|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.