SNL circa 1975

Did anyone else catch Saturday Night Live last night? NBC rebroadcast the very first episode with host George Carlin, and I had to watch. Saturday Night Live came out in 1975, when I first went off to college at Depauw University, and it was a major event — every Saturday night, we’d mob the TV lounge in the basement of Bishop Roberts Hall to see that show (this was in the days when no one had a TV in their room; we didn’t even have our own telephone, but shared one on each floor. I tell kids this nowadays and they don’t believe me).

The old show has acquired a nice rosy patina in my mind because it was such a fun communal event…but man, seeing it again, I realize that it really, really sucked. The skits were lame and not very funny, and sad to say, even Carlin was a bit feeble, despite his dark-haired youth, and seemed to have left his edge at home. It’s true — 90% of everything is garbage, even the happy irreverence of my first year away from home.


  1. says

    Gad, you had it pouffy. Ten years earlier and in the old Confederacy, when I was an UG, only the big dorm that had the cafeteria complex had a television room, and it was only big enough for about ten guys, and the station to be watched was controlled by the administration.

    But the same remarks can be made of the original Star Trek and Laugh-In.

  2. SEF says

    I’ve just been watching Catweazle again (after nearly 40 years) and it’s still good. In particular, the bits I remember as good are still good. Eg his lovely toad (a real one, not some tacky prop.) familiar, Touchwood, and the bits about electrickery and the telling-bone (telephone).

    I think that 90% is one of those made-up-on-the-spot statistics and that the generalism itself is merely that – a dodgy generalism with the exceptions to show for it.

  3. Benjmain Franklin says

    There were some gems in it, though. In the “court skit”, after Belushi handed the note to a napping Gilda Radner & she gave him the “OK”, Belushi’s facial reaction was classic.

    Also funny was the “geritol” commercial with 2 guys, calling one his wife, which was accepted 30+ years ago, given that such a fuss is being made about Heinz’s NY Deli Mayo ad that had to get pulled in UK last week. Shows that our skins are definately getting thinner.

    Kaufmans’ routine was classic, and some great music from Billy Preston & Janis Ian.

    I give it a B for better than it is these days.

  4. Joe says

    As I understand it, that first broadcast of SNL was on a 6-second delay because the producers didn’t trust Carlin.

  5. Hans says

    A TV lounge? A phone on every floor? Why, you… old codgers had it easy. I was at univeristy in the late ’80s, and we had no TV at all. If you wanted to make a call, there was a pay phone about a block down the street.

    Gomers these days… Ingrateful bastards.

  6. Nick Gotts says

    Bah! We ‘ad it easy when I were a lad! Full employment, free dentistry, eye tests and prescriptions, student grants you could live on – and you could sign on for unemployment benefit in the summer vacation! Ee, young people today – they don’t know when they’ve been robbed blind!

  7. craig says

    Thing is, all the old 1970s SNL shows suck if you judge them by current standards.

    You have to remember that part of the reason they felt so great to watch was because of how bad all other TV was back then. This was groundbreaking stuff, the first Tv that spoke to that generation, and it tore apart old formats and broke the rules. It was subversive.

    And it’s because of its very success at doing those things that it now sucks compared to what we’re now used to. It rewrote the rules, but now that they are the new rules there’s more money and talent focused in that direction.

  8. craig says

    Oh, and also, the first show did suck compared to the rest of the season, because it took them a few shows to figure out what the hell they wanted to do. the format changed a bit.

  9. O-dot-O says

    Sorry PZ, I disagree. SNL in 1975 was at the leading edge of one cross-section of US culture. Is your criticism that it is no longer as fresh and different as it once was? If anything that’s a confirmation of its influence.

    Maybe the very first show wasn’t iconic, but the first season of SNL also included Chevy Chase saying “Nigger”, to which Richard Pryor replied “Dead Honky”.

  10. Marlon says

    In our market it was followed immediately by Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Must see teevee indeed! Beanbag chairs, cheap red wine, a little herb, my hippie girlfriend Sandy. Don’t get me started.

