Still Crazy After All These Years
November 20, 2018
When this TV show hit the airwaves in October 1975, it was considered edgy and pushing the boundaries of societal good taste. For teenagers and twenty-something’s it became ‘must see’ TV. We are, of course, talking about Saturday Night Live which is now in its 44th season.
No doubt I watched the November 20, 1976, episode live when singer/songwriter Paul Simon hosted the show and donned a turkey costume for one of the sketches. In the sketch he sings the first five lines of the song:
I met my old lover
On the street last night
She seemed so glad to see me
I just smiled
And we talked about some old times
And we drank ourselves some beers
Still crazy after all these years
Still crazy after all these…
From there he complains about how stupid he feels being dressed up as a turkey, eventually leaves the stage, and has a backstage conversation with Lorne Michaels – SNL’s producer – before the bit is over.
It was things like this which propelled SNL into the pop culture of the 1970’s and soon had young people repeating lines like:
“We’re just two wild and crazy guys!” and “Never mind” and my personal favorite, “Jane, you ignorant sl*t.”
All three of these were repeated multiple times in multiple episodes, as were another dozen characters.
The first featured Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd who took on the persona of two socially awkward Czechoslovakian brothers, Yortuk and Georg Festrunk, who continually tried to pick up American women. But always failed.
“Never mind” was from the genius of Gilda Radner whose character Emily Litella would pontificate on some subject. From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“Emily Litella is an elderly woman with a hearing problem who appeared 26 times on SNL’s Weekend Update op-ed segment in the late 1970s. Attired in a frumpy dress, sweater and Lisa Loopner glasses, Litella was introduced with professional dignity by the news anchors, who could sometimes be seen cringing slightly in anticipation of the malapropisms they knew would follow. These sketches were, in part, a parody of the Fairness Doctrine, which at the time required broadcasters in the United States to present opposing viewpoints on public issues.
Litella would peer through her reading glasses and, in the character’s high-pitched, warbly voice, would read a prepared statement in opposition to an editorial that the TV station had supposedly broadcast. Litella would become increasingly agitated as her statement progressed. Midway in her commentary, it became apparent to the anchor, and the audience, that Litella had misheard or misunderstood the subject of the editorial to which she was responding. A typical example:
‘What is all this fuss I hear about the Supreme Court decision on a ‘deaf’ penalty? It’s terrible! Deaf people have enough problems as it is!’
The news anchor would interrupt Litella to point out her error, along the lines, ‘That’s death penalty, Ms. Litella, not deaf … death.’ Litella would wrinkle her nose, say something like, ‘Oh, that’s very different,’ then meekly turn to the camera and say, smiling, ‘Never mind!’”
Of course the last one was completely over the top in the 1970’s as saying the word ‘slut’ on TV was just not done. But that’s exactly what Dan Akroyd – in the role of a news anchor – would deadpan to his co-anchor, Jane Curtin, during a segment titled “Point/Counterpoint”. And the audience loved it.
It was society altering humor which has influenced several generations. I was 18 when it first hit the airwaves. Although I watched at my home in Yakima the first two years I have a distinct memory of hurrying into the TV room at the Alpha Phi house at the University of Puget Sound to watch it while in college from 1977 through 1979. There was always a fairly large group to view it with me.
Nowadays, when I see the program, I find myself shaking my head as what the current generation finds funny no longer resonates with me. Alas, we are all products of our time. I will forever think of Dan Akroyd, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Bill Murray, Garret Morris, and Laraine Newman as the REAL SNL cast!
As I have been known to do with my kids is to provide them with the cultural reference – usually in the form of a video – whenever my husband or I quote something from SNL. A roll of the eyes lets me know that they’re not interested to which I respond “Never mind.”
As always, a few links: