In the middle of listening to this audio book on the history of Saturday Night Live. It’s the best book I’ve gotten lately from my Audible account. It’s gotten me even more to reflect on my personal history with the show. I’ve also been listening to the Nerdist and WTF with Marc Maron podcasts for a while, and the guests they bring on talk about it. And that’s what inspired me to choose this book.
When I was maybe six years old, my class made Thanksgiving turkeys out of apples. I made mine to look like John Belushi. I think he died that same year. It was unusual for a six-year-old to be a John Belushi fan, and it was one of my first dealings with death.
I year or so later, I was in day camp. They had a special dress-as-a-celebrity day one Friday. Most all the other boys dressed as The Fonz. I dressed as Bill Murray. No one knew who I was. Elementary-aged kids in those days didn’t know Bill Murray. My best friend at the time, Sean Ewell, came to my rescue when the counselors were trying to figure out who I was with my backwards baseball cap by saying, “He’s Bill Murphy.”
I did my best to stay up during the original cast years–not really to see any Bees sketches. I wanted to see Mr. Bill. I thought he was the best thing on the show and was puzzled why he wasn’t on every week. My mom told me on Sunday morning that she did her best to wake me up when Mr. Bill came on after I had fallen asleep. They didn’t put him on until later in the evening. Didn’t they consider the value of the 4- to 12-year-old demographic?
1986 was when I really got into it. It was also the time when one of the Golden Casts was coming together–Jon Lovitz, Dana Carvey, Dennis Miller. I made sure to tape every show and studied it intensely. In middle school before summer break, one of my classes had us come up to the front of the classroom to do some skit or talent show thingie. One of my friends and I went up and performed word-for-word the skit of Robin Leach (Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous) interviewing Liberace in heaven right after he passed away, where Dana Carvey played Leach, Phil Hartman played Liberace, and Jon Lovitz played the devil. I did Carvey’s Robin Leach. I bet you I could still do the sketch.
I wonder how my life would have gone if I knew they path to getting on that show. What if I moved to Chicago and tried to join Second City or go to L.A. and join the Groundlings? I had no idea how it was done back then. And honestly, I don’t think I would have done that well. But a part of me has always romanticized and rooted for the show, even in its dark years.
While enjoying a nice Cuban cigar and some peaty Scotch this evening on my apartment stairwell, I got to the part in the audio book that actually got me crying. Bill Murray recounted a party at Lorraine Newman’s house in the late ’80s. Murray was DJing with Newman’s limited collection of 45s. The room filled with SNL alumni and some of the hot and tragic comics of the time, like Sam Kinison. Gilda Radner was there, and she was in the middle of fighting her fatal cancer at the time. Murray described a touching moment where they carried her around the apartment and the building. And it was the last he ever saw of her.
You know, I really would like to write a script based on that party. The story of SNL itself is so compelling and tragic. Maybe a three act play–or even a scripted podcast–of three moments that encapsulate the periods in SNL’s history. Its inception and launch, the Lorraine Newman party, and something involving the early ’90s cast. Maybe also figuring a way to bring in the Will Ferrell years and the rise of women in the 2000s.
It’s such a sweeping epic.
Meh, I’m on a Laphroaig and cigar high and just munched on white bread and Dreamland BBQ sauce heated in the microwave.