The Definitive SNL

by Kathrine Esten

At the very heart of this project, we wanted to learn the genre distribution of potential SNL media.

While comedy dominates the official SNL media output, we were curious as to the second most-frequent genre. Was it the late night talk shows dominated by alumni like Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon? Or was it animated films like Inside Out (2015) and Hotel Transylvania (2012) that would take a surprising second?

Based on our data set, we generated a table of the most frequent genres used on IMDB:

As a note, many projects on IMDB are labeled as multiple genres. For example, SNL and several “Best Of” specials are categorized as “music” due to the live musical performances featured on the show.

Key Findings

“Documentary” is the second most-frequent genre for potential SNL media

Three categories had only one project apiece and all had Lorne Michaels as a co-producer:

Only four “talk shows” had coefficients higher than 1


With almost fifty years of history behind it, SNL and its alumni have spawned a great number of documentary pieces such as Live From New York (2015) and Belushi (2020). It is also of note that “Best Of” specials are counted as documentary by imbD categorization, further inflating this genre’s representation on our graph. As a fun fact, the highest non-SNL related (ie. not produced by NBC or associated with the show) was 2018’s Love, Gilda.

In the coversation of whether documentary-style pieces should qualify as SNL media, this evidence perhaps merits further clarification of what standards exist for SNL movies/media: are they fictional?

Examining the other key findings, it is clear that Lorne Michael’s designated coefficient of 1 leads to a major boost for projects that he co-produces, particularly when they involve prominent alumni. Hot Rod and Three Amigos each have a coefficient over 3 (3.003 and 3.857, respectively) and SNL cast members as leads, but neither appears in a standard list of SNL films. Three Amigos is also unique among our data points as one of Michaels’ few writing credits.

For talk shows, the coefficient is limited in its analysis: by measuring total amount of episodes, any impact SNL alumni have on the show is incredibly diluted.

Ultimately, the genre bar graph confirms that the SNL franchise and other potential SNL media are mostly comedy; most other genres are secondary or tertiary genre categories. Baby Mama (2008), for example, is both a “comedy” and a “romance.”

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