  11. Cheezits says

    As I recall, SNL was always a little uneven. But it was required viewing at the time. When it was good it was *really* good.

    I started college just two years later and I had a TV in my room. *smug look* I brought my own with me. It still works (until next year anyway).

  12. SMM says

    Craig, all TV didn’t suck in the 70’s. There were some great shows then. Off the top of my head- All in the Family, MASH, Rockford Files, early Sanford and Son. In alot of ways better than television today.

  13. Turdus says

    I remember thinking the “show us your guns” skit was hysterical at the time. Of course I was only 10 at the time. The muppets skit was especially though. I thought Carlin’s “God” bit was edgy however. I was surprised you didn’t mention that one PZ. Any Jesus freaks out there want to explain why an all powerful god needs to send a messenger?

  14. fatherdaddy says

    The biggest problem with Carlin’s performance was the lack of energy in his routines. He was just repeating the acceptable parts of his records. I imagine he was feeling a whole lot of pressure from the network to stay within certain safe boundries. I still felt a little let down. I would of expected more from him. I may be expecting too much from the initial episode of an experiment in programming, though. I still love his work and occaisionally will bust out an old piece of vinyl and laugh my ass off, but, that episode was not Carlin’s best work.

  15. Hermagoras says

    Spot on, PZ. Carlin wasn’t doing a routine — he was just throwing a few of his lines out there. A few pieces were kind of disturbing: the “age of consent” bit in the Albert Brooks short was creepy (and could never make it on TV today).

    The one truly great moment was Andy Kaufman’s “Mighty Mouse” routine. That was pathbreaking television.

    But hey, how about Janis Ian in the Marcel Marceau costume?

  16. says

    I tell, you, I remember those days… in the 1980s when I went to Queens College, NY. I didn’t have a tv either, lived in a rented basement because the school had no dorms, but watched SN(L) because often we couldn’t afford to go out on Sat evening.

    Like you say, things of the past that are part of life get a sentimental tint–a “nice rosy patina.” SNL appeared so funny back then. Watching it last night, it sucked. But, it’s OK. We’ve changed too. It was appropriate for back then, when disco also provided us with entertainment.

    My students today couldn’t fathom a world without computers, cell phones, hundreds of tv channels, games, etc, etc…. They think that these things have been around for at least 100 years. Many of us,too, think certain things have been around for a long time. In the 2000 election, we didn’t have Utube!

  17. craig says

    “Craig, all TV didn’t suck in the 70’s. There were some great shows then. Off the top of my head- All in the Family, MASH, Rockford Files, early Sanford and Son. In alot of ways better than television today.”

    Not at all the same kind of thing. Formulaic. Sure, very good within the formula, and challenged a lot of societies sacred cows within the formula (All in the Family) but still… …within the formula. All very “safe.” And all still aimed at a different generation than SNL was.

  18. craig says

    And one other thing to point out how groundbreaking it was, how “unsafe.”

    They had George Carlin on. George Carlin at that time was dangerous as hell. He would not have had a cameo on All in the Family.

    Everyone knows Carling started the HBO series of stand-up shows… but what most have forgotten was that he was dangerous even for HBO.

    I have this on video – before his show, they had the president of HBO come on for several minutes to give a warning, a very serious somber talk and apology, essentially stating that the following show would contain material that would upset some, etc., but that in the interest of providing cutting edge, provocative entertainment, blah blah blah. A very serious, scared-corporate somber speech and apology.

    And then, right in the middle of his video, just before the “seven dirty words” segment, they actually stopped the video for a warning of what was coming up, in case anyone wanted to leave the room or stop watching.

    ON HBO. H-fucking BO. THAT is how dangerous Carlin was at the time.

    And SNL puts him on live broadcast TV for their very first show. THAT was dangerous. MASH, AITF, they were “safe-dangerous,” controlled rides into the controversial in a carnival ride car behind padded safety restraints.

