Why Lorne Michaels Turned Down His Own Show

Lorne Michaels has been creating comedy for other people since the 1960s. Before becoming the mastermind behind "Saturday Night Live," he wrote for another famed comedy sketch series with big-name stars, but this show aired in primetime. As a writer for "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," which ran from 1967 to 1973, Michaels got to create bits for such stars as Lily Tomlin and Goldie Hawn, before they became movie stars (via IMDb).

While Michaels found success with "Laugh-In," he wasn't thrilled with his work there and told Rolling Stone he didn't feel he really deserved the accolades he received. "I got an Emmy nomination for 'Laugh-In,' but I felt like I was standing next to the guy who gets shot and you both get the Purple Heart," he said (via Rolling Stone).

It was just a few years later when Michaels got the chance to create his own comedy sketch series when NBC no longer wanted to air "Tonight Show" reruns on Saturday night. Yes, it was his own show, but not one in front of the camera, a venture he would one day turn down.

Lorne Michaels became a star behind the scenes

In 1975, "Saturday Night Live" was born, bringing Lorne Michaels fame, fortune, and several Emmys over four decades. Also known as the "Not Ready for Primetime Players," Michaels created a comedy powerhouse show that gave birth to such stars as Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, and Chris Rock (via Business Insider).

As these comedians' stars took off, so did Michaels', as everyone knew who the brains behind "Saturday Night Live" was and still is as of this writing. He took a pause from the show in 1980, but NBC brought him back five years later when the show's ratings were failing — Michaels has never looked back. As executive producer for most of the show's run, Michaels has led the legendary comedy series to more than 60 Emmys (via Biography). Despite his fame, he still did not want to star in his own series when NBC offered him the chance.

Lorne Michaels did not want to mirror Donald Trump's show, The Apprentice

With the early success of Donald Trump's reality competition series, "The Apprentice," in which Trump played a successful businessman looking for someone with his perceived business acumen to be his protégé, NBC wanted to see if they could create the same type of series with Lorne Michaels as the star. While Michaels didn't give any details about the show's format, he did tell The Hollywood Reporter why he turned it down, despite being offered "a lot of money."

"It was the Scott Sassa era at NBC, and they wanted me to do a Trump thing," he said. "I would have liked the money, but I didn't want to be 'that.' I can't have cameras in here between dress and air. I need that freedom."

So, Michaels continued at the helm of "Saturday Night Live," his iconic creation that allows him to still make people laugh, but keep a bit of his mysterious image intact.