Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Saturday Night Live (1975 - 2009) * * *

"And now, from New York, the most dangerous city in America, it's Saturday Night Live!"

Saturday Night Live (SNL) is a weekly late-night sketch comedy and variety show filmed in New York City. It made its debut on October 11, 1975. The show features a regular cast of comedic actors, joined by a guest host and musical act. SNL is broadcast live from Studio 8H at the GE Building on floors 8 and 9 in New York's Rockefeller Center. It was created by Lorne Michaels, who, excluding seasons 6–10, has been with the show throughout, first as producer and writer and later its executive producer. The offices of SNL writers, producers, and other staff can be found on the 17th floor of "30 Rock". Currently in its 34th season, SNL is one of the longest-running network programs in American television history. For over three decades, Saturday Night Live has been the source of young comedic talent and helped to launch the careers of countless performers, making them household names.

Chevy Chase: Good evening, I'm Chevy Chase and you're not. Well, it's official, murder is now legal in the state of California. Guess what folks, that's the news and I am outta here!
Dennis Miller: You know, today marks the birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, the noted eighteenth century composer who inspired the hit song, "Roll Over, Beethoven".
John Belushi: My name is Nooney. Look at my lips. Nooooooney!

Throughout its history (except for season 7 and other rare exceptions), the show has traditionally begun with an opening that ends with someone breaking character and yelling "Live, from New York, it's Saturday Night!" The show is never live in the western half of the USA, although there was a brief experiment in which it did air live on the west coast in 2001 after live XFL football games. Also, the show was forced by the network to run on a five-second delay on three separate occasions when Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, and Andrew Dice Clay each hosted.

Chevy Chase: Ok, you're qualified for this job, how about a starting salary, $5000?
Richard Pryor: Yo mama!
Chevy Chase: Um, $7500 a year...
Richard Pryor: Yo GRAND-mama!
Chevy Chase: Fifteen thousand dollars a year, Mr. Wilson, you'll be the highest paid janitor in America, just don't, don't hurt me!
Richard Pryor: Ok. You want me to start now?
Chevy Chase: Oh, no no no, it's alright, I'll clean all this up. Take a couple weeks off, you look tired!

The show began as a replacement for THE BEST OF CARSON and the series was intended to have a few episodes. Originally, the show was called NBC's SATURDAY NIGHT, as the current title was in use by rival network ABC. NBC purchased the rights to the name in 1976 and adopted the new title on March 26, 1977. The original cast nicknamed the "Not Ready for Primetime Players," started a comedy revolution with their mix of irreverent characters and satirical impressions of political figures and pop culture icons. Because SNL is initially broadcast live, often skits are topical and deal with current affairs, and for this reason some do not pass the test of time and become dated or even incomprehensible in reruns and on DVD.

Tina Fey: During an interview this week, Macaulay Culkin said that he is still good friends with Michael Jackson, saying, "I think we understand each other in a way that most people can’t understand either of us." He then added, "Basically, we both still wish I was nine."

After five years, Lorne Michaels chose not to renew his contract, and was joined in departure by the cast members and writers. Jean Doumanian took over the show for the 1980 season, hiring a new cast and writers that included Eddie Murphy. Doumanian was replaced after one year by Dick Ebersol, who had hired Michaels as the show's creator. Murphy and Joe Piscopo continued as cast members under Ebersol, remaining with the show until 1984. For fall 1984, Ebersol added several cast members with TV experience, including Billy Crystal, Martin Short, Harry Shearer, and Pamela Stephenson. After one season, Ebersol wanted a major revamp of SNL, which was rejected in favor of bringing back Lorne Michaels.

Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery: Suck on it, Trebek. Suck it long, and suck it hard.
Sean Connery: I pose a conundrum to you. A riddle, if you will.
Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek: I don't want to hear it.
Sean Connery: What's the difference between you and a mallard with a cold? One's a sick duck... I can't remember how it ends, but you're mother's a whore. Knock, knock.
Alex Trebek: Who's there?
Sean Connery: Me, the guy who slept with your mother last night.
Alex Trebek: Let's just go to Final Jeopardy, shall we? The category is... I can't believe this, the Final Jeopardy category is "Famous Mothers".
Sean Connery: Hah, Hah, Hah; My day has finally come, Trebek.

Michaels' return for the 1985-6 season restored an association with NBC that has lasted nearly thirty years. The show has helped launched the careers of Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Billy Crystal, Jane Curtin, Joan Cusack, Robert Downey, Jr., Jimmy Fallon, Chris Farley, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Janeane Garofalo, Gilbert Gottfried, Phil Hartman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Dennis Miller, Tracy Morgan, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Conan O'Brien, Amy Poehler, Gilda Radner, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Paul Shaffer, Molly Shannon, Harry Shearer, Martin Short, Sarah Silverman, Ben Stiller, David Spade, Gilda Radner, Damon Wayans and many others. As head of Broadway Video and SNL Films, Michaels has leveraged the talent he's helped introduce, producing shows and films such as ALL YOU NEED IS CASH (1978), WAYNE'S WORLD (1992), LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN, and CONEHEADS (1993).

George Carlin: I enjoy watching reruns of Saturday Night Live and counting all the dead people... The term Jumbo Shrimp has always amazed me. What is a Jumbo Shrimp? I mean, it's like Military Intelligence--the words don't go together, man... I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.

Don Pardo has served as the announcer for the series since it began--except for season 7, when Mel Brandt and Bill Hanrahan filled that role. Pardo, who was 57 when the show debuted and who retired from NBC in 2004 at age 86, still flies in from his home in Tucson, Arizona, to introduce the show as of 2009.

Don Pardo: It's Saturday Night Liiiiiiiiive!
Dana Carvey as the Church Lady: So, Anne, you call yourself "bisexual". I guess that means that when you reach your little hand down the front of someone's pants, you're happy with whatever you find.
Billy Crystal as Fernando: You Look Mahvelous!

The Saturday Night Live Band, also known as "The Live Band", is the house band for SNL. It has featured New York studio musicians including Paul Shaffer (1975-1977, 1977-1980), G.E. Smith, Lou Marini (1975-1983), David Sanborn (1975), Michael Brecker, Ray Chew (1980-1983), Alan Rubin (1975-1983), Georg Wadenius (1979-1985), Steve Ferrone (1985), David Johansen (performing as Buster Poindexter) and Tom Malone, who served as leader of the band from 1981 to 1985. The band is currently under the leadership of Tower of Power alumnus Lenny Pickett and keyboardists Leon Pendarvis and Katreese Barnes.

Dan Aykroyd: Jane, you ignorant slut!
Parent: My kid saw that Tim Allen movie nine times. He loves Santa.
Dan Aykroyd: Kid, let me tell you something. I did time with Tim Allen. He's real people but he's no Santa Claus.

A typical episode of SNL will feature a single host, who delivers the opening monologue and performs in sketches with the cast, and a single musical guest, who will perform two or occasionally three musical numbers. In some cases, the musical guest will also be the host and fill both duties. George Carlin was first to host the show, and Candice Bergen was the first female to host the show a few weeks later and again hosted only six weeks after that. Guests that have hosted five or more times are sometimes referred to as belonging to the Five-Timers Club, a term that originated on a sketch performed on Tom Hanks' fifth episode.

Gilda Radner as Roseanne Roseannadanna: It just goes to show ya, it's always something! My father always used to say, it's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another.
Gilda Radner: Comedy is very controlling. You are making people laugh. It is there in the phrase "making people laugh". You feel completely in control when you hear a wave of laughter coming back at you that you have caused.