    SNL had the feeling that there were no lap belts or shoulder harnesses in the coaster car, and there was one of your pothead buddies in charge of operation and maintenance.

  19. SC says

    You have to remember that part of the reason they felt so great to watch was because of how bad all other TV was back then.

    The contrast was expecially evident as Saturday Night Live started a half-hour after Love Boat and Fantasy Island ended (as I recall, these were on another network, but they were the big Saturday-night shows). I was still a kid, and if my best friend and I could manage to stay awake and catch even some of SNL, we felt very subversive and adult, even if a lot of the jokes went over our heads. It was clear that it was something different. Would I find “Landshark” funny now, or just perplexing? I don’t know, but ah, the nostalgia…

    (This said, Taxi was one of the best shows ever to grace a television screen. There can be no dispute about that. And WKRP in Cincinnati had great music.)

  20. Kseniya says

    I would like to have seen that. I was at a party. The TV wasn’t on. Nobody knew about what SNL had planned.

    Live TV always was, and always will be, somewhat more “dangerous” than pre-taped, edited TV. How about Elvis Presley on the Milton Berle show? That was dangerous – and scandalous enough to subsequently motivate the producers of Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan shows to neuter Elvis as much as possible (Allen), or to only show him from the waist up (Sullivan).

    My dad was an SNL fan from way back – the same vintage as PZ and many of our commenters, the h.s. class of ’75 and college class of ’79 – and speaks in rose-colored terms of the old days. I’ve seen a few of the old shows, and they seem … quaint, by today’s standards; some skits fell flat, or came off as just silly, but I appreciated what they were trying (and, sometimes, succeeding) to do.

    We have a “Best of Dan Aykroyd” on VHS – it’s hilarious, but seems dated, like any old material will seem dated. That’s ok. Elvis seems dated, the Beatles seem dated, Shakespeare and Chaucer seem dated. Because they are dated, which is inevitable even when the best material has a timelessness about it.

    Sure, the 90% rule probably applies. So it goes.

    FWIW, I lived in a single the last two years as an undergrad, and didn’t have a TV in my room. I could have, of course. It’s not really my thing, though. But I had to walk five miles through sleet and snow – even in May – just to use my cell phone. Really.


  21. Lynnai says

    Perhaps it was the lack of chemical enhancement as was the norm back then?

    I wouldn’t make any bet on that you couldn’t back, George Carlin admited he was stoned off his gourd for that episode and John Belushi had a netorious cocaine and heroine habit which killed him in frankly what should have been the middle. But would he have been as funny? I swear the blow was the only thing that made it possible for a man his shape to do spontanious backflips.

  22. says

    In the words of that great philospher, Clarence Williams III, a.k.a. Lincoln Hayes on The Mod Squad,

    “The past was.”

    Heavy, man.

    Yup, TV sucked back then, and still does.

  23. Julie Stahlhut says

    I only very rarely pull the “good old days” thing, since in my experience the adjectives “good old” usually get it only half right, but I’ve yet to ever see anything on SNL that comes close to those first few years. About once every year or two, I watch a current episode, and I haven’t been properly impressed yet.

    Of course, part of this may be the ground-breaking effect. SNL just isn’t unique now. In 1975, it was.

  24. slpage says

    I was but a tad of about 9 when SNL began. I was usually in bed by 10 on Saturday nights. I did take note that many of the friends were quoting lines from some show that I was unaware of, and in 8th grade, when someone referred to ‘Gilda’ and I was clueless, I was given multiple mouth-open ‘Are you CRAZY?!?!’ looks.

    By the time I could stay up late engouh to watch it, I was more interested in drinking and hanging out. It wasn’t until much later that I watched, and then only now and then. I thought it sucked for the most part – still do. But I had a friend who taped it every week, then made compilations of the funny skits (we have a word for folks like that these days), and I must say, the funny skits were VERY funny. But to be dragged through 75 minutes of grim death for 15 minutes of funny stuff just isn’t worth it to me.

