Segarini: The Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary – Celebrating about 10 years of good, solid, comedy….

Bob's Birthday

The thing about Saturday Night Live (hereafter referred to in this column as ‘SNL’) is the one truism that has always rendered it an often wince-inducing short bus cousin to SCTV, is the fact that they never understood the problem with taking something that was funny for 30 seconds and turning it into a 3 minute sketch.

…which is why the show I struggled through last Sunday night was much better when I edited it down to the actual funny parts and shining musical moments…a rousing 25 minutes of fairly entertaining TV.

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NBC

Unlike the Grammys, The Oscars, and the Emmys, which I watch so you don’t have to, I had no interest or desire to sit through 4 and a half hours of misfires and bad choices I instinctively knew would be tantamount to be ridden across the desert by Melissa McCarthy…in the middle of Summer…in an overcoat…hung over. I wasn’t going to bother because I didn’t think anyone watched this Walking Dead corpse anymore. Apparently I was wrong about that, because why would a television network like NBC devote so much time to what amounted to a grade school variety show broadcast from a Nostalgic BoomersSenior’s Home for (should be) retired Pop Culture legends, if scads of humourless children, sad people without a Saturday night date, and Ageing Boomers didn’t tune in every week to, I don’t know…stay up past their bedtime or watch a bunch of kids pretend they have a future in showbiz.

As I was still out of WTFs from the week before (does anyone remember who won anything at the Grammys last week?) all I could say every couple of minutes was, Golly!…Why did they do THAT?

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Where Did it Come From?

Radio Dinner front cover

 

Lemmings cover

From Wikipedia…”In 1974, NBC Tonight Show host Johnny Carson requested that the weekend broadcasts of “Best of Carson” (officially known as The Weekend Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson) come to an The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carsonend (back then, The Tonight Show was a 90-minute program), so that Carson could take two weeknights off and NBC would thus air those repeats on those nights rather than feed them to affiliates for broadcast on either Saturdays or Sundays. Given Carson’s undisputed status as the dean of late-night television, NBC heard his request as an ultimatum, fearing he might use the issue as grounds to defect to either ABC or CBS. To fill the gap, the network drew up some ideas and brought in Dick Ebersol – a protégé of legendary ABC Sports president Roone Arledge – to develop a 90-minute late-night variety show. Ebersol’s first order of business was hiring a young Canadian producer named Lorne Michaels to be the show-runner.”

CarlinWhen the first show aired on October 11, 1975 with George Carlin as its host, it was called NBC’s Saturday Night because ABC  featured a program at the same time titled Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. After ABC cancelled the Cosell program in 1976, the NBC program changed its name to Saturday Night Live on March 26, 1977 (and subsequently picked up Bill Murray  from Cosell’s show in 1977, as well). The lead-in announcement for the first show introduced the cast as the “The not for ready, prime time players” instead of their actual name as “The Not Ready For Prime Time Players.”

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Audience Including Ambassador LaughingA Short History of SNL

It was really, really, really funny.

It was pretty damn funny.

It was kind of funny.

It was sort of funny.

It wasn’t funny.

PuppySomeone ran over a puppy.

I want to run over a puppy.

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The Show

Making Sure No One Overshadows Anyone Else….

I had a miserable day today, and I am not in a great mood, so I am going to take it out on this anniversary show because…

A: It is an easy target…

…and…

B: It’s not like I’m going to get invited to the next anniversary show, so fuck it.

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Hugh and BabeThere was a lot of talent in that room on Sunday night. Unfortunately, hardly any of it got much more than a few seconds on stage and/or a clip from their illustrious past on the show. Each appearance lasted about as long as sex between Hugh Hefner and a roofied house Bunny.

I found it odd that the current cast got more screen time than any of the performers we actually tuned in to see. I mean, can we not tune in next Saturday to miss them?

Jim and Danny

I was also taken aback by how large the majority of past greats have become. After the 3rd or fourth ‘robust’ adult made his way down those tricky stairs, I began to hope that they were all backstage eating the current cast when they approached them for autographs, and then hiding the detritus in the writers room where I was sure no one had worked for the past week at least, if not the Chevylast 10 or 12 seasons. After changing their blood-drenched clothes and gargling with Listerine Complete, carefully traversing the stairs (instead of hilarious, a fall for Chevy Chase now would surely end badly with a hip replacement) that led  out to the stage to favour us with their 10 second cue card fueled presence before being carted back to the green room on a shipping dolly and deposited on the couch next to the donuts and bottled water.

