Monday, October 11, 2010

Apple #487: Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live first aired in 1975 on this day, October 11.  There is so much I could say about this show.  To keep it manageable, I tried to find some facts about the show that you might not already know, plus a few memory lane tidbits here and there.

Here's the cast of SNL, season one. L to R: Laraine Newman, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase
(Photo from Colm Hogan)

  • George Carlin was the show's first host.
  • Andy Kaufman appeared on the first episode.  He lip-synced along to a recording of the Mighty Mouse theme song.  His bit ran long and though people suggested that it be cut, Michaels decided to cut Billy Crystal's stand-up routine instead.
  • Here's a transcript of a bit that John Belushi did as Martin Gresner, pretending to have had his arm bitten off by a shark.  Phyllis Crawford was played by Jane Curtin.
Victims of Shark Bite  

[ open on title graphic ]

[ Music Over: "Mack the Knife", Bobby Darin ]

[ dissolve to talk show set ]

Phyllis Crawford: Hi, I'm Phyllis Crawford, and welcome to "Victims of Shark Bite." My first guest: Mr. Martin Gresner from Long Island, New York.

[ reveal Mr. Gresner, sitting in a chair with one leg under the other and one sleeve dangling without an accompanying arm ]

Phyllis Crawford: Mr. Gresner.. would you tell our audience just how you became a victim of shark bite?

Martin Gresner: I'd be happy to, Phyllis. Uh.. I was swimming about fifty yards offshore from my summer home in Mattatuck, Long Island. It was high tide, and, all of a sudden, I felt this sharp, piercing pain in my left shoulder. I didn't know what it was at first, uh.. my left arm felt.. numb. Well, my arm was gone. Since then, I've had to learn to do everything with my right hand.

Phyllis Crawford: Just when did this incident take place?

Martin Gresner: [ tilts his head back to think ] Oh, I'd say maybe.. [ his left hand pokes out from under his dangling sleeve as he counts on his fingers ] ..three, four months ago. [ returns his left hand under his sleeve ] I've had, uh.. I've learned how to shave with my right hand, and eat with one hand --

Phyllis Crawford: Excuse me, Mr. Gresner, but it appears to me as though you do have a left arm there.

Martin Gresner: Nope! It's gone, see? [ uses his right hand to toss his dangling sleeve over his shoulder ] Shark bit it off! Nothing there!

Phyllis Crawford: No, Mr. Gresner, that's your sleeve. [ raises his empty sleeve, then flips the side of his jacket to reveal his hidden left arm ] You do have a left arm, and it looks perfectly normal to me.

Martin Gresner: [ lifts his left arm and examines it ] It does?

Phyllis Crawford: Yes.

Martin Gresner: [ taps his left fingers nervously as he looks down at his right leg tucked under his left leg ] Oh, it was my leg! It was my leg! He bit my leg off, see? I have to hop around on one foot, I'm an invalid, I have a wheelchair --

Phyllis Crawford: Uh, Mr. Gresner, you do have a leg there, it's tucked under your other leg. [ grabs his right foot and thrusts his leg out ] You see? You're fine! There's nothing wrong with you.

Martin Gresner: Well, I saw that movie where that guy had his leg bit off --

Phyllis Crawford: [ slightly annoyed tone ] We'll be back with another victim of shark bite after this commercial message.

Martin Gresner: [ points to his chin ] I've got a scar here, where my sister pushed me off a porch, and --

[ fade out ]  

John Belushi and Jane Curtin.
(Photo from Broadway Video)

  • Saturday Night Live is the longest-running late night show.  It has won 21 Emmy Awards.
  • It was originally called NBC's Saturday Night.
  • Lorne Michaels, one of the show's creators, is Canadian.  He got started writing comedy on Laugh-In.  He also produced The Kids in the Hall.
  • Michaels left the show in 1980, its sixth season, and everything went so badly, the entire cast was fired except for Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo. When Michaels returned in 1985, the show was on the verge of cancellation.  He fired the entire cast and started over, and he has not left since.
  • Steve Martin was never a member of the cast.  He guest hosted 13 times and also made surprise appearances.

Steve Martin's King Tut, first performed in 1978, I think.
(Photo from The

    • Gilda Radner was the first person to join the cast.
    • As of 2003, the show had a total of 77 cast members.
    • For each week's show, somewhere between 30 to 45 scripts are written.  Most are rejected during the week's preparation and only a few make the cut to be aired on the show.
    • Tina Fey is the first female head writer in the history of the show.
    • Conan O'Brien wrote many sketches for SNL from 1988 to 1991, though he was often not credited.
    • Cast members who have died:
        • John Belushi, 1982, cocaine + heroin (speedball)
        • Gilda Radner, 1989, ovarian cancer
        • Danitra Vance, 1994, breast cancer
        • Michael O'Donoghue, 1994, cerebral hemorrhage
        • Chris Farley, 1997, cocaine + heroin (speedball)
        • Phil Hartmann, 1998, murder
        • Chris Rocket, 2005, suicide

    Gilda Radner on The Muppet Show with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. The Muppets were also on the first episode of SNL, and many other episodes afterward. The writers weren't a fan of having them on the show, though. Writer Michael O'Donoghue said once, "I won't write for felt."
    (Photo from The Muppet Show Season 3 DVD)