    I do watch the ‘best of’ shows and the ‘anniversary’ shows, as they usually also just show the funny stuff.

    Farley and Carvey and Spade – good era.
    Anthony Michael Hall and Joe Piscopo, bad era.

    Oh well…

  25. CortxVortx says

    (this was in the days when no one had a TV in their room; we didn’t even have our own telephone, but shared one on each floor. I tell kids this nowadays and they don’t believe me)


  26. CanadianChick says

    the husbandperson and I watched it last night – as always it was pretty uneven, but what else could you expect? It WAS the first show, and while it was pretty tame by our standards, it was probably pretty risky then (what do I know, I was 6 when it debuted)

    I had a few good laughs – more than I’d expect today at any rate (I haven’t watched the show regularly for about 20+ years)

  27. Colugo says

    The original cast is overrated due to nostalgia and affection. While they should get credit for being groundbreaking, a lot of the humor lazily relies on drug references and there are loopy concepts that go nowhere. They were better than subsequent casts, however, until ’89-95. This period had Carvey, Myers, Farley (arguably the greatest sketch comic ever), Sandler, Hartman, and so many others who created memorable sketches and characters. I consider that the ‘good’ SNL. The cast dominated by the triad of Ferrell, Oteri, and Kattan was a decent sequel. After they left, SNL sunk to its early-to-mid 80s depths of pointlessness. Samberg’s Lonely Island crew are thought by some to be a restoration, but what are they known for? YouTube-friendly digital shorts, not sketches. The underrated MADtv is better than the post-Ferrell SNL.

  28. Rick R says

    I agree about the sit-through-75-minutes-of-dreck-for-15-minutes-of-
    hilarious-bits observation. But that original cast was great, Gilda Radner especially. Just seeing her face, you knew were gonna laugh!
    But the thing I remember best were the musical guests. The night they brought The B-52s on changed my life.

  29. MAJeff, OM says

    I caught parts of it but had too much to drink and fell asleep during the “god” monologue by Carlin.

    I think my hangover is finally going away.

  30. Feymaniac says

    I’m only in my mid 20’s and am completely lost when young people are talking about the latest music, tv, etc. I think it far surpasses 90% crap and so I don’t really pay too much attention. However I end up feeling real old during those conversations.

    Therefore it is nice to hear you old geezers talking about the 70’s ;). Although sometimes I wonder whether it would have been more fun being young in the 70’s.

  31. Linkage says

    I think it’s kind of unfair to compare the very first episode to the rest of the first season. They were pretty much doing a “throw anything on the wall and see what sticks” approach. I was a little surprised to see the premeire of probably the most famous sketch comedy show have very few sketches in it.

  32. says

    The first episode wasn’t that great, but then again, it took them awhile to get the format right. Sadly, SNL has the formula down pat, and I don’t watch it any more. But it always finds an audience, and it’s not that expensive to produce. So it should be around for awhile longer.

    Still, that first episode had glimpses of what was to come.

  33. SC says

    I would reverse the percentages for MST3K, which allowed only brief moments to catch your breath between bouts of laughter. I miss it so.

  34. leboyfriend says

    Telephone!? You people had it too easy. When I was at University if we wished to communicate with someone at a distance we would send a man with a message lodged in the ‘y’ of a cleft stick.

  35. says

    I watched it too which gives me a different perspective on it since I wasn’t even alive in 1975 so no nostalgia in it for me. In comparison to another comedy of the time which I love (Monty Python) that SNL episode hasn’t stood up to the test of time quite as well. Maybe it was that it was the first show and they weren’t comfortable in it yet or maybe not? I don’t know that’s the only full episode from the original cast I’ve ever seen.

  36. LisaJ says

    Dammit! I knew I should have watched SNL last night. Oh well, your not so enthusiastic review about it makes me feel a little better.

