The 16-time host and the creator of ''Saturday Night Live'' discuss their decadles-long friendship

By Tim Stack
September 23, 2011 at 12:00 PM EDT
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Pop culture history is littered with famous comedy teams. Laurel and Hardy. The Smothers Brothers. Martin and Lewis. It may be time to add Alec Baldwin and Lorne Michaels to the list. The Emmy-winning actor, 53, and the creator/executive producer of Saturday Night Live, 66, have had a working relationship spanning more than 20 years, from SNL to NBC’s critically acclaimed 30 Rock. On the Sept. 24 season premiere, Baldwin will host SNL for a record 16th time. EW talked to the real-life pals about their first meeting, their favorite SNL memories, and, naturally, their yoga routines.

Do you remember when you two first met?

Alec Baldwin I would see him at Madison Square Garden. When the Knicks were in the running in the Patrick Ewing era, you’d go to that private suite that the Knicks organization owned called Suite 200, and it was just teeming with people. I mean, [George] Steinbrenner was there, and Spike Lee, Billy Crystal. I would go with my brother or my ex-wife and I would run into Lorne, and I would communicate to him how much I loved the show. So when he asked me to do the show in 1990, I was kind of knocked out.

Lorne Michaels If it was a cool place, I probably was there. I was aware of him, clearly, from Beetlejuice and Working Girl and all of that. And then I think the first time he did the show, it was like a revelation. He was everything — a leading man that could play comedy.

Alec first hosted SNL in April 1990 — do you both remember that show?

Baldwin I was nervous on a scale you can’t even imagine. I was fortunate enough to do the show when Al Franken was one of the writers and Lorne himself, they really took me by the hand to teach me to just become another member of the company. And now I’m doing it for the 16th time, or whatever the hell number I’ve gotten myself to.

Michaels It was his range that blew everyone away. Not only was he funny in his ability to deliver the jokes and get the laugh, but he could do every conceivable kind of part.

Over the years, have you had favorite sketches? Like ”Schweddy Balls”? Or the ”Canteen Boy” sketch with Adam Sandler?

Baldwin I could never pick one. I have a lot of good memories. Both of those are ones that (a) live forever on the Internet and get passed around, and (b) let’s face facts, it’s a show that’s on at 11:30 at night, so it can be as blue as network is allowed to be. So naturally me trying to homosexually harass Adam Sandler is a lot of people’s favorite and me selling a product called Schweddy Balls is other people’s favorite.

Michaels When you see him with Sandler in ”Canteen Boy” or ”Schweddy Balls” or any of those things, his sense of timing is just…he’s brilliant.

Alec, do you ever think about how your life changed from doing SNL to landing possibly the greatest role of your career as Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock?

Baldwin I think obviously it helped. Because it put me toward the top of this list, maybe, in the forefront of Lorne’s and Tina [Fey]’s minds. The character is a very, very classic character in comedy. He’s this alpha male who spends all the waking hours of his day stuffing down his insecurities, and then they come belching out of him.

Michaels He was Tina’s dream for the part. He just over-delivers. Whatever you think it’s going to be, it’s just better than you thought. And he takes it off the paper.

Alec, you’ve said that you’d like this coming season of 30 Rock to be your last. Is that still the case?

Baldwin I don’t want the show to end; it’s not like I’m sick of it and I hate it and want to get off it. It’s not that at all. There are just other things I want to do, because I am the oldest person in the cast, and as I remind them from time to time, a year in my life is different from a year in their life.

Lorne, how long would you like him to stay on the show?

Michaels Um, for the rest of his life. You know, for the next 15 or 16 years. I mean, SNL is going into its 37th season, so I don’t really want to hear about their sixth season.

Is it true that you guys practice yoga together?

Baldwin We are people who for a very brief period of the summer put ourselves through the perceived rigors of yoga. I wouldn’t say we are big yoga fans. That would imply we did it year-round. [Laughs]

Michaels We do it in August, three days a week, and it’s kind of fun because you’re not embarrassed at how lame you are.

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The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.
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