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blue girl

Watching an SNL skit was never as funny to me as remembering it later. Even back in the good old days, when you really watched the skits to see how they were doing them, they'd go on way too long. But, I think they do that to make you remember them better. I've always wondered if there's any truth to that in comedy writing. To bang people over the head with something too much just so it's memorable later.

Anyway. I think SNL stinks now. Needs more cowbell, so to speak.

But, I remember the old ones with such nostalgia that my heart could break. But, I think that comes more from the old casts and how I loved them and also because it makes me ponder how fast times goes by. Not so much for the jokes.

But as I'm typing this I'm thinking about Todd and Lisa Lubner and noogies and I'm sitting here laughing.

Stop id, Dodd!

:)

joanr16

By "Phil Cocker," I assume you mean Joe Cocker. Or John Belushi doing Joe Cocker, which was almost as scary.

eric

I think the original cast gets the benefit of editing. All the re-runs and best ofs that only show their really good stuff so we forget the 2/3rd that were lame.

I think the Eddie Murphy years had some of the overall best stuff, but as a % had a lot more junk mixed in.

For consistent quality I agree the Carvy, Hartman, Meyers, et al years were the best.

The Farrell years have their moments, but overall are pretty weak.

The current group is rivalling the lost 80s years for worst ever.

Lance

Joan, I did indeed mean Joe Cocker. Phil Cocker's my dentist. Thanks for the catch. I made the fix. As for scary, the scariest moment was when Belushi and Cocker appeared together!

Although, I remember thinking at the time that Belushi did a better Joe Cocker than Joe Cocker.

NY Expat

I was 9 in 1980, so I only got to watch the tail end of the original cast, and after that only got back to watching it when Eddie Murphy started setting the show on fire. My feeling is that the show was good up until the Anthony Michael Hall, etc. trainwreck.

Of course, the fact that a teenager, rather than someone college age, had a strongly held opinion about the show should tell you something who the true target audience is for the show. I don't think I was ever at home by 11:30 on a Saturday night while I was in college, and certainly not by 10:30, which is when the show would be on in Chicago, where I went to school.

Nevertheless, I think after the "It was all a dream. A horrible, horrible dream" season, the subject matter gravitated towards less adult subjects and towards more "adult" (i.e., adolescent) subjects. It's kind of splitting hairs, because part of the humor on the old show was the glee at getting away with doing or saying something that hadn't been done before on television, but would "Medieval Barber" or "Francisco Franco is still dead" make it on the show these days?

harry near indy

what i remember of the first years was laughing from shock. it was funny, but shocking. it had a screw-you mentality which iirc, wasn't broadcast on tv then.

when snl started, cable was still in the cradle, and i remember most broadcast tv comedy back then was mediocre. there were some exceptions. the mary tyler moore and bob newhart shows had a mainstream appeal but were well done. norman lear's comedies were outrageous.

imo, the first years were the funniest -- or the ones that made me laugh the loudest. those things do not always go together.

Mike Schilling

A riddle from Eric Idle of Monty Python, who guest-hosted SNL many times:

Q. What's the difference between life and an SNL sketch?

A. Life doesn't go on forever.

blue girl

Mike Schilling: Brilliant!

Kate Marie

Oh, my, did Fran Tarknenton host SNL at some point? As a lifelong fan of the Los Angeles Rams (until they abandoned Los Angeles), I still hear his name and wince. He made a career out of breaking my heart. I have to admit he was one of the best ever, though.

I haven't watched SNL in a loooong time. I have to admit it's SCTV, not SNL, that I remember "with such nostalgia my heart could break." And SCTV has the advantage of not having gone on long enough to become merely a praiser of its own past.

Michael

I made some videotapes of the 30 minute syndicated reruns in the early 90's (of the original show), and thought they were pretty good--to offer a few examples that I thought stood the test of time: Mel's Char Palace, Ex-Police, the Sodom Chamber of Commerce meeting, Frank Nolan's Talk Back, Harry Shearer doing a spot on Mr. Blackwell (and a decent enough Carl Sagan several years later), Jeopardy 1999, Pre-Chewed Charlie's, Auto-Scents, Del Stator's Toad Ranch, Citizen Kane II, Ackroyd as Tom Snyder--or, better still, Nixon (take a look at the transcript for the "Final Days" sketch, which featured Madeline Kahn as Pat Nixon-- http://snltranscripts.jt.org/75/75snixon.phtml . Another pretty funny Nixon piece revolved around an imagined political comeback--slogan: "The New Dick."