    SNL played an important part in my childhood (or early teen-hood, I guess you could say) as well. What a feeling it was when the parents left you alone on a Saturday night and you managed to stay up late to watch SNL! It’s too bad when you see how much it sucks most of the time now. Except for that Andy Sandberg… his digital shorts can be pretty hilarious.

  37. wagonjak says

    Whenever I see one of Carlin’s old skits, they always have an edge of nastiness and meaness to them. He was like a fine wine or brandy, who got better and better as he aged.

    His more recent sketches focused his anger on the foibles of society and the government in a way that I feel deeply every time I see one of them. He went from being a court jester to his later twin roles of magician and muckraker!

    And I thought the earlier S&L skits were funnier then the more recent ones I’ve seen…apparently fueled by copious amounts of drugs…

  38. says

    Missed it :-( Honestly, I was a little Carlin-oversaturated, so I kind of gave most of the coverage a pass — did listen to some extended Carlin tribute shows on, though (it’s a web radio station for comedy music fans, especially Dr. Demento lovers). A couple of DJs played full Carlin albums, and one did a sort of tribute rant about what Carlin meant to him as a semi-pro ranter. Good stuff.

    Oddly enough, I was born on the day of one of SNL’s other great first-season highlights, Candice Bergen’s first hosting gig on 11/5/75. Never seen it though.

    SC: MST3K pulled off what Dennis Miller has been trying to do his entire career. As he flies down the right-wing vortex leaving all his old fans to wonder why they drank his Kool-Aid, at least there’s still MST3K for people who like obscure references done right.

  39. bybelknap, FCD says

    Best Musical Guest EVAR was Patti Smith. I don’t even remember what she sang, but I do remember my old man sitting on the couch with a look of horror, anger, and some other ineffable mix of emotions roiling around on his face until he flipped the bird at the TV and shouted something along the lines of “You disgusting little bitch!” and stomped out of the living room and off to bed.

    Yeah, that was pretty priceless for a 14 or 15 year old insolent teen to see. I was luke-warm on Patti before that. After the show, I got as much of her on vinyl as I possibly could.

  40. Lago says

    I remember watching the first episode of Saturday-night live. I had told my father that the muppets were supposed to be on it so he would think it was a kids show. The fact that it was on at 11:30 at night did not seem to phase him. My father drank a bit.

    Yes, the show does suck by todays standards, but it certainly did not suck by the standards of the mid-70s. We must remember nowadays, that shows like Mork&Mindy were cutting edge in their time. When Mindy said, “You must understand a fathers love for his daughter, and Mork responded, “You mean like Lolita?” …We were dealing with some cutting edge freakin’ stuff. No one said crap like that and got away with it.

    On SNL, Carlins remarks on God were considered so controversial and taboo that members of the Catholic church condemned the show as destructive to society. At the time, PZ’s blog might have killed people at 40 paces like Monty Pythons famed joke did.

    I also remember watching the 3 blade fake razor commercial at the time thinking, “Who the hell would ever be so silly as to make a joke about a 3 bladed razor?? That would never happen!”… I now use them regularly.

  41. burke says

    Naturally it’s not as funny the second time around. FWIW, having watched it for the first time myself just last night, I thought it had some pretty brilliant moments (The Impossible Truth) and it had some pretty flat moments (The Puppet Sketch).

  42. SC says

    Hey, Brian X, did you know you were cited on a recent thread? See “A good message,” posts #189, 220, and most of 222-232.

  43. Keith Thompson says

    Ok, maybe the first episode doesn’t seem as good now as it did at the time — but it’s still a lot better than most of what they’re doing on SNL now.

    I’m glad I can now record SNL on a DVR (digital video recorder), so I can watch it later and fast-forward through most of it. There’s still the occasional flash of brilliance, but after skipping the crud I can usually watch an episode in about 30 minutes. I think they need to realize that making fun of something stupid doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not being stupid yourself. Maybe I just don’t get the modern cultural references.

    The first episode was certainly awkward in places, and most of Carlin’s humor didn’t have the edginess he’s famous for, but there wasn’t *any* of it that I wanted to fast-forward through.