From Wikipedia…”Michaels later said that “We both knew that SNL could go in one of two directions. It would either stay what it was … or it would morph into The Chevy Chase Show.” Chase received offers to star in films. NBC offered a prime-time series, but because he had signed a one-year contract, Chase was free to leave television for a film career.

Radio Hour“Though Chase had never been friendly with most of the cast (a rivalry with John Belushi went all the way back to their work on The National Lampoon Radio Hour , and by the time he left for greener pastures early in Season 2 he couldn’t even get along with Lorne Michaels), Chase returned to host the show several times over the next two decades, and relations were often strained; the cast (whatever their own personal conflicts) would usually unite in opposition or disgust towards him, even hiding en masse so that they would not have to share an elevator with him.”

“In 1978, Chase got into a brawl with Bill Murray mere moments before broadcast, and in 1985 he horrified many of the cast by suggesting a sketch where openly-gay performer Terry Sweeney develops AIDS and then show the audience how much weight he loses each week. In 1997, Chase was banned from ever hosting again. Despite this, Chase would occasionally make cameos following his ban from the show, most recently in the February 15, 2015 “Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special” in Season 40.”

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LorneWhy We Didn’t See Much of Lorne Michaels During the Show

Alone in his office.

In the dark.

Under his desk.

Weeping.

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A Parade of Missed Opportunities

Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo

They had chemistry. They were part of one of the best casts to ever grace this stage. They were both there, and there are enough great clips of them together and separately for a good solid five minute montage of guffaws.

Steve Martin and Christopher Walken

Chemistry? Check.

Funny? Check.

Present and accounted for? Check.

Underused and misused? Check.

I would have loved to have seen them dance ala Hope and Crosby, playing cowbells to BOCs Don’t Fear the Reaper

Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze

Both gone, but responsible for one of the greatest moments in the entire history of SNL

The Chippendale sketch.

Swayze proved he could dance, rock a mullet, and keep a straight face. and Farley proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was fearless, borderless, and worthy of following in Belushi’s comedic footsteps…which he tragically did to a fault.

Jane Curtin and Danny Aykroyd

“Whoever wrote this show and didn’t pair these two up, you ignorant sluts”

Keith Richard(s) and Mike Meyers

A clip of Keith Richards as Mick Jagger and Mike Meyers as Keith Richards leading into Keith and Mike as Mick introducing Paul McCartney.

Martin Short and Jerry Sienfeld.

Marty was a cast member for one year (’84 – ’85) and hosted twice. Jerry Sienfeld was never a cast member.

Why did they get the most screen time?

Chris Rock and Garrett Morris

Two completely different comedians who could have introduced their clips, and clips of Pryor and others who graced this stage, and brought some much needed gravitas to the scope and lasting effect of the black comedians SNL has introduced to the world. Murphy could have walked on at the end of their bit, pointed at them and laughed ‘that laugh’ of his. Would have been a moment.

Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase

There are more, but if I continue, I will get angry and maudlin, and no one wants to be reminded of every family Thanksgiving dinner they have ever attended.

…but…

If Paul Simon would have walked out in the Turkey suit he wore for Still Crazy After All These Years the first time he sang it on SNL, I would have laughed until I cried, just like a did back then.

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The Californians

WHY?

The Californians Part Two

Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special - Season 2015

First of all, change its name to the Malibulians, or The Hollywoodians, because being a native Californian, I can’t watch this combination of a bad idea and worse delivery without wanting to sit the writers down and ask them what on earth was the inspiration for this hiccup. Thank God Betty White was on hand to remind me I was watching a comedy show and not the auditions for Saved By the Bell 2.

The silly and barely understandable accents, the apparent lack of knowledge of anything remotely funny about their target, and the fact that the ‘episode’ on the 40th Anniversary took up more time than anything else, leads me to believe that the main players behind this particular dropped ice cream cone have something so heinous on Lorne Michaels, he has no choice but to let them squat on the stage and leave this steaming pile whenever they want to.

Wait…that was pretty harsh.

Let me rephrase that…

Ummm…er…*cough*…uhhh…hmmmm…uh…well…I…err…I mean…uh…I’m…what I meant to…ummm…ahhh…hell.

Never mind.

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Down But Not Out….

Fortunately for me, and before I started to compose a suicide note, there were some moments that made me want to hang on to see if there would be a few more.

There were….

