Classic SNL Review: May 24, 1986: Anjelica Huston & Billy Martin / George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic (S11E18)

Classic SNL Review: May 24, 1986: Anjelica Huston & Billy Martin / George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic (S11E18)

Sketches include “Hands Across America”, “The People’s Second Choice Awards”, “Moments of Doubt”, “Glamorous Drinking”, “Actors on Film”, “Mafia Greeting Cards”, “Lesbian Pick-Ups”, “Bocce Ball My Way”, “Backstage”, “Book Minute”, “Movie Theatre”, “My Friend” and “Fire”, George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic perform two medleys. Damon Wayans also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: April 19, 1986: Tony Danza / Laurie Anderson (S11E15)

Classic SNL Review: April 19, 1986: Tony Danza / Laurie Anderson (S11E15)

Sketches include “Vietnam Story”, “AT&T”, “Nancy’s Workout”, “Lyndon LaRouche Theatre”, “30 Second Count”, “Big Time Professional Golf”, “Love Scene”, “Master Thespian” and “The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena”. Laurie Anderson performs “Babydoll” and “The Day The Devil”. Penn & Teller also appear.

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Classic SNL Review: March 22, 1986: George Wendt and Francis Ford Coppola / Philip Glass (S11E13)

Classic SNL Review: March 22, 1986: George Wendt and Francis Ford Coppola / Philip Glass (S11E13)

Sketches include “Pep Talk”, “The Honeymooners: The Lost Episodes”, “Commercials”, “Mystery Playhouse”, “That Black Girl”, “Whale”, “Actors”, “Ghost of Thespians Past”, “Vietnam Sketch”, “Suitcase Boy” and “Finale”. Philip Glass and the Philip Glass Ensemble perform “Lightning” and “Rubric”.

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Classic SNL Review: January 18, 1986: Harry Dean Stanton / The Replacements (S11E07)

Classic SNL Review: January 18, 1986: Harry Dean Stanton / The Replacements (S11E07)

Sketches include: “Press Conference”, “Gulf Coast Furniture Warehouse” “Cleveland Vice”, “Death of a Gunfighter”, “Hospital”, “That Black Girl”, “Big Ball Of Sports”, “No Offense” and “Jack’s Discount Emporium”. The Replacements perform “Bastards Of Young” and “Kiss Me On The Bus”. Sam Kinison also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: November 23, 1985: Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) / Queen Ida (S11E03)

Classic SNL Review: November 23, 1985: Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) / Queen Ida (S11E03)

Sketches include “Tightrope”, “Say No”, “Locker Room”, “Pee-Wee’s Thanksgiving Special”, “The Pat Stevens Show”, “Die Foreigner Die!”, “Big House”, “Dinosaur Town”, “Love Letter”, “Pregnancy Tips”, and “Money Magnetism Seminar”. Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band perform “La Louisiane” and “Frisco Zydeco”.

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Classic SNL Review: November 16, 1985: Chevy Chase / Sheila E. (S11E02)

Classic SNL Review: November 16, 1985: Chevy Chase / Sheila E. (S11E02)

Sketches include “Firefighters”, “Wacky Glue”, “The Pat Stevens Show”, “Ford & Reagan”, “Trojans (I)”, “Those Unlucky Andersons”, “Jose Cuervo’s Party School Bowl”, “The Jose Cuervo Institute”, “The Life of Vlad the Impaler”, “The Blue, The Gray, And The Yellow”, “Drums Drums Drums”, “Pathological Liars Anonymous”, and “Craig Sundberg: Idiot Savant”. Sheila E. performs “Hollyrock” and “A Love Bizarre”.

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Classic SNL Review: November 9, 1985: Madonna / Simple Minds (S11E01)

Classic SNL Review: November 9, 1985: Madonna / Simple Minds (S11E01)

Sketches include: “Drug Testing”, “Where You’re Going”, “National Inquirer Theatre”, “Pinklisting”, “Critic”, “The Jones Brothers”, “El Spectaculare De Marika”, “Royal Visit”, “The Limits of the Imagination” and “Coloring Book”. Simple Minds perform “Alive and Kicking”. Penn & Teller also appear.

