Monday, February 16, 2015

Saturday Night Live 40 Years Later (or, am I really this old?)

Jane Curtin was one of my
favorite SNL actors
I have a major lecture to prepare, yet I found myself watching the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live.  I can’t believe it has been on that long.  I really haven’t watched it much in the past 30 years but when it first came on, I wouldn’t miss it.  It was blessing to date someone who had an 11 PM curfew because I could be home in time to catch the show.  I have many memories of it: Chevy Chase playing Gerald Ford as he bangs his head on the door of Helicopter 1 and Dan Aykrovd playing Jimmy Carter, the nuclear engineer President tackling, hands on, the problems of 3 Mile Island.  I always liked the political humor, tossed in with good music from my generation.

 Who could forget poor Mr. Bill, the clay puppet who was an apocalyptic “Punch and Judy.”  “Oh no,” he’d cry.  A few years later, in my first stint as a camp director, Mr. Bill made regular appearances in the staff’s campfire skits.  Like many on SNL, Mr. Bill went on to become a major star in other venues.  And then there were the Coneheads…

I also liked the way the show parodied television commercials. Back in the late 70s, there was a commercial about how a car's ride was so smooth a craftsman could cut crystal glass while sitting in the backseat.  Saturday Night Live reproduced the commercial with a rabbi performing a circumcision.  Watching this 40th Anniversary Show, with clips from the past, I realize the reason I gave up watching SNL was that show was pretty sophomoric, or crude (and often down-right lewd).  After graduating from college, I watched less and less of it.  One episode that I remember had Chevy Chase (or maybe Dan Aykroyd) on a phone call while also handling the evening news.  He was having to explain something (we were only hearing one side of the conversation) and it was pretty obvious that he was talking about oral sex.  It was a few months after my grandfather’s death and I was at my grandmother’s for the weekend and she was watching the show with me.  I don’t know how much she understood, but I expect it was more than I care to admit, but she never said anything about it.  I suggested in the middle of the episode that we turn the TV off and go to bed, but she insisted we continue.  I was very red and hot around the collar. 

Jane Curtin had one of the best lines of the evening, lamenting lamenting how times have changed. “I used to be the only blonde girl reading fake news, now we have whole networks of them."   Jane (you ignorant slut, as Aykroyd called her during their “point/counterpoint section) also had the second best line, saying the show was still sponsored by one of the original supporters, cocaine.  Sadly, there is more truth to this than we'd like to admit and it's one of the reasons some of the best talent was unable to make the 40th anniversary gala, for comedians have yet to master resurrection.

The program went on for three and a half hours, about twice as long as necessary, but everyone and their brother had to make an appearance.  Did they really need Miley Cyrus sing “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover?” Or Sarah Palin popping up in the audience and asking about running for president  (with Donald Trump as her running mate, no less)?  Or Derek Jeter and Payton Manning?  And did Payton really drop the F-word and need to be beeped out?  All in all, three and a half hours of stars patting themselves on the back is a little more than I could take so I did a load of dishes, cleaned the kitchen, and began to check some facts for my talk…

One of the best things, in my humble opinion, to come out of Saturday Night Live was Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi’s film, the “Blues Brothers.”  It is my one of my all-time favorite movies and not only does it contain great music, the movie provided wonderful public service by trashing a multitude of 70-era junk cars.  There were many other movies to spin off the show and a host of the actors went on to become famous.  Would we even have the Daily Show without SNL?  I don’t know, but it now appears that SNL will outlive it!   And after last night, with all the arms thrown out from clapping with the applause cards and patting each other on the back, I’m sure there are some orthopedic surgeons in a financial position to upgrade their boats. 

46 comments:

  1. An excellent overview of SNL's appeal at a time when much of world events and social problems needed gentle humor to influence people toward rational thinking. Sometimes humor can set things right where confrontation and debate cannot. I always get jumpiest around issues that reject humor.

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    1. I agree about humor and, at the risk of being politically incorrect, it is what makes me nervous about Islam. I remember reading years ago about how the Simpsons lampooned many faiths (Christians, Jews, Hindus) but ignored Islam. The world could use a little humor these days.

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  2. I really only watched the show when I was a kid and my mom watched it. I don't think I've watched more than a few episodes of it in the past 20 years.

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  3. SNL ... and da church lady ... omg ... so funny

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  4. As someone who came to SNL late in life, I find it a great watch. I have seen old eps, both on telly and youtube and to me it's a cracking show.

    Greetings from London.

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    1. I wonder how much of the context one needs to understand the humor?

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  5. I watched that until 10pm last night and then recorded the rest of it. I agree about the add-ons like Miley Cyrus.

    Like you - I stopped watching regularly at some point - it doesn't seem as good these days.

    And I had the same experience with watching with my mom. I was visiting mom and dad and she got up to go to the bathroom and came in where I was watching SNL. Eddie Murphy was playing Venus Brown touting his book, "How to be a Ho" and I collapsed into uncontrollable giggles. Mom started protesting how awful that was and then started laughing, too. :)

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    1. Yeah, those kind of episodes around our elders do make us a little self-conscious

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  6. That SNL has been on the air ten years past the halfway mark of my life, maybe one day i should actually watch a complete episode. So many cultural milestones and icons came from it I was usually lost when someone started talking about it. *Shrug* i was out at sea when it first came on, then on the road, by the time I actually had time and a television to watch it, I generally was passed out or asleep by 11:30. Though personally I would like one of those old big block Plymouth's from BB's for a project car right about now.

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    1. You should tell us more about your time at sea and on the road, Walking Man!