Ken Muldrew

Robin Duke was great with SCTV (who could forget Molly Earl?) but I never saw her in SNL. As to your question, I remember laughing a lot but I hope it wasn't all funny. After all, it was supposed to be risky, and if you're exposing yourself to risk for 90 minutes a week, then there better be some failure, or the "risk" was all illusion in the first place.

Tom

I'd beg to differ with you on a couple of points. One, Ackroyd, at least, was incredibly focused on what he was doing, and I think that some of the other cast may have come off as relatively unfocused because Ackroyd was running circles around them.

Also, I don't think that it was a sort of solace for people who weren't out partying and getting laid, because during my twenties, SNL was the party quite often, or at least the beginning of the party; I lived and went to school in the Midwest, and so the show was over by midnight, when some of the serious fun was just starting, and it was considered perfectly acceptable to turn the TV on at 10:30 and catch the show. There was really no question about which channel the TV set at any bar would be turned to. And, of course, a good chunk of their audience was post-college; the show debuted in 1975, when many of the Boomers who didn't have time for corny crap like Laugh-In when they were in their early twenties had slowed down a bit.

My favorite cast, though, is still the "Phil Hartman-Dana Carvey-Jan Hooks-Mike Myers" cast, and really, I think that it could be simply called the Phil Hartman years. Hartman was one of the best actors, if not the best actor, on the show, and I'd put him above Darrel Hammond or even Ackroyd. There was a sketch that I've heard referred to as "Reagan Mastermind", done at the height of Iran-Contra, that used the premise that Reagan was actually an evil genius and that his befuddled Gipper act was just that; it's one of the best pieces of political satire in the history of the program.

Lance

Jeez, everybody had way more fun in college than I did.

Tom, like I said, when Aykroyd left, the show ceased to matter to me.

Ken Muldrew: After all, it was supposed to be risky, and if you're exposing yourself to risk for 90 minutes a week, then there better be some failure, or the "risk" was all illusion in the first place.

Excellent point, Ken.

harry near indy: what i remember of the first years was laughing from shock.

harry, damn straight. And this relates directly to Ken's point.

Kate Marie, Tarkenton did in fact guest host. Belushi and he did a skit together in which Belushi played Bud Grant pacing the sidelines while Tarkenton was trying to score. The scene did not take place on a football field.

You're right about SCTV being much better, but it isn't fair to compare because SCTV wasn't done live.

Michael, Jane Curtain did a terrific Pat Nixon, and what she did with her line about the New Dick---"It's short, and it's sweet, but nobody wants to see it."---captured something touching and tragic about the Nixon's marriage.

My favorite Nixon skit, though, was on the Halloween show Christopher Lee guest hosted. Lee played a vampire hunter and he puts an end to Nixon/Dracula by driving a stake through the manuscript for Nixon's memoirs.

Michael

Thanks for reminding me of Jane Curtain's interpretation of Pat Nixon. Man, that brings back memories.

I was pretty young during the original run (ahem, but I'm not real young anymore--oh well), but yeah, I remember Christopher Lee hosting. Hmmm...I forget, though: did they scare Nixon/Dracula off with a picture of Eisenhower instead of a cross? I thought that happened in at least one Nixon sketch.

Lee also did a wonderful bit with Laraine Newman where he played the Grim Reaper (Newman, who was playing a child, called him "Mr. Death" I think).

Mad Kane

My favorite skit ever was Steve Martin and Gilda doing Ballet Parking.

By the way, reading your post made me feel really, really old.

Sigh...

Nance

Phil Hartman as Bill Clinton, jogging into McDonald's, explaining policy while stealing bites out of everyone's food. That was funny.

Most of the rest of it, not so much.

Laertes

You're not crazy. The Nealon-Carvey-Lovitz-Hooks-Dunn-Hartman-Jackson years were awesome.

