Friday, January 04, 2008

I Can't Stop My Leg

One thing that has really jumped out at me while watching SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE's first season on DVD is that Gilda Radner was really, really wonderful. I guess I knew that, but she left us so soon, and I haven't seen her in such a long while, and the end of her career was marked by appearances in terrible Gene Wilder movies that it's easy to forget how sweet and natural and funny she was, particularly when she was just being herself. On the Candice Bergen show, Gilda and Bergen share a short piece in which they sit on stage and chat about the recently defeated Equal Rights Amendment and how Gilda feels insecure around beautiful women. Among the absurd humor that often marked SNL (Land Shark, anyone?), this bit stands out because it's sweet and it's real (and probably written by Rosie Shuster).

Also, John Belushi really was as great as his legend, Dan Aykroyd may well have been the finest sketch comedian SNL ever had (only Phil Hartman is close), and Laraine Newman was pretty hot.

The Robert Klein show features two bizarre and decidedly non-live appearances by ABBA, who were reportedly booked against Lorne Michaels' will. Belushi really stands out in two sketches, one in which he and Klein play exterminators (Belushi seems to be doing a funny Brando thing) and another in which he plays Sam Peckinpah and beats the crap out of actress Radner. It's funny, I swear. Also, Loudon Wainwright III performs some scathingly satirical novelty songs that today's PC SNL--the one that booked Ashlee Simpson as a musical guest--wouldn't dream of (or probably understand).

The Lily Tomlin show has a great Land Shark sketch (c'mon, the Land Shark was funny when I was eight and it's funny now), but my favorite part was the very end, where Chevy Chase, Garrett Morris, Radner and Newman, dressed as bees, performed a funky "bee scat" with Tomlin at Paul Shaffer's piano. It's the most natural performance I've seen Morris give so far.

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