Bill Murray Was Cut From Season 1 Of Saturday Night Live At The Very Last Minute

Bill Murray was such an integral part of the success of "Saturday Night Live" that many people will assert he was there for the entirety of the show's pioneering first five seasons. He was a member of the "National Lampoon Radio Hour" ensemble that included John Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Chevy Chase, and left an indelible mark on SNL as trend-chasing Nick the Lounge Singer and Todd DiLaMuca, the noogie-administering boyfriend of Radner's Lisa Loopner.

Murray, however, was effectively red-shirted for the first season of SNL. Though he was clearly, abundantly talented enough to crack the first season's lineup, producer Lorne Michaels, who was overseeing NBC's late Saturday night experiment, had to kill a darling or two at the last second to appease the network's miserly budgeting. The 25-year-old Murray wound up being the odd oddball out.

Not quite ready for the Not Ready for Prime Time Players

According to Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller's "Live from New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers and Guests," Murray shot a screen test three weeks prior to the show's live premiere, where he introduced two characters: former Washington Redskins running back Duane Thomas and Nick.

The tape still exists, and nearly made it to the air for SNL's 15th and 25th-anniversary shows. Evidently, Nick fell flat at first, but Murray kept attacking and started slaying. Per Shales and Andrews:

"First [Murray] does a freewheeling version of the show tune 'Hey There' from 'The Pajama Game': 'Hey there, you with the starrrrs in your eyes. Nobody told you what day it was, Nobody was surprised.' He pantomimes playing a cocktail piano, using the desk in front of him as a keyboard, threatening to sing and play 'something by Bobby Vinton, something from his new 'Polish Is Cool' album ..."

Vinton's Polish heritage was oddly fair comedic game throughout much of his career, at least until 1990, when CBS' Jack Buck goofed on the crooner's errant performance of the National Anthem by noting, "Well, when you're Polish and live in Pittsburgh, you can do anything you want with the words."

1975 was, fortunately for Murray, a different time. After putting in three months on the short-lived "Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell," Michaels tapped Murray to replace the departing Chase. The prime beneficiary was Radner, who shared a wonderfully rambunctious chemistry with the Evanston-born dynamo. Despite an infamous backstage dust-up with Chase when the former cast member returned to host the show, Murray's SNL run was immaculate. Outside of Eddie Murphy, he is arguably the biggest star the show ever produced.