      • When Lorne Michaels offered, on the air, to bribe the Beatles to come on the show, Lennon and McCartney were watching the show in their apartment in New York. They seriously discussed getting in a cab and going to the studio to perform, but they decided they were too tired and didn't go.
      • Only three shows were not truly live but allowed for a 7-second tape delay.
          • Richard Pryor, 1975
          • Sam Kinison, 1986
          • Andrew Dice Clay, 1990
      • As you might guess, each of these occasions was to allow time to censor any swear words.
      • The F-bomb has slipped out many times -- and not during those three tape-delayed shows.  Here are some of those instances:
          • Paul Shaffer, 1980
          • Prince, 1981
          • Morris Day and the Time, 1990
          • Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), 1990
          • Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), 1994
          • Adam Horovitz (Beastie Boys), 1994
          • Norm McDonald, 1997
          • James Hetfield (Metallica), 1997
          • Jenny Slate, 2009
      • Here's the transcript of the first Weekend Update, the only segment that has appeared on every show:

      Announcer: From Saturday Night news headquarters, this is Weekend Update, with Chevy Chase.

      Chevy Chase: [ talking into the telephone ] What are you wearing right now? [ smiles ] No bathrobe? [ notices the audience, hangs up telephone ] Good evening, I'm Chevy Chase!

      Our top story tonight: dedication ceremonies for the new Teamsters Union Headquarters building took place today in Detroit, where Union President Fitzsimmons was reported to have said that former President Jimmy Hoffa will always be a cornerstone in the organization.

      Now, world leaders in the news: Japan Emperor Hirohito met Mickey Mouse at Disneyland this week. The Emperor presented Mickey with a Hirohito wristwatch.

      Dateline: Washington. At a press conference Thursday night, President Ford blew his nose. Alert Secret Service agents seized his handkerchief and wrestled it to the ground.

      And, yesterday, in Washington, President Ford bumped his head three times getting into his helicopter. The CIA immediately denied reports that it had deliberately lowered the top of the doorway.

      And, Ford was on the campaign trail, announcing in Detroit that he has written his own campaign slogan. The slogan? "If He's So Dumb, How Come He's President?"

      The Post Office announced today -- [ looks around, lost ] Just a second, I lost my place. [ shuffles his papers ] Oh! The Post Office announced today that it is going to issue a stamp commemorating prostitution in the United States. It's a ten-cent stamp, but if you want to lick it, it's a quarter.

      Chevy Chase: Murder at the Blaine Hotel again. For a live report, let's go to Laraine Newman in midtown Manhatten, at the Blaine hotel. Laraine?

      Laraine Newman: [ over the sounds of sirens in the background ] Chevy, I'm standing outside a room on the 15th floor of the Blaine Hotel, where number 38 in a series of grizzly and bizarre murders has occurred just over an hour ago. [ pan down to reveal three legs, each with a yellow sock on the foot, covered by a sheet and poking out of the doorway ] The motive, again - murder, as it has been in the previous 37 slashings. In a fit of pique, the Mayor has called the Blaine Hotel a pockmark on the neck of midtown Manhatten. Once again, grizzly death and murder in the Blaine Hotel. Laraine Newman, reporting.

      Chevy Chase: Still to come: Earthquake Claims San Diego, Four Million Die in Turkey, and Arlene Visits an Art Museum.

      [ dissolve to ad parody for Triopenin ]

      [ dissolve to Blaine Hotel ad card ]

      Announcer: Guests of NBC Saturday Night stay at the fabulous Blaine Hotel in midtown Manhatten. The Blaine, a tradition for more than half a century.

      Chevy Chase: Our final story tonight concerns the birth of a baby sandpiper at the Washington Zoo. It's the first such birth in captivity on record. The pip made its debut at 9:18 this morning, weighing in at just under fourteen grams, and, according to zoo officials, resembled its mother quite closely. The name given our fuzzy little friend? Simply "Pip". One humourous note: the bird was stepped on and crushed to death this afternoon by Goggles, the baby hippo born in captivity last Wednesday.

      Well, that's news this evening. This is Chevy Chase saying, good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

      [ Chevy quickly redials his phone, as we fade ]

      Chevy Chase vs. Billy Murray: one of the biggest rivalries in show business of all time.
      John Landis, on what happened the night when Chase returned to guest host after Murray had taken the spot in the cast that he'd left:  "I've only been to SNL three times, and one time I was there, Chevy and Billy were having this huge screaming fight in the hallway, and Michael O'Donahue and Tom Davis were holding them back, and John and Danny jumped in because Chevy and Billy were really going to come to blows. I mean, it was a huge argument. And the thing I remember about Billy Murray -- I didn't know Bill Murray, but he's screaming, you know, foaming at the mouth, 'Fucking Chevy,' and in anger he says, 'Medium talent!' And I thought, 'Oh boy, that's funny. In anger he says 'medium talent.' That really impressed me. I went, 'So, Bill Murray -- wow, who is that guy?'" Murray went on to suggest to Chase that he, um, pay more attention to his wife, and the argument turned into a fistfight. 
      (Go to if you want the uncensored version of what he said.)
      (Photo from

      Related entry:  Food King and Animal House

      Saturday Night Live Information & Biography Center
      Lonympics, Saturday Night Live - just the facts
      ShareTV, Saturday Night Live Fun Facts
      Saturday Night Live Transcripts
      The Corsair, Bill Murray Versus Chevy Chase

      1 comment:

      1. thanks for the link! Great blog. Keep up the interesting entries.


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