SNL Season 1 Episode 15 [1976)

Starring Jill Clayburgh!!!  Who???

Yeah, kinda like the Jimmy Hoffa Memorial (?) High School.

This is one of those episodes which reminds me that I know a lot more about music than I do about anything else.

Leon Redbone I knew.  Had a record of his as a kid.  The one with “Sheik of Araby” on it.

But back to Jill Clayburgh.

Twice nominated for the Best Actress Oscar.  Ok, see…this brings up my claim to be a film critic.

It’s kinda, “Fake it till you make it.”  I know I’m not a realll film critic, but I take pride in what I do.  I’m an amateur.  It’s a passion.  I’m always seeking to learn.

Well, here’s a great opportunity.

The two films for which she got an Oscar nod?  An Unmarried Woman (this goes back to the play on words I was discussing in an earlier piece…the French word for woman [femme] being the same as the French word for wife [femme]…hence the wordplay of Godard’s Une Femme est une femme [not to mention Une Femme mariée]) and Starting Over.

Please excuse the momentous interpolation.

That is, An Unmarried Woman and Starting Over.  Those career highlights were ahead of Ms. Clayburgh when she hosted Saturday Night Live in 1976.

The auteurs in question were, respectively, Paul Mazursky and Alan J. Pakula (the latter having a surname which is, perhaps, the only conceivable rhyme with Dracula [not counting Blacula]).

Ok, so…apparently this is going to take a lot of parentheses and brackets.

For all of you conspiracy theorists (I usually fall into that category), Clayburgh starred in a 1970 Broadway musical about the Rothschilds (!) called, appropriately, The Rothschilds.  The libretto was by Sherman Yellen.  No easibly-identified relation to Janet.

The end of 1976 would see her in Silver Streak with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.

One further C.V. note:  Clayburgh won (in a tie with Isabelle Huppert) Best Actress at Cannes for An Unmarried Woman.

Ok, so that’s who she is.  A charming lady.  I had no idea who she was.  I’m an idiot 🙂

Sadly, Ms. Clayburgh passed away in 2010 after a 20-year battle with leukemia.

Well, she was pretty great in this episode!  And I must say…SNL once again reached a new height in intelligent writing with this installment.

One really senses that the writers were toying with the censors.  It was dangerous.  It’s impressively counterculture.

One of the funniest skits is Clayburgh as guidance counselor Jill Carson (a fictional personage).  She is the overly-optimistic crusader for social justice.  It is quite a complex, multi-staged piece.  John Belushi plays a delinquent whom Carson (Clayburgh) is attempting to rescue from “squalor”.

The opening sequence of the show, however, really sets the tone for what’s to follow.  Chevy Chase shows up in Lorne Michaels’ office insistent that the pratfalls and “newsman” stuff should be retired.  Chase’s subsequent weave through the studio audience is really priceless.  The comedy is just so damned smart!

Speaking of which, we finally get my hero Andy Kaufman back.  [On the hero worship scale he’s nowhere approaching Jean-Luc Godard (for me), but he’s definitely the comedic actor who (along with Peter Sellers) most got into my head.]

Well, Kaufman here does another lip-sync piece with immaculately-memorized dialogue.  The song is “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and the special part is Andy in a cowboy hat directing the traffic of four audience participants.  It is a sweet piece, and yet it still shows off Andy’s genius as resplendent and unique.

Leon Redbone is really fantastic in his two songs…particularly the first (“Ain’t Misbehavin'”) where he conjures the “me and the radio” loneliness at the heart of a usually-raucous song.

One of the weirdest sequences is a visit by The Idlers (a singing group of the United States Coast Guard Academy).  The show’s producer (Michaels) and writers take the opportunity to remind the viewing audience that dolphins are definitely smarter than The Warren Commission.  No doubt!

It’s a strange, bold sequence.  Chase’s Weekend Update is similarly racy (particularly the bit about the Mattel anatomically-correct male dolls…in white and black…the former $6 and the latter $26.95 or something).  Good god…

Most necessary was the political prodding.  Michaels begins the show with a photo of Nixon on his desk.  By Weekend Update, it is the People’s Republic of China which is pardoning Nixon for Watergate (and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead, of course).

But I must admit my ignorance once again.  I had no idea Gary Weis’ (sp?) film featured William Wegman (!)…  The dog should have given it away.  Duh!

Well, anyway…thanks to Wikipedia for a generally informative blurb about this episode (though I have expanded upon that information quite a bit).

The running series Great Moments In Herstory punctuate this episode at various intervals.  Particularly risqué is the Sigmund Freud (Dan Aykroyd) and daughter Anna (Laraine Newman) dream interpretation featuring a titillating banana.  A later episode highlights Indira Gandhi and father Jawaharlal Nehru.  It is a bit of a clunker…

Walter Williams’ famous Mr. Bill debuted on this episode as part of the solicited home movies from viewers.  Williams and Mr. Bill would become a significant part of the show in the coming years.

Once again, this episode is not to be missed.  It was an essential step for a show on the rise.

 

-PD

 

 

 

SNL Season 1 Episode 7 [1975)

This is more like it!  Richard Pryor and Gil Scott-Heron!!

Wow!!!  What a combination…

I’ve written about Richard Pryor a bit previously in relation to Brewter’s Millions (in the course of focusing on director Walter Hill).

I knew I liked Pryor, but seeing him do stand-up on SNL convinces me in a whole new way.

What a genius!

Pryor relies heavily on the “drunk man” impression, but the real gem of this episode is his imitation of himself on LSD.

But really, this entire episode is good.

The funniest bit is John Belushi in Samurai Hotel.  It’s really a classic bit!  Belushi knocks it out of the park with his absurdist swordplay.

But the Albert Brooks film…ugh.  Man, this one takes the cake as his worst yet.  Not sure what the point was.  It’s almost like Brooks is going for the high-art humor of Andy Kaufman, but failing miserably at it.  It’s not funny.  It’s not entertaining.  It’s not even sad.  It’s just a compete waste of time and resources.  Well done, Brooks.

But hey…don’t let the Albert Brooks clunker scare you away.  This is one of the finest episodes of Saturday Night Live I’ve yet seen.  We’ll see how it measures up against the rest 🙂

 

-PD

Brewster’s Millions [1985)

If you don’t follow your dreams at least a little bit, you die.

Me and my friends…we tried.

Maybe there wasn’t any friends in reality.

But I was a jerk too.

15 years.  For four years I was a professional musician.

Took 11 years in the minor leagues to get there.

In all honesty, we all have shitty karma.

And so how do we explain the rich and the poor?

Maybe some people didn’t have as good of opportunities as the rest.

We can’t take that for granted.

I ain’t the Pope.

When I was younger I could get down on my knees and grovel, but I threw it all away.

There’s a train (!) going through the goddamned outfield.

Hard not to lose your concentration.

This ain’t no sob story.

I’m the mustache man from way back.

You know the plot.

Well, this film is pure genius.  Forty years after the original?

I say a little prayer for Richard Pryor.

I say a little prayer for John Candy.

And I thank Walter Hill for looking at me askance once upon a time.

Maybe, just maybe.

-PD