Laertes

And yes, "Jane, you ignorant slut" are the four funniest words ever broadcast.

Kevin Wolf

Lance, I own the "best of" DVDs for Gilda, Belushi and Aykroyd and IMHO they hold up damn well - even if, of course, they merely feature the best stuff. When I caught some of the edited syndicated reruns they were pretty good too.

I also think people are forgetting some of the fun films they showed by Tom Schiller and Albert Brooks.

I agree with most of your comments (and those of the commenters) even though I haven't watched the show in probably 10 years. Whatever the last one I saw was, and whoever was in it, it was awful.

Still, if the question is, was the show ever really funny, the answer is a resounding yes.

Chuck

I liked the Hartman-Carvey-Mike Myers years best, but that's also when I was in high school/college, so maybe that shapes my perception of whether that era was funnier. Perhaps that's also why I've always thought Carvey's Bush was funniest of all the presidents. I've seen maybe on SNL episode in the last ten years, though, and I've never really found Will Ferrell all that funny.

Michelle

What harry near indy said. Perspective and context probably weigh quite heavily in my remembering those first three or four years as amazing. I was not quite 14 when the first episode aired (which might explain why I loved Scred). And it speaks volumes that I especially loved Aykroyd's E. Buzz Miller and Michael O'Donoghue.

Kevin Hayden

Yes, at times it was hilarious, though it can be uneven and some years sucked.

And how could you leave out Ed Grimley? That makes me mental. And Norm? And Mango?

Granted, it's plenty lowbrow, but sometimes pure silly's the best tonic for what ails us.

Other great catchphrases and skits:

Could it be..... SATAN?!
That's it... that's the ticket.
Emily Latella: "Never mind"
More cowbell!
Belushi as Samurai Anything
Eddie Murphy in Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood
Carvey as Bush, Hammond as Clinton, Ferrell as Dumbya

daveminnj

kevin nealon is UNDER-rated?!?

rickhavoc

"Oh, my, did Fran Tarknenton host SNL at some point?"

Yeah. Good show. A skit with him as a pick-up artist trying to get into Ms. Newman's pants was funny. Tark keeps calling timeout, then jogging stage right to talk to Bud Grant (Belushi, with a headset on, IIRC). Newman spouts lines all along ("man, the strangest things keep collecting in my hairbrush").

Hammond's work was good the way Christopher Plummer's acting is good: you forget there's an actor involved.

Frank Weaver

I really agree with you. Having grown up with both Second City TV and Sat.Nite Live to choose from, I can say that today it is impossible not to be simply amazed at Second City TV even on DVD, as it was then on TV. Amazed. The scripts remain tight, the inside humor (the "video dj" is still working despite technological advances, the talk show still works, etc...) And it was humble in egos, in that way Canadian comedy can be before it goes to NYC or wherever in the U.S. The inverse is true about Sat.Nite Live. It burned fast, and it was the references aligned in combination: when it happened, the era, the change to punk, the MUSIC acts, the inside references, drugs, the politics, the satire, the drugs, and so on. It burned for a moment, then became essentially a reflection of every era it is in, rather than a hallmark of it.

To understand what seperates those two programs more - just consider watching musical guest Costello show up on the first years of Sat.Nite Live, and he stops playing after the first 30 sec of his number and announces he is going to change to another song. It happened. Won't today. And Lorne Michaels banned him for more than a decade! I mean, Costello proved he knew how to use LIVE, and the others were what execs remain, uninterested "suits", and the comedy players were all moving towards cokeheads whose big aspiration was to hang with the Stones - then!? - more so than with the punks and avant garde that was going down already strong.

That is what was always underlying Sat. Nite Live. It wasn't REALLY hip. It was Canada getting lost in NYC, discovering some fresh angles, and then that ended up serving as a template for "freshness" (weekend news update, was that ever funny?)

Second City though, never promised it was hip, it was almost underground, so it ages well because it had to rely on script and comedy, on the talents of the players, etc..

cgeye

Ah, Scred. And the flushing toilet god.

I am a freak, so I loved the Christopher Guest/Billy Crystal/Martin Short era. All heavy hitters, as good as Hartman, but never comfortable in his Harvey Korman mocking leading man shoes (God rest his soul)....

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