Archive for the 1975-1976 Category

Richard Pryor & Gil Scott-Heron: 12/13/75

Posted in 1975-1976 with tags , , , , on February 17, 2010 by Erin

This particular episode of Saturday Night seems to be heavily tailored to host Richard Pryor’s comic sensibilities. Rather than Pryor merely participating in performing the sketches, many of the show’s sketches seem to revolve around the topics of Pryor’s standup: Race and Class. When I looked up this episode at SNL Transcripts, I realized this wasn’t an accident:

In order to get Richard Pryor to host the show, producer Lorne Michaels had to meet Pryor’s demands: Gil Scott-Heron (a groundbreaking artist in his own right) had to be a musical guest on the show; actor Thalmus Rasulala and his ex-wife Shelley (also the mother of Pryor’s daughter, Rain) must also be allowed to make appearances on the show. In 1975, Pryor was at the top of his game and this was only Saturday Night‘s seventh episode, so Pryor was able to bend Michaels’ resolve.

The result, in my opinion, was Saturday Night‘s best show up to this point. This episode is incredibly cohesive in tone, well-paced, and well written from beginning to end with some help from Pryor and his collaborator, Paul Mooney. Readers may recognize Paul Mooney from Chappelle’s Show:

Video: Paul Mooney as Negrodamus

Continue reading


Lily Tomlin, Howard Shore & The All Nurse Band: 11/22/75

Posted in 1975-1976 with tags , , , on February 15, 2010 by Erin

Yet another opening with Chevy Chase as President Ford. Subtitles appear: “This is not a good impression of Gerald Ford, but Rich Little won’t work for scale.” As Gerald Ford, Chevy Chase discusses New York City’s financial problems. He hasn’t granted New York City federal funds yet, stating:

The longer I hold out on New York City, the better chances I have with those Conservative Republicans who would otherwise support Ronald Reagan, pretty smart, eh?

Ford has two Rotary Phones at his desk: Henry Kissinger on one phone, Anwar Sadat on the other. He accidentally hangs up on both of them, falls down, and declares, “Live from New York, It’s Saturday Night!”

Lily Tomlin delivers her monologue on a brand new set, the set that would remain through the 1978-79 season. Lily delivers a short rap that closes, “Take pride in yourself, you could be Philadelphia.”

Saturday Night is still experimenting. John Belushi makes three appearances as Beethoven in this episode: in his first appearance, he attempts to play “Moonlight Sonata”, only to get frustrated and switch up to “Tie A Yellow Ribbon”. In the second Beethoven segment, he tries to play his “Fifth Symphony”, then gets bored and starts playing “My Girl”. Late in the episode, the third and final appearance, Beethoven snorts coke and starts playing Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say”. Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner, playing maids, appear dumbfounded by his raucous change of pace and become a ad-hoc version of the Raelettes. Beethoven’s “What’d I Say” is an irrevrent stab at Masterpiece Theatre.

Continue reading

Robert Klein w/ABBA & Loudon Wainwright III: 11/15/75

Posted in 1975-1976 with tags , , on February 5, 2010 by Erin

At the cold open of this Saturday Night, Laraine Newman (playing a woman named “Shari”) refuses to accept her title as Miss America because she finds beauty pageants to be degrading. She rips off her frock, crown, and cape, and piles it on Chevy Chase, shrieking, “Nobody dresses this way anymore!” Chevy Chase takes it upon himself to walk down the aisle, singing “There she is, Miss America…” then procedes to do his fall down schtick, and declare, “Live, from New York, it’s Saturday Night!

The opening credits try on a new, slower paced theme song, and announces that there will be “No Film By Albert Brooks”, never mind that fact that he’ll be out before this season is done, anyway.

Robert Klein’s monologue reminisces about the early days of television. In one sentence, Klein manages to distill essence of the early days of Saturday Night, and why I chose to embark on this project: “I remember that things could happen live!”. After riffing a little on live television cartoons, he diverts his monologue to talking about making a movie with Joan Hackett.

Continue reading

Candice Bergen and Esther Philips: 11/08/75

Posted in 1975-1976 with tags , , , , on February 1, 2010 by Erin

“I’m pleased to be on the Saturday Night with Harvey Cosell,” Says Chevy Chase, doing the cold open as Gerald Ford.

When Chevy Chase impersonates Gerald Ford, he really isn’t impersonating Gerald Ford at all; it’s more like Chevy Chase acting presidential, with the occasional falling down (something Ford did frequently). That’s what makes it funny.