    I was astonished to hear Don Pardo flub a line during the opening credits: “And the Not For Ready Prime Time Players”. You could hear him pause for just a moment as he realized what he’d done, but he recovered well enough that it was barely noticeable.

    Of course, there was one bit that’s funnier now than it was then: “The Triple Track — because you’ll believe anything.”

  44. Arnosium Upinarum says

    I missed it last night, but I remember it well that first night.

    I have to agree with Lago. Considering that it was their first go at their (fairly) experimental live-broadcast with only a week to prepare (write it and rehearse the sketches, etc), and with so much riding on the success of the opener, I think they pulled it off pretty well.

    Trepidation and nerves almost always produces a lame result, but that night the nervous energy helped contribute to it’s success. People accepted it as a party atmosphere, warts and all. Whatever bombed badly was instantly forgiven, and even those were a source of amusement.

  45. karen marie says

    hey, marlon @ 17! i too watched monty python after SNL on saturday nights! i was living in newtown, connecticut. same market as you?

    the pbs station that ran monty python also ran an excellent international animation program (possibly after monty python? 32 years on, my mind is a tad fuzzy) that i have sorely missed forever more.

    i stopped watching SNL except very occasionally after the initial cast all left. just hearing the words “land shark” still makes me laugh. i’m sorry i slept through SNL last night though as what i find most interesting reviewing tv programs or books from the past is the cultural differences between what we take as “given” now and how it was at a particular point in the past. the great thing about videotape is that it makes it more difficult to maintain the trope that “people always believed this.” the door was cracked to a wider range of opinion on tv in the ’70s, and even into the ’80s (go to youtube and watch zappa on crossfire in 1986 –, but has since been slammed pretty tightly closed by the self-appointed gatekeepers who prefer you don’t worry your pretty little head.

    craig ferguson has been doing his own bit to push back. it’s been interesting to watch him and i’ve been surprised that no one has written about it or (to my knowledge) interviewed him about it. the other night he was laughing himself silly about fanny packs. in england “fanny” is slang for female genitalia and cannot be said on television or radio there. i find it incredibly irritating that after 11 oclock at night i cannot watch an uncensored adult television program because other people cannot control their children.

  46. AndrewC says

    I must say that I think 70s SNL is really overrated. It can not take the early 90s.

  47. Suze says

    I had a college roomie back then (also started in 1975) who was some close relation to one of the writers, and for some reason it required us stealing lawn flamingos. I wish I remembered the connection. I have fond memories of SNL back then, but I’ve seen some collections since and wondered what the appeal was. Rosanne Rosannadanna and Belushi’s Samurai were the only things that still made me laugh.

  48. Chiefley says

    I was at Syracuse Univ. in 1975. At that time the local NBC affiliate had decided that the shows SNL and Mary Hartman were not suitable for their audiences. On Sat. night, Ch. 3 was running old movies.

    While visiting my girlfriend’s family in Central New York, I had a chance to see SNL one Sat. night and realized were being robbed over there in Syracuse.

    Being that I am a nerdy ham radio guy, I went back and constructed a really big rhombic antenna in the attic of the apartment building. The antenna rejected enough of the Ch. 3 signal to the south so I could pick up Ch. 2 in Utica to the east.

    So on Sat night, a whole group of us would gather in my apt. and watch contraband SNL from Utica. I finally wrote a article in the local weekly alternative campus newspaper on how to build the antenna out of speaker wire and a 300 ohm resistor from Radio Shack. The article recommended leaving the antenna connected since Utica showed NBC shows anyway.

    Evidently lots of people built them around campus including the frat houses. It wasn’t long after that Ch. 3 started showing SNL. I like to think I had something to do with that.

    Power to the People!

  49. Longtime Lurker says

    The best moment of 1970s SNL was DEVO’s guest stint. Dumbasses at Rolling Stone thought they were “fascists”. Best musical number on SNL- Pogues playing “Body of an American” in 1990. Shane was so gloriously ugly!

