I started writing about TV ostensibly as reportage on this medium relative to cinema.
With this particular episode of Saturday Night Live, the two converge in a unique way.
The host is Anthony Perkins.
Cinephiles will probably know him as Norman Bates from Hitchcock’s indispensable Psycho (1960).
Really, this is a remarkable installment of SNL.
Perkins actually delivers a sort of anti-monologue.
In another unnamed scene, he acts as a psychologist who relies on the power of show tunes (specifically “Hello, Dolly!”) to cure a hopeless case (Jane Curtin).
Perkins is magnificent throughout this odd marriage of the disposable and the timeless.
But we must also mention Chevy Chase.
By this time, Chase was becoming the star of the show.
I almost feel bad for John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd (not to mention all the other talented players), but Chase lived up to the opportunity.
What is apparent in this particular show is that Chevy Chase was/is as talented an actor as Anthony Perkins.
I know that statement reeks of provocateuring, but I believe it to be true in several ways.
Namely, Chase was able to keep a straight face during some hilarious bits. Put another way, it’s hard to be serious while evoking laughter.
We see Perkins have more trouble with it. It’s not easy. And so Chevy Chase has probably been unjustly maligned as a mediocre actor when the opposite is true.
Witness, for instance, the opening sequence of this March 13th airing. It is highly-intelligent humor. I could see Samuel Beckett getting a kick out of it.
And so the writers would get credit. Yes, it is a brilliant concept. The show had been toying with more-and-more self-referential humor. Not to give too much away, but the first skit is the equivalent of writing music ABOUT MUSIC!
I’ve done it. Truly, it takes a damaged soul to end up at such a twisted place.
And so thank God for Saturday Night Live…these outcasts and miscreants who gave the world a laugh starting in 1975.
They were always surprising. That’s the key. Even with the trademark “fall” at the beginning of the show. Something in each episode is astounding. Cutting-edge. Leading-edge. Bleeding-edge.
This show is no different. What a masterstroke to pair Anthony Perkins with Betty Carter.
At first, I was thinking Betty Davis. I mean, come on: this was 1976!
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Betty Carter is magical here (particularly on her first number).
I’ve never been into jazz vocalists. I know the big names. Ella Fitzgerald. Sarah Vaughan.
They never did anything for me.
I hate to admit that.
I can listen to instrumental jazz all day. It is divine!
Indeed, the only jazz vocalist who mattered to me was Billie Holiday. Particularly her last album Lady in Satin.
But Betty Carter is something different.
It’s real. Bebop VOCALS. Not a bunch of showoff scat singing.
Betty Carter sang like a horn player.
When she locked down on a note she held it…like it was keyed in her blood.
What breath control!
It’s real stuff.
If you want to hear a little bit of New York in the 70s, here’s a bit of jazz to do any place proud.
Carter was from Flint, Michigan, but she sounds right at home broadcasting from the biggest stage in the world.
There’s TV, and then there’s SNL.