If the incredible ratings for Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary special weren't proof enough that the show remains a vital satirical and cultural force, just check out the shockwaves of anger that recently greeted the show when they aired a skit about a sweet, young woman joining ISIS. If the show was truly "Saturday Night Dead," as its critics have been saying for years, they wouldn't have had the chops (or the balls) to pull off such a hysterical bit. It's one of many great moments in the show's history, and the new coffee table book Saturday Night Live: The Book is an amazing behind-the-scenes look at the whole run. The 500-page book goes through all 40 seasons, capturing nearly every great character and showing how the team puts the whole thing together. Here's a preview.
Gilda Radner remains unfazed as the Land Shark gobbles John Belushi's arm backstage. (1976)
Lorne Michaels, Elliott Gould, and cast rehearse a 'Killer Bees' sketch. (1976)
A personal note from John Belushi to Lorne Michaels.
Jan Hooks as Nancy Reagan, backstage. (Late 1980s)
The makeup lab's storage room is home to a vast collection of head casts for each current Not-Ready-for-Primetime player, as well as frequent hosts and special guests. (2009)
Gilda Radner and John Belushi share a tender moment in the hair and makeup room. (1976)
"Haaaiiii! Too hot in the hot tub! Burn myself!" Eddie Murphy turns it loose in 'James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party." (1983)
"Barney, we all agreed that your dancing was great. I guess, in the end, we all thought that Adrian's body was much, much better than yours." This Chippendales audition sketch, featuring Patrick Swayze and new featured player Chris Farley, was the comedian's first true standout moment in the show. (1990)
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd play G-men in 'The Untouchables' sketch. (1976)
Chevy Chase (with Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner), touting the merits of Shimmer Non-Dairy Floor Wax. This photo was taken during dress rehearsal — for the live show, Shimmer had its "real" label affixed. (1976)
Martin Short rehearsing as Ed Grimley. (1984)
Dan Aykroyd, Michael O'Donoghue, and John Belushi. (1975)
Edie Baskin's hand-tinted portrait of Gilda Radner as Baba Wawa. (1977)
Director Don Roy King (center) in the control room during rehearsals. (2003)
Bumper photo of Steve Martin by Edie Baskin. (1976)
Producer Lorne Michaels on the 'SNL' set. (1975)
Steven Spielberg, Bill Hader, and Andy Samberg shooting "Laser Cats 7" in Lorne Michaels's office. (2012)
Louis C.K. poses for a bumper portrait. (2014)
Will Ferrell, being made up as George W. Bush, reviews dialogue for his monologue with Wally Feresten. (Passing behind Ferrell is writer Colin Jost.) (2012)
Vice-Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin backstage with Alec Baldwin and Lorne Michaels, while Tina Fey can be seen playing Palin on the monitor. (2008)
Sets are constructed at Stiegelbauer Warehouse, located in Brooklyn's Navy Yard.
Tina Fey, Drew Barrymore and Amy Poehler on 'Weekend Update.' (2006)
During the commercial break before "Weekend Update," Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler review cue cards under the bleachers with Wally Feresten. (2007)
On Bill Hader's farewell show, Stefon ditches Anderson Cooper at the altar and runs off with his true love, Seth Meyers. (2013)
Fred Armisen prepares to transform into Prince. (2012)
Saturday Night Live: The Book is available right now.