This is a very smart installment, but also a very strange one.
The host is Louise Lasser.
It is hard to know what this was all about 40 years after the fact.
The crux is the show Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman…a parody soap opera which ran for a mere two seasons (1976-1977), yet included an astounding 325 episodes in that timespan.
No wonder Louise was so tired.
The airing schedule for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was five nights a week.
In addition, Lasser was the wife of Woody Allen from 1966-1970.
Her contribution to Allen films includes Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *(*But Were Afraid to Ask), and voiceover work on What’s Up, Tiger Lily?
So it’s no surprise that this episode of SNL has an artful (if disjointed) feeling to it.
Particularly funny is the Ingmar Bergman spoof (in Swedish) starring Lasser and Chevy Chase.
But yes: most of this episode involves the psychodrama of Ms. Lasser.
Actually, I quite enjoyed her film (in place of Gary Weis, as it were) shot in a NY diner.
One thing is apparent: Lasser has immense talent.
The opening monologue hints at the brilliant cruelty of Andy Kaufman.
It is fairly disorienting in general.
For those needing a reason to live (I’m right there with you), we will be revisiting Lasser as Alex’s ex-wife on Taxi (God willing).
Yes, Lasser has a nice skit with a dog (her dog?) named Maggie. It is a cute piece making fun of those tense talks between couples at the kitchen table (though this one is rather surreal).
Lasser would later feature in Todd Solondz’ Happiness.
Likewise, Lasser would appear in two episodes of Lena Dunham’s Girls (3rd season).
So what else is shakin’ in this tense SNL installment?
Well, Garrett Morris is pretty fantastic as Idi “VD” Amin.
John Belushi has a pitiable-yet-funny piece in which he tries to hawk all of his belongings (particularly his clothes…the shirt off his back).
The ladies (Laraine Newman, Jane Curtin, and Gilda Radner) do a strange Phil Spector-esque tribute to the history of television (the apparatus, not the programming). The doo-wop/girl-group song features lines about Cathode Ray (as if he’s a personage), electron guns, etc.
Laraine Newman also reprises her role as Squeaky Fromme (with excellent help from Jane Curtin).
Finally, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is fantastic on their one number.
It is a bit wistful for me as I once had the pleasure to write horn charts for them. I’m not sure that they actually used them, but I did (anyhow) get to perform with the band at a particularly star-studded New Orleans Jazz Fest some years ago.
Really, this performance from 1976 is not to be missed. The crazy logic of Dixieland counterpoint is an excellent metaphor for the fugue of emotions running through this particular episode of comedy. And the stretto might just be the Preservation Hall cats themselves.