    Too bad the musical clips were scrubbed by Youtube. I’d buy a DVD of the musical numbers, but not the whole series.

  50. says

    I was psyched my DVR picked that up…watched it today…agree it was mostly unfunny, about on par with current SNL.

    Two highlights:

    1) The Weekend Update prostitute-on-a-stamp joke
    2) Bee Hospital! Come on – HIlarious!!!!!!!!! :-D

  51. Grumpy says

    craig #13: “This was groundbreaking stuff, the first Tv that spoke to that generation…”

    Which generation is that? The one that came after the “Laugh-In” generation?

    SC #28: “The contrast was expecially evident as Saturday Night Live started a half-hour after Love Boat and Fantasy Island ended…”

    Obviously not talking about the premiere with Carlin, since Love Boat and Fantasy Island didn’t start until 1977.

  52. Colugo says

    “I’d buy a DVD of the musical numbers, but not the whole series.”

    Other great musical appearances: Fear (Fear?!!), Replacements, Tin Machine, Faith No More…

    And none of them appear on the ‘Saturday Night Live – 25 Years of Music’ DVD.

  53. shane says

    Even American TV can still be a little edgy… Homer Simpson talking to Marge:

    This is the most fun I’ve ever had giving you wood.

  54. SC says

    Obviously not talking about the premiere with Carlin, since Love Boat and Fantasy Island didn’t start until 1977.

    No, I was still too young then – ’77-8 was probably the first I saw. I was speaking more generally about the “early years.” Incidentally, we were among those who called in a few years later (in ’82) to save Larry the Lobster. They killed him anyway.

  55. Julie Stahlhut says

    The best moment of 1970s SNL was DEVO’s guest stint.

    You scooped me. I saw that one at a friend’s apartment — there was a mini-party going on, with about six or seven of us munching chips and drinking beer with the TV on. Our favorite spudboys came out on stage and played “Jocko Homo.”

    All but two of us cringed in a combination of horror and confusion. All but my friend Bret and me. We looked at each other, smiled, and said, “Wow, we’ve just seen the 80s!”

    And we had. It wasn’t instantaneous — I also saw Elvis Costello for the first time on SNL, and didn’t get him at all right away — but it finally started to rattle around in our arena-rock-inflated little 1970s dinosaur brains that some very strange new innovations just might be in the works, and were much-needed.

  56. R. J. says

    One thing you have to remember is that George Carlin was stoned on coke. I checked IMdB after the show and it said that he was so stoned he had to be replaced in the skits with other cast members. It also was the first show so they didn’t have anything to go on as far as what worked and what didn’t. It did take a couple of weeks to sort things out and the show with Richard Pryor (shown on 7 second delay) is considered the breakthrough show where things started to really work. I remember the “Word Association” sketch and think it’s one of the best bits from the first season. Even though they used the word “nigger”, there was no outcry. I guess things were different back then.
    I mentioned this sketch to a young woman (who was black and a Pryor fan). I asked her if she had seen it. She said no and said she would look it up online. At the next college newspaper staff meeting a month later, she said she had found it online. I asked her what she thought of it and her reply was that after the fifth(!) time in a row she and her brother watched it, her brother was lying on the floor, curled up in ball laughing so hard he couldn’t move and had tears running down his face. I guess good comedy and social commentary is timeless.

  57. says

    I too was a little shocked at how flat and lame the old SNL episode was the other night; in fact, after the puppet sketch–at which I stared in slack incredulity at its awfulness–my girlfriend made me change the channel. Sure, we both like Carlin, but then I remembered it was the premiere show. That explained it. Dug the God bit Carlin did, but was up with that woman comedian and her schoolteacher routine? *whooosh*

    My favorite SNL music moment? The one that never happened: the Sex Pistols in ’77. They missed their debut because of visa trouble in England; Elvis Costello went on in their stead. I can only imagine the shock and awe that the loverly visages of Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious would have caused on live American TV…