Coming of age with SNL

Who ever heard of a TV show lasting for 42 years? Do you realize that Saturday Night Live is in its 42nd season?  It started my senior year in high school.  The first show was in October of 1975.  I have no idea if I watched it at all that first season.  I don’t recall if it was on anyone’s radar that year.

But I do know it was on my radar for at least the next 20-25 years, particularly during the late 70’s and 80’s when I was coming of age. I love Saturday Night Live because it is a show about pop culture that is not afraid to take on any subject and make fun of it.  At the same time it has made fun of pop culture, it has become completely infused into pop culture and has become a part of pop culture itself.

For example, who doesn’t know Buckwheat, “We want to pump you up,” the Church Lady, the Liar, It’s Pat, the Blues Brothers, the Cone Heads, and “Wayne’s World, Wayne’s World, Wayne’s World!” There are hundreds of other characters and sayings that have become a part of our pop culture over the 42 years of Saturday Night Live (SNL).

Just this past weekend I was watching a series of television shows on the decades of SNL. It was fascinating to me. Producer Lorne Michaels has been with the show from the beginning sans 5 years in the 80’s.  One wonders if the show can go on without him.  After 42 years, can it survive him when he leaves?  And he has to leave sometime, doesn’t he?

He has remade the cast so many times.  Over and over the brass at NBC in Hollywood thought the show was dead and he revived it every time by bringing in new cast members and writers.  He kept the same basic format year and year and it works.

Then just after watching the series of TV shows I saw on the internet “All 141 cast members of SNL ranked.” It was no surprise to me that John Belushi and Eddie Murphy were ranked #1 and #2.  But Tina Fey #3?  Are you kidding me?

Tina Fey ranked higher than Dana Carvey, Will Ferrell, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Phil Hartman, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers, Chris Farley (and a bunch of other super talented, hilarious people)?………NO, NO WAY!!  If you’re curious, Robert Downey, Jr. came in dead last.  I have no dog in that fight, although there were some pretty bad cast members.  I might have voted for Anthony Michael Hall who was of the same SNL era as Downey, Jr.

Other than the goofy skits and characters that simply make no sense and just make us laugh, the most “important” part of SNL is the making fun of politics.   It is so refreshing because usually TV makers seem to go after conservatives and leave liberals alone.  But, not so much in the world of SNL.  No one was/is safe.  They would and will make fun of any one and any thing in politics and they usually get it just right.  That is why we laugh hysterically at it.

And of course, Weekend Update makes fun of the news and will take on any subject. And we love that too.  It seems to soften the severity of the news just a bit and make it more tolerable.

Oh, absolutely two of the most fun things about watching SNL are the guest hosts and the musical guests. They have best of both.  I’ll admit that sometimes they have some raggedy group that I say “who in the heck are these rag-a-muffins?” and then their album will go platinum.  (Like Maroon Five;  I still make fun of their song “It’s too late to ‘pologi-ize.”)

There is nothing like live TV;  it is a rare commodity, especially in a format like SNL.  It is what makes SNL so special.  It’s been a long time since I’ve watched it live.  I’m in bed at that hour.   But, SNL brought me much laughter and joy over the years as I watched it with many friends and family during the 70’s and 80’s.   It still brings good memories when I conjure up a character or a skit that has become a part of our culture.

SNL is something very unique in television. I’m glad I got to be there in the beginning and watch it unfold.  It really is a part of who I am.    How about you?



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