Facebook was all a’twitter (see what I did there) writing obituaries for Pauls McCartney and Simon’s voices but I beg to differ. You try singing either one of those songs when you’re over 70. Hell, try writing a song as good as these at any age.

Paul and Paul

Their performances were not about their voices. Their performances were about reminding us that there are wonderful songs and incredible talents who, even hamstrung by age, (pray you get to be so lucky) are still worthy of our love and understanding, and were some of the best reasons to tune in to SNL on Saturday nights when we were young, or dateless, or crushing on a cast member…and for the most part, the musical legacy of SNL is pretty damn good. Other than the jaw-dropping oops of Ashley Simpson and the ‘They were so bad, I thought it was a sketch”, The National,

SNL has kept an ear to the ground for a lot of those 40 years and given us some pretty good music and introduced us to our first look at some eventual superstars, and some superstars we never thought we’d see live on television.

I was charmed and pleased with both their performances, especially because they weren’t paired with whatever meat is being marketed to us currently.

Always a pleasure to see Steve Martin, Danny Aykroyd, Chris Rock, Jane Curtin, and others even if it’s just to know they are still on this side of the lawn and have a pulse.

A few of the gags on Celebrity Jeopardy, which at least felt like it had actually been written by writers and not scribbled on a napkin at Five Guys Burgers and Fries that afternoon.

The running gag about Jon Lovitz. Wish we could have heard him say “Yeah…that’s it!, and “I’m ACTING!”

Norm MacDonald. Norm makes me laugh. A lot. Out loud. Repeatedly.

…but there were so many disappointments.

he who cannot be named

He Who Cannot Be Named speaking the same indecipherable monologue he did at the Grammys standing on a headlight in the dark, only this time laying on the floor like a hit and run victim with two other bad haircuts, in a stark setting that reminded me of a scene from an Ingmar Bergman movie from the ‘60s. That whatever it was sounded like it may have been Swedish added to the illusion.

Why was he there, anyway? There wasn’t an award acceptance to interrupt.

The clips being shortened to 1 second hints of what they actually contained. I think that was Gilda and Steve Martin dancing…or a kitten sneezing.

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Saturday Night Live is nothing if not resilient. It has bounced back from more bad shows and seasons than The Simpsons already. I was going to say the Toronto Maple Leafs, but hey, it’s been 48 years…they may never bounce back….

Personally, I think it would regain its stature if we all started smoking some good giggle weed instead of the current Zombie producing Hydro, and the cast would either start doing coke or, if they already are, get a fucking decent cocaine dealer that doesn’t cut his shit so much. The lack of good drugs has hurt everything.

Coke

There have been some incredible moments, memories, and people over the years, and I hope they continue to find more as long as NBC keeps spinning the wheel.

But, seriously…they really need to do something.

Lorne Michaels“We don’t go on because we’re ready, we go on because it’s 11:30.”

Yeah, Lorne…we know…just don’t let it show so much.

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The Payoff….

Even with These Players, Jams Can be Painful…but Taylor Swift continues to be my current guilty pleasure. The girl just brings it….

Please Tell Marty and Jimmy and the Guy on the Far Right Their Cars Are Being Towed….

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Any Questions or comments, please write them in the Comment Section below.

Your Comments Are Welcome

Segarini’s regular columns appear here eventually.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

3 Responses to “Segarini: The Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary – Celebrating about 10 years of good, solid, comedy….”

  1. Sad to say, I have to agree. I couldn’t believe I actually sat through this whole messy montage. Disappointment reigned supreme in this household. My younger son started snoring a third of the way through. As stated, so, so, so many missed opportunities and wasted recognition. ….and that god-damned teleprompter/cue card machine…. and how come so many pros screwed up their lines? What happened to all the ad-libbing and spontaneity that made SNL so great to begin with? We’ll never know….which is why I stopped watching it in the 20th century.

  2. Call The Californians “The Angelenos” and it’s exactly right. Sorry Bob, but I have 30 years experience with LA friends who talk about traffic the way Canadians talk about the weather. I thought it was a pretty inside joke the first time I saw it, but one that made me laugh out loud. Agree with most of the rest of your assessment

    • I lived there off and on for 10 years, Jim. It’s not just the problem with the phoney accents, it’s all the missed opportunities. L.A is hilarious if you have enough valium…but honestly, the writing on those skits leaves me embarrassed more than entertained. Face pulling and non-specific accents aren’t funny…unless you’re a fan of Jim Carrey’s or Dane Cook or Howie’s “Bobby”. Let’s just agree to disagree.

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