got first pick when it came to guests on either show (per Medium).

Since Jimmy Fallon — who is a former "Saturday Night Live" cast member himself — took over hosting "The Tonight Show," upcoming guest hosts of "Saturday Night Live" often sit on "The Tonight Show" couch just days before Saturday's broadcast. After all, both shows film at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. Appearing on "The Tonight Show" is a chance to promote the upcoming airing of "Saturday Night Live." Jimmy Fallon has returned to host multiple times as well.