By 1977 Saturday Night Live was very firmly established as an old boy's club, especially if those boys happened to be of the Caucasian persuasion. Yes, early Saturday Night Live was all about honkys doing their honky thing while swinging their pasty white cocks around homoerotically. Consequently, issues of vital importance to womanfolk, like shopping for hats, doily repair, synchronizing menstrual cycles and vagina maintenance were blithely ignored by this He-Man Woman Haters Club of a comic institution.
This institutional sexism, even on an ostensibly progressive, counterculture-friendly new show, must have made the tragically overlooked, underutilized broads of Saturday Night Live madder than a rattlesnake at a Thai wedding. They must have been overjoyed, then, when Lorne Michaels deigned, in his infinite generosity, to let a woman host.
I can't say I was too excited when I found out that actress Mary Kay Place was hosting today's episode of Saturday Night Live Classic but sweet blessed Lord did she do a heckuva job. Today's episode was easily the tightest, most consistent episode of the season. Part of the charm and excitement of early Saturday Night Live lie in its roughness, in the missed cues, flubbed lines, inconvenient giggles and other assorted fuck-ups. But today's was shockingly polished. From the host on down every brought their A game, came to play, gave 110 percent and many other meaningless show-business clichés.
The estrogen-fueled womanpalooza began with Place, decked out in a cheerleader's outfit, leading the Not Ready For Prime Time Players in a retro pep rally, then segued into a hilarious commercial for "Hey You", the perfume for one-night stands. Ah, the seventies. The kicker was a final scene where "Hey You" gal Gilda Radner looking ragged and weary as she endured a walk of shame following an evening of soft-focus debauchery with a barroom hook-up.
Just about every sketch killed, or at least wounded. A disconcertingly on-script John Belushi played an alarmist insect expert who filled host Jane Curtin in on all sorts of terrifying developments involving creepy crawly critters, including an insect that lives in between the eyeball and the contact lens and another that makes the underwear its home.
But today was all about the ladies, who stripped down to their lacy underthings for "Total Womanhood Meeting", a clever sketch with a distinct feminist bent about a club where women compete to see who can be the most docile, sycophantic fucktoy to their husband or boyfriend. Mmm, that's good satire!
Then the always awesome Willie Nelson came on to perform back-to-back numbers, a raucous, uptempo take on "Whiskey River" and an appropriately lonesome, bittersweet version of "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain". Bill Murray stole "Weekend Update" playing a real-life sixty-five-year-old news commentator who was being put out to pasture on account of his advanced age. Knowing absolutely nothing about the actual gentleman Murray was playing, I can say with one hundred percent certainty that Murray absolutely nailed him.
The women-friendly chuckles continued with "Married In A Minute", a gleeful, peppy parody of upbeat women's movies where plucky single women occupy a New York fantasyland where perfect husbands lurk around every corner and the fickle finger of fate couldn't be nicer or more accommodating. But don't take my word for it. Check this shit out for your damn self.
Then we were treated to a conceptual mindfuck courtesy of Andy Kaufman, who played a foreign man but not, it should be noted, Foreign Man. Kaufman came on looking casual and carefree in a Hawaiian shirt and beating a pair of bongos. Kaufman sang and rocked out on the bongos using a language and patois of his own devising, then emerged from behind his bongos to do a stand-up comedy routine nobody in the audience could possibly understand yet everyone seemed to appreciate.
The rhythms, beats and body language were all utterly familiar, even comforting, yet the words were pure gibberish. Not even Pootie Tang could understand what Kaufman was saying. Yet the audience was enraptured all the same. It was quintessential Kaufman; twisting and contorting the tropes and conventions of show business into something radically new and strange. He made the familiar novel and the novel somehow familiar.
Dan Aykroyd followed as Leonard Pinth-Garnell, conosseiur of everything awful and embarrassing for "Bad Musical", a delightful parody of hackneyed musicals about a flop off-off-off-Broadway stinker about the invention of the microscope. It reminded me of a musical I once watched with Keith in Madison back in the mid-90s about legendary progressive politician Bob LaFollette. Yes, a musical about "Fightin'" Bob LaFollette. The songs all went a little something like this: "Fightin' Bob, yeah, they call me fighting Bob/Cause when I see corruption I say knock it off/Yeah knock it off/Cause I'm fighting Bob!"
Mary Kay Place and Willie Nelson charmed the holy living fuck out of me, and the rest of America, with an infectious duet, "Something To Brag About", followed by a wry sketch in which a pair of goys learn all about the crappy, crappy piece-of-shit waste of everybody's motherfucking time that is Chanukah, or "Chanooga", as Place's arch-goy calls it. You gentiles celebrate the birth of a messiah. We Jews celebrate the fact that some lamp-oil from a million years ago lasted longer than expected. Oy.
I was very pleasantly surprised by today's episode of Saturday Night Live. It leapt from high to high and smuggled some trenchant satire into the living rooms and bars of America. It feels like the show has settled into a good groove. Why the only thing that could fuck with its mojo would be if they invited a rank amateur to host. Which leads to next week's episode, which is hosted by rank amateur Miskel Spillman, winner of the show's notorious "Anyone Can Host" contest. Plus Elvis Costello! I'm super-duper extra psyched. Should be interesting.
–Let not mankind bogart love