TORONTO (CP) _ As creator and executive producer of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels has achieved the kind of long-term success that few in the TV industry can imagine. But despite his celebrated career, the Toronto-born Michaels says receiving recognition from Canada still has special meaning for him.
"It’s the country that defined me," Michaels, 61, said in a recent telephone interview from New York City. "It’s the country that educated me. It’s the country whose values I absorbed."
Michaels was honoured Tuesday with a Governor General’s performing arts award for lifetime artistic achievement. Others to receive the prize this year are musician Robbie Robertson, broadcaster Jacques Languirand, actor and director Albert Millaire, dancer and writer Joysanne Sidimus and producer Mark Starowicz.
The recipients were announced Tuesday at a ceremony in Montreal. Michaels, who could not be on hand for the announcement, attended the University of Toronto and began his career as a writer and broadcaster at the CBC. In 1975, he submitted an idea to NBC for a show called Saturday Night Live. Now heading into its 32nd season, Michaels said his job as executive producer of the legendary late-night comedy show is as "all-consuming" as it was more than three decades ago.
SNL, of course, has been a launching pad for a laundry list of stars, including Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Adam Sandler, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner. Michaels said the ever-changing roster is what keeps him going.
"I think if SNL was still being done by the original cast, I think we would all just be sitting in a room staring at each other. The fact that a new generation comes into it every few years and redefines it is what makes it fun to be part of.
"It’s working with people at the time in their lives when all that matters is the work. … The intensity with which people commit to Saturday Night Live and the sacrifice in terms of time and energy that’s involved is something you can only do at a certain time in your life." Said Michaels of his journey on the show: "It’s my life’s work, I would imagine."
As for being recognized for that work back home, Michaels called his latest kudo "thrilling."
"When you don’t live in Canada and you just come back a couple times of year … you know how much you remember the country, you’re not sure how much the country remembers you."
Michaels is already a member of the Order of Canada and has been inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame. Also honoured Tuesday were Georges and Sherif Laoun, a Montreal father and son team who have extensively supported the arts. They are to receive the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts. Conductor Richard Bradshaw is the recipient of the National Arts Centre Award.