Dennis suggests ‘Saturday Night Live’ – seasons 1-3 in their entirety (in Comedy). The lovely Ms. Elsa S. Customer and I got the bee in our collective bonnet to watch ‘SNL’ from the start, in order. (You don’t mess around with our bonnet bees). We’re midway through the third season right now and we’d like to tell you all that it’s solid comedy gold throughout. We can’t do that of course; it’s ‘SNL’, which means that the pressures involved in putting out a ninety minute live comedy show three Saturdays out of every month is gonna cause some, shall we say, unevenness. But such pressures, when applied to the right mix of writers and performers, can also squeeze out some outright lunatic diamonds, and those are what, more than thirty years after they originally aired, these episodes will leave you remembering. Trying to encapsulate why embarking on a comprehensive ‘SNL’ program is, frankly, too much work for the likes of me at the moment (‘and yet you chose to write a review’, you add, not terribly kindly), so here are some stray thoughts: one fun game to play is something I like to call, “goodbye analysis” wherein you try to judge how the cast really felt about the host by their reactions to him/her (while everyone in the cast seems to want to take Candace Bergin home and kiss her all over in the dark, while Louise Lasser stands alone, insulated by her own craziness and the waves of animosity from the cast, and watch Bill Murray look like he’s just waiting for the cameras go off to beat the living crap out of the returning Chevy Chase [a process he began right before air time], while Aykroyd and Belushi stand guard by him warily). Or you can watch the show evolve from a more variety show-type thing, with more musical acts,
standup comedians, and short films (the second episode, hosted by Paul Simon, is practically an all-music show), into the sketch machine it is now. Or play the ‘rate the worst host ever’ game! My choices up ‘til this point: 1. Louise Lasser (self-obsessed and completely bananas) 2. Raquel Welch (utterly talentless and full of baseless overconfidence) 3. Fran Tarkenton (yeah, he doesn’t bring a lot to the party), 4. Art Garfunkel (they wisely just let him sing most of the time), 5. Hugh Hefner (another host reveals why he’s referred to as a ‘non-performer’). Watch Bill Murray slowly, painfully come into his own, transforming himself from a shockingly-rattled line-blower into an undisputed star, even, in my mind, eclipsing Belushi, Aykroyd and sweet Gilda by the midpoint of season 3. And, speaking of Gilda- you’ll fall in love with Gilda, like we all did. Root for perpetual also-rans Larraine Newman and poor Garrett Morris, even as they show, over and over again, why that’s exactly what they were (I fully intend to compile an unironic ‘Best of Garret Morris’ DVD someday; I’m not kidding). Marvel at the adventurous early musical guests like Loudon Wainwright, John Prine, The Stylistics, Patti Smith, Jimmy Cliff, Kinky Friedman, Eugene Record, Joan Armatrading, Tom Waits, and, of course, Sun Ra. Revel in the once-breathtaking maniac originality of Danny Aykroyd, long before anyone ever dreamed of Caddyshack 2, Ghostbusters 2, Nothing But Trouble, or The Couch Trip. And marvel at the still groundbreaking bits by Andy Kaufman and the episode-long meta-enterprise that was the Charles Grodin episode. Still funny, still weird, still taking chances, and pulling them off at least half the time.