On the Town with Shinan: While Lorne Michaels gears up to celebrate a 40th, Steve Martin fed the geese

By Shinan Govani

Photo: Getty

Will he – or won't he?

With just a few weekends to go before NBC airs an epic, three-hour special marking the 40 thanniversary of Saturday Night Live, the question remains: is Eddie Murphy gonna return to its stage? With little love lost between the iconic comedy show and one of the biggest bona fide stars to com out of it – one that Eddie hasn't shied away from talking about in the past – it's the big, honkin' mystery.

A source close to the show, however, has told me that it's all being “worked out,” and it looks like Eddie – who skipped the 25th anniversary – will, indeed, join. “It's like the MidEast talks!” the source further teased.

With all the living alumni expected to trot out for the event – everyone from Bill Murray to Will Ferrell to Tina Fey – the whole event is shaping up to be the biggest celebrity production of the season, next to the Oscars and the Grammys. And though SNL has, at times, had the same dysfunctions of any close-knit family – Eddie's quarrel with the show stems from David Spade taking shots at him in a season that followed his departure – the 40th would be as good as time any to call 'em bygones, wouldn't it?

In any case, four decades on the air is a huge accomplishment, both for the show and the wizard from Toronto, who created it, Lorne Michaels. Consider that, in 1975, when the yuck-yucks got going, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Jeffersons were on the air. So was Happy Days. Lorne, who'd worked mainly for the CBC in Canada, was famously paid $115,000 to create a new late-night variety, comedy, and musical television show, one that, as one writer once put it, “would speak to a new generation that distrusted network TV almost as much as it distrusted Nixon.”

Photo: Getty

Live from New York...it's Lorne Michaels! A figure as enigmatic and mythologized as few are in the entertainment biz, he is. And it's also a very few who can say they changed not just pop culture and television, but politics, as Lorne continues to do. (Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, anyone?) Speaking in an interview about his earliest days, Lorne once said, “The only show I ever really wanted to do was SNL. It was some sort of merging of my talent and my metabolism. It suited who I am and what I do really well, though whatever I was thinking it was, it kept mutating and growing.”

From Coneheads to “Debbie Downer”...the rest is history. And as things go into high-gear for the anniversary hoopla, happening on February 15th, it's also interesting to remember Lorne's policy where sleep is concerned: too much can kill creativity. “There’s a mantra that I have, which is fatigue is your friend,” the 70-year-old impresario has said. “There’s a point at which, in anything artistic, at least from my perspective, the critical faculty can overwhelm the creative faculty… When you’re tired, you just write it, and all sorts of different kinds of work comes out.”

Meanwhile, in other funny business:

Just hours after Steve Martin was spotted feeding Canadian geese in London, Ontario – for real! - he was mingling with various eggheads and collectors in Toronto. In the earlier-mentioned city, he'd made a quick visit, Thursday, to the Museum London in order to look at paintings by legendary painter Lawren Harris – an all-out obsession of the art-heavy Steve! (It was outside the Museum where he did the geese-feeding, incidentally!). Zipping to Toronto for more Lawren Harris madness, he joined a tony crowd at the Art Gallery of Ontario for a dinner, combined with an on-stage conversation with New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, focusing on the Group of Seven great. “As funny as he is smart,” is how one attendee summed up the evening.

The dinner, dubbed “Idea of North”, explored the upcoming Lawren Harris exhibition that the man-of-many-trades is co-curating at the AGO. As he reiterated this night, the artist's work stands up to the best American art made during the same period, including the likes of Georgia O'Keefe.

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