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Lorne's Missing Links: Steve Martin's Best Show Ever and The New Show

Lorne's Missing Links: Steve Martin's Best Show Ever and The New Show

Lorne Michaels stepped away from Saturday Night Live after the show’s fifth season, and his creation was kept alive by other producers, writers and actors for the next five years; when he returned to the show in 1985, he had a whole new cast, but many of the behind-the-scenes personnel were those who had been associated with his original five year tenure, and there were a handful of additions that would shape the show’s tone and look for years to come. Because the Jean Doumanian and Dick Ebersol eras each had their own specific directions and mostly unique personnel. one wonders what the show would have been like if Michaels had stuck around during that time. There are a few hints of what a Michaels-helmed SNL would have looked like in two of his TV productions during that period: Steve Martin’s Best Show Ever, a special Martin did for NBC in November 1981, and The New Show, Michaels’ ill-fated return to weekly network television

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SNL Up Close: 1985-86

SNL Up Close: 1985-86

In four seasons, executive producer Dick Ebersol had brought Saturday Night Live back from the cancellation, had the hottest comedian in America in the cast, and oversaw its transition from a live incubator of new comic talent to an increasingly prerecorded showcase for established comedians. By 1985, though, Ebersol found himself tired of the show’s grueling schedule, and, after toying with staying with a mostly-prerecorded version of the show that wouldn’t premiere until the next January, decided to step away. Brandon Tartikoff, president of NBC Entertainment, had to consider his options, and fast.

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Tom Davis and Nelson Lyon

Cancer claimed two former SNL writers this week.  Nelson Lyon, a writer for the 1981-82 season, died Tuesday of liver cancer at the age of 73.  Two days later, Tom Davis, one of the show's original writers and a returning contributor to the show following Lorne Michaels' re-arrival, succumbed to throat and neck cancer at 59.

Davis was a prominent figure in the show's history: he was responsible for many of the well-known sketches such as Coneheads, Final Days, and got more than a few complaints with his and Al Franken's Stunt Baby, X-Police, and First He Cries.  He appeared on camera fairly often through his tenure on the show, usually in tandem with Franken, and at one point landing "featured player" status with the other tenured writers for 1979-80; he also provided countless voiceovers for sketches.  He left with the original writers in 1980, then returned along with Lorne Michaels and Al Franken five years later.  Franken and Davis produced the poorly-received 1985-86 season (with Michaels as executive producer).  When Michaels took a more direct involvement with the show the following season, Davis was gone, but not for long: he rejoined the writing staff in January 1987 and stayed through the 1993-94 season.  Since then, he contributed sketches on 12 shows between 1997 and 2004, including "Leather Man" with Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz.

Lyon was more of a shadowy, underground figure; a collaborator of Michael O'Donoghue's, and probably known more for his sex comedy "The Telephone Book" and his association with John Belushi during his final days.  Lyon contributed to O'Donoghue's "At Home With The Psychos" (with Terry Southern and Rosie Shuster) and penned "The Mild One", an existential biker sketch featuring Bruce Dern.  He had a handful of on-camera appearances as well, as a prisoner, a bodyguard and Josef Stalin.  Lyon's impact on SNL may be less apparent than Davis', but as the basis for O'Donoghue's "Mr. Mike" and a key part of the unique tone of the 1981-82 SNL, it should not be underestimated.

Classic SNL Review: April 11, 1981: (no host) / Jr. Walker & The All Stars (S06E13)

Classic SNL Review: April 11, 1981: (no host) / Jr. Walker & The All Stars (S06E13)

Sketches include "Storeroom", "Drive For America", "Lite Beer", "I Married A Monkey", "Same", "The Self-Righteous", "Wedding Day", "Famous Broadcaster's School of Cue-Card Reading", "Wild Country Gun Cards" and "Bag Lady".Jr. Walker & The All-Stars perform two medleys: "Roadrunner/Shotgun" and "How Sweet It Is/What Does It Take".Chevy Chase, Al Franken, Mr. Bill, Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve also appear.

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