‘Saturday Night Live’: Former Cast Member Says Lorne Michaels Ran the Show Like a ‘Cult’

With news circulating around Ellen DeGeneres‘ treatment of her staff on her talk show, Ellen, perhaps she’s not the only TV executive who should be put under scrutiny. Saturday Night Live executive producer and creator, Lorne Michaels, has experienced his fair share of grumbling from former players over the years. One of the former cast members of SNL says Michaels employed cult-like behavior.

‘Saturday Night Live’ alum Taran Killam says the episodes that aired post-Seth Meyers were different

Lorne Michaels
Lorne Michaels in 2017 | Mike Pont/WireImage

According to Taran Killam, who exited Saturday Night Live in 2018, the comedy series turned at a certain point.

“… he felt the show had changed for the worse after Seth Meyers left as head writer,” Vulture reported. The SNL alum explained on a podcast at the time:

When Seth Meyers left the show, the dynamic changed quite a bit. … And I also think the 40th [anniversary show] really sort of affected Lorne in that I think it was exciting and I think it was flattering and I think he was really able to sort of relish in this incredible institution that he’s responsible for and all these amazing iconic careers and all of his famous friends, and it had to have been the most potent overwhelming boost of a ‘this is your life’ experience ever. And then it all went away, and then it was back to this cast who’s all 40 years younger than you and aren’t as famous as Tina Fey or whatever, and my experience was he became very impatient.

Killam accused Saturday Night Live of being “less of a happy place to be” after the series hit its 40-year mark. The show also evolved into a “competitive, exhausting environment.”

Taran Killam on Saturday Night Live
Taran Killam and Woody Harrelson on Saturday Night Live | Dana Edelson/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

‘SNL’ creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels gets accused of rough conditions throughout the seasons

But this is by no means the first time the Saturday Night Live executive producer has faced criticism. In 1995, New York Magazine published an in-depth article on the inner workings of SNL. One former cast member had harsh words for Michaels.

“It’s the same techniques cults use,” the Saturday Night Live alum accused. “They keep you up for hours, they never let you know that you’re okay, and they always make you think that your spot could be taken at any moment by someone else.”

Michaels, they claimed, “wants people to feel insecure.”

The magazine noted that Michaels was more present that Saturday Night Live season than in the past. However, all that did was up the “already-therapy-caliber paranoia level” of the staff. There were other complaints about the executive producer, too.

‘Saturday Night Live’ cast accused Lorne Michaels of rough working conditions

Saturday Night Live
Lorne Michaels with the cast and crew accepting the Outstanding Variety Sketch Series award for Saturday Night Live during the 70th Emmy Awards in 2018 | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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Michaels has produced several former SNL cast members’ movies and TV shows. But, to many Saturday Night Live stars, that felt less like the outcome of a professional relationship, and more like another measure of Michaels’ control. In fact, many SNL alums claimed that developing a project outside of Michaels’ management and production company would lead to a sort of punishment during your time on the show.

“Your sketches don’t get on, or you get on in the last five minutes of the show,” the ex-player claimed. Others who knew Michaels well said the Saturday Night Live creator was too obsessed with fame and power.

“He wants to be a legend,” they said back in 1995. “And he would have ‘LEGENDARY’ tattooed in his underwear if it were possible.”