The early days of SNL spawned several movies, including the successful THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980). However it was the success of WAYNE'S WORLD (1992), that encouraged Lorne Michaels to produce more film spin-offs, based on several popular sketch characters. Michaels revived 1970s characters for CONEHEADS (1993), followed by IT'S PAT (1994), STUART SAVES HIS FAMILY (1995), A NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY (1998), SUPERSTAR (1999), and LADIES MAN (2000). Some did moderately well, though others did not--notably IT'S PAT, which did so badly at the box office it was pulled one week after release, and STUART SAVES HIS FAMILY which lost $15 million. Many of these films were produced by Paramount Pictures. The films based on The Blues Brothers were produced by Universal Studios, which merged with NBC in 2004 to form NBC Universal.

Chris Farley: You remember when you went to Japan and at the airport they arrested you because you had some pot and it made all the papers and everything?
Paul McCartney: Well to be honest, Chris, I'd kinda like to forget all that.
Chris Farley: Remember when you were with the Beatles and you were supposed to be dead, and there were all these clues, like you play some song backwards and it'd say, like "Paul is Dead" and everybody thought you were dead and, um, that was a hoax right?
Paul McCartney: Yeah, I wasn't really dead.

Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season was released on DVD, in the UK, by Universal Studios on December 5, 2006. Upon the set’s release, some criticism of its authenticity as complete and uncut arose from reviewers and fans. This was due to the existence of original live copies, which in comparison to the "complete" episodes reveal edits and omissions, which are common among the rerun versions of the shows in the set. One example is a Wrigleys gum parody which originally aired in two episodes live, but was removed for the repeat broadcasts for time, and the DVD uses the repeat versions of these episodes.

Steve Martin & Dan Aykroyd as the Festrunk Brothers: We are two wild and crazy guys!
Will Ferrell: Saturday Night Live is such a comedy boot camp in a way, because you get to work with so many different people who come in to host the show and you get thrown into so many situations and learn how to think on your feet, so filmmaking actually feels slow, in a good way.

The complete second season was released in the US on DVD on December 4, 2007, the third season on May 13, 2008, and the fourth season on December 2, 2008. The complete second season of SNL contains legendary musical performances by artists Joe Cocker, The Band, Brian Wilson, Paul Simon, George Harrison, Frank Zappa, Chuck Berry, The Kinks, Santana and Tom Waits and classic appearances by hosts Lily Tomlin, Norman Lear, Steve Martin, Dick Cavett, Jodie Foster, Candice Bergen, Ralph Nader, Fran Tarkenton, Sissy Spacek, Elliott Gould and Shelly Duvall.

Eddie Murphy as Velvet Jones: You could make $1500 a week without leaving the comforts of your own bedroom. Sound too good to be true? Just send for my new book entitled, "I Wanna Be A Ho".
Eddie Murphy as Mister Robinson: Do you know what these are, boys and girls? They're drums! Do you know where drums come from? From Africa! Do you know where "these" drums come from? Smokey Robinson was at the Apollo theater and left his van open in the back of the place. I ripped him off! I wonder how Smokey gonna sound wit' no percussion! Oh look, an eviciton notice brought by Mr. Landlord. My landlord is a scumbucket. Can you say scumbucket boys and girls? I bet you can.

In addition to the full season releases, there have been over 40 releases on DVD featuring the "Best Of" former cast members and guest hosts in addition to documentaries, musical performances and themed compilations of sketches as well as a release of the show's 25 year anniversary. In 2001, the Presidential Bash 2000 was released on VHS, but it has not thus far been released on DVD.

Chris Farley: So, um, you remember when Bill Murray came, when you were the medieval barber and he came with his legs broken from being dragged by the ox cart after having too much mead?
Steve Martin: Yeah what about it?
Chris Farley: Um, that was awesome.
Steve Martin: That was a long time ago.
Chris Farley: Mr. Martin, before I go, I was wondering, I found this in wardrobe and I was wondering if you could sign it.
Steve Martin: My old King Tut costume! I remember this. This was back when the show meant something.

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