Candice Bergen mentions in her monologue that she is Saturday Night‘s first female host, but that has no bearing on the ERA, a hot topic at the time (and that said, during most of the 1970s). The monologue is followed by a commerical parody for the Ambassador Training Institute, a vocational school that trains you for a career as a diplomat.

This episode marks the first appearance of Chevy Chase’s “Landshark”, a parody of Jaws. Chevy Chase’s shark appears at the door, mentioning that he’s there to deliver a “Candy Gram”. Laraine Newman and Jane Curtain are eaten alive. Candice Bergen tries to club the shark, only to get Garrett Morris instead.

Continue reading

Rob Reiner w/Penny Marshall, The Lockers & “Joe Cocker”: 10/25/75

Posted in 1975-1976 with tags , , , , , on January 22, 2010 by Erin

In contrast the previous week’s program, which was mostly a musical program, this week’s episode with Rob Reiner was mostly comedy. There were no musical acts–unless you count John Belushi lip-synching spastically to Joe Cocker.

Following another “Chevy Chase falls down” cold open, Rob Reiner comes onstage dressed as a cheesy lounge singer with a bad toupee and one of the baby blue, ruffly tuxedos that were popular in the 1970s. Reiner performs a lounge rendtion of “Blowin’ In The Wind”, and introducing a middle aged man as Irving Berlin. A subtitle reads: “This is not Irving Berlin, but Rob doesn’t know it.” Rob Reiner’s act is somewhat reminiscent of Bill Murray’s “Nick Winters” character. Reiner, who early in his career was a member of the LA wing of the San Francisco improv group The Committee, is perhaps commenting on his generation’s worst fears: seeing a significant song reduced to a nostalgic lounge melody.

The first commerical parody is a PSA spoof sponsored by “The National Pancreas Association”. John Belushi is not feeling so well, and wife Gilda Radner encourages Belushi to have his Pancreas checked out. Dan Ackroyd plays a doctor who confirms that Belushi’s pancreas is indeed “on the fritz”, and fixes it. The PSA plays out more like a commerical for a cold medication than the PSAs of that time:

Continue reading

Paul Simon w/Art Garfunkel, Randy Newman & Pheobe Snow: 10/18/75

Posted in 1975-1976 with tags , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2010 by Erin

SNL’s second episode with Paul Simon singing “Still Crazy After All These Years”. No guitar, just Paul sitting on the stool in a reflective mode, clutching the mic. This episode is a mostly musical one, and no sketches. At one point, after Randy Newman performs “Sail Away”, the cast (sans Chevy Chase) comes onstage dressed in bee costumes, only for Paul Simon to tell them that the sketch had been cut.

In lieu of an opening monologue, Paul Simon performs his song “Love Me Like A Rock” with the Jessy Dixon singers.

Legendary Yippie Leader Jerry Rubin makes an appearance as a spokesperson for “The Berkeley Collection”, a collection of wallpaper patterned with spraypainted ’60s protest slogans such as: “Burn Baby Burn”, “Black Power”, “Burn Pot, Not People”, and “Free [Insert Black Panther Here]!” When a blob of yellow paint is splattered, Rubin non-chalantly says, “Oops! No Hassle! This wallpaper is vinyl and acrylic coated to make it scuff and stain resistant, and wipes clean with a damp cloth. Isn’t this outta sight?” The commercial concludes with Rubin declaring, “Up the wallpaper, motherfucker!”, with the “motherfucker” part bleeped out with a ear-splitting pitch. “The Berkeley Collection” suggests that the idealism of the 1960s were already a fleeting memory by 1975.

Continue reading

George Carlin w/ Billy Preston & Janis Ian: 10/11/75

Posted in 1975-1976 with tags , , , on January 15, 2010 by Erin

The pilot episode for Saturday Night Live is a pretty fast paced affair, with sketches only two to three minutes in length, and other pieces running longer than four minutes.

SNL‘s very first cold open ever features John Belushi playing an immigrant learning English from Michael O’Donoghue. O’Donoghue drops dead, Belushi follows suit, and Chevy Chase, dressed as a stage hand, declares, “Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night!”

In the opening credits, the show is not called Saturday Night Live but NBC’S Saturday Night. Lorne Michaels had wanted to call the program Saturday Night Live, but Howard Cosell had already claimed the name for his own variety program. After that show went off the air, Michaels was able to claim the name as well as one of its cast members–Bill Murray.

George Carlin performs a stand-up routine for his opening monologue. Before the show ends, he will perform three more routines, which makes me wonder if they had always intended to have an opening monologue. Interestingly, Carlin does not appear in any sketches.

Continue reading