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  7. we used to watch it in college...and i def shared a laugh...its pretty amazing the legacy of SNL as well with all those that came out of the show to go on to something else in the entertainment world...at some point in my late 20s i stopped watching it...catching only occassional skits on the net....hard to believe shows can be around that long any more....most last 2 maybe 3 seasons....discarded for something new....and our short attention spans....ha

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  8. SNL was not something I watched in the early years because I didn't have a television. I do remember my peers talking about it all the time with muffled laughter. I started watching it some in college when I did the transition of early riser to hoot owl like most of my peers. After graduation however, I went back to an early riser and never stay up late enough to watch it. I occasionally record a show if someone I'm interested is going to be on.

    Long story short, I did record the show last night figuring I might watch it in the next couple days if it was any good. With the advent of DVR's and large drives, I almost watch nothing live anymore. I find my attention span isn't long enough to span the commercial breaks!

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    1. At least by recording it, you can skip the meaningless stuff and commercials!

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  9. It's not nearly as funny as it used to be but I've always loved it. I think my favorite SNL period was the mid-90s when you had Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, etc. Good days for sure :)

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    1. I wonder if each generation finds it funny at first,when we first start watching it, and then we grow out of it? However, that was a strong lineup they had in the mid-90s!

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  10. This was wholly a Yankee phenomenon that never crossed the Atlantic. I'd hear of it right enough from cousins and assorted yearly migrants over for the summer but beyond having a gra for Aykroid and Chase whom I saw in the 80's it never really flew.

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    1. Interesting how some parts of American culture is immediately exported and others are not...

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  11. I used to watch SNL all the time, then got away from it. I started to watch the anniversary show but Lana didn't have any interest at all and I didn't have enough interest to argue with her.

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    1. I suppose, given the era, early AIDS probably took it's toll along with the scourges of heroin and cocaine

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    2. They did do a tribute to those who died (not only of the cast but also crew and writers) but they didn't say how they died. I am sure their were some who succumbed to AIDS while drugs was another biggie

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  12. I never actually watched SNL before, but I have certainly heard a lot about it and it's strange knowing it's been on for 40 years.

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    1. You should watch at least one episode, Chrys!

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  13. I never actually watched SNL before, but I have certainly heard a lot about it and it's strange knowing it's been on for 40 years.

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  14. I know it is a huge phenomenon that launched a lot of careers, but missed seeing this special.

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    1. It was a good thing to watch on a night that I was mentally drained, but I won't say that you missed a lot.

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  15. There's been quite a few bloggers talking about SNL. Would you believe I've never watched a show?

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    1. Two of my readers who haven't watched it, wow! :)

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  16. There's been quite a few bloggers talking about SNL. Would you believe I've never watched a show?

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  17. I loved SNL when I was growing up and during my college years. I missed the 40th Anniversary show- but I hope to catch it on repeat somehow (On Demand maybe). :) You named some skits and actors that made me laugh.
    ~Jess

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    1. Yes, there were some good laughs over the years!

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  18. Yeah I remember and really made me laugh!

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    1. I am now curious, did the show make it to Chile and if so, how was it received

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    2. Still Im laughing! You always are hungry likemy twins:)

      Yes I think I see this show about the last 15 years maybe?
      I think many people see but I never ask to others ha!
      We have cable about 20 years I think.we live in the countryside too so the kids when were little saw many cable shows and cartoons.
      they know more abouts shows than me!

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  19. I grew up watching SNL--I guess we all did! It's funny--you can always tell a person's age by which cast they think was the best! My era was the 80s, but it was so bad then... I still remember liking Ed Grimley and thinking Julia Louis-Dreyfus was SO beautiful. I think I really grew to appreciate SNL during the early 90s, though--from the Phil Hartman era into the Adam Sandler/Chris Farley years. And I know that entire cast was fired for being "bad," but I thought Adam, Chris, and David Spade were SO funny even if they were a little crass. I think some things must have been going on backstage that led to that mass firing...

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    1. So, I'm ten years or so older than you. Just seeing if you can tell one's age via their SNL experiences!

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  20. I remember mom and dad would play cards with another couple on Saturday nights with I was a kid. They'd bring their son over and we'd play whatever while they'd played Rook at the kitchen table. Saturday Night Live would always be on. I knew the night (and the show) was nearing an end when Weekend Update came on. I was always a little sad when SNL went off each weekend, because that meant our company would be leaving and I'd have to go to bed.

    Excellent post, Sage. I was kinda thinking you might do a post about Dean Smith, as well :)

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    1. I thought about Dean Smith, but Alzheimer's hits close to home with my mom. There was a wonderful article about his battles and condition that I read last summer--a number of players keep coming by regularly even though he no longer knew their names...

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  21. This show was the king of the weekend in my teenage years, and we memorized lines to throw at each other, threatened each other with Christmas Bass-o-Matics, and waited excitedly for whoever the musician was for the week. What a wonderful show it was.

    Pearl

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    1. It was a highlight of the weekend, wasn't it.

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  22. Its early days were the best but it has risen and fallen through the years. I still find it a decent program much of the time. I very much enjoyed the anniversary special but agree that they could have done without Miley Cirus and especially Kanye West.

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    1. It has been years since I've seen it on Saturday night, mostly because by the time it comes on, I am asleep!

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  23. ahh love SNL...I interned at NBC and loved visiting the set and all the people! I grew up in the Fallon/Sanz era and absolutely adored it...I feel like the last few seasons have been eh, but I still watch! :) it's a comfort thing :)

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    1. That would have been an incredible intern opportunity!

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