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John Belushi and Joe Flaherty on Death Row, in a sketch from 1971

Listing the notable talents who learned their craft at Chicago’s improvisational theater The Second City is de rigueur for any article that covers the troupe’s illustrious past, so that’s what I’ll do right here. The early casts included Alan Arkin, both Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Del Close (who essentially founded the rigorous form of improv that has blossomed in the last 15 years or so), Joan Rivers, Fred Willard, Peter Boyle, and Robert Klein. In the early to mid-1970s a healthy chunk of the people who would dominate American comedy for the next few decades passed through its doors, including Harold Ramis, Brian Doyle-Murray and his little brother Bill, Shelley Long, Dan Aykroyd, and virtually the entire cast of SCTV, which isn’t very surprising, considering that the name stands for “Second City Television.”

John Belushi was the closest thing American comedy had to a rock star in the 1970s, and his untimely death in 1982 from a cocaine overdose only cemented his outsized legend. By the time he hit Saturday Night Live, Belushi had honed his ungainly and manic brilliance through years of training on stages like that of Second City. Joe Flaherty, while never as big a star as Belushi, was and is similarly a consummate pro, doing a ridiculous number of celebrity impersonations on SCTV as well as enhancing projects as diverse as Johnny Dangerously, Heavy Metal, Detroit Rock City, Used Cars, 1941, Stripes, and, best of all, Freaks and Geeks.

The comedy blog Splitsider recently posted a delicious clip, from Second City’s own archives, that dates from 1971, and it just has to be one of the very earliest records we have of John Belushi plying his craft. Deriving from Second City’s 41st revue from 1971, titled No, No Wilmette, the sketch is called simply “Jail” and it’s a pleasure to watch Belushi’s patient and skillful underplaying. It’s not every sketch that features the hasty preparation for a suicide, as this one does, which might serve as an index to the “revolutionary/countercultural” identity of the Second City players at that time.


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Fear’s Lee Ving talks about their legendary ‘Saturday Night Live’ appearance and being offensive

Lee Ving, the leader of the notorious L.A. hardcore band Fear, recently appeared on Harper Simon’s forthrightly-titled online talk show Talk Show for a lengthy and often amusing interview. Ving made himself an infamous figure in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s by baiting audiences with utterly brazen homophobia and misogyny, both on Fear’s lyrics and its onstage banter. Their albums The Record and More Beer remain classics because of and despite those problematics, since depending on your particular bent, Ving was and is either a steadfast champion of fully speaking one’s mind come what may, or an immature prick who took a smug delight in senseless punching down. It should probably come as no surprise that Ving himself is of the former opinion…

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Recently found footage of John Belushi, Bill Murray & Gilda Radner cutting it up a year before SNL

In 1974 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was working on a documentary on National Lampoon magazine that was never completed. In the 1970s National Lampoon was quite the comedy force, producing radio shows, comedy albums, and live theater shows alongside the publication—the movies would come later and have as much impact as anything they did. In these brief clips, released yesterday by the CBC, you can see three future stars of Saturday Night Live (original title NBC’s Saturday Night) in Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, and John Belushi on the cusp of superstardom.

Note that the guy in the first clip is Brian Doyle Murray, Bill’s older brother—Bill’s the one with the full beard. Cavorting with the aforementioned are comedy luminaries Joe Flaherty (in some of the footage wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey) and Harold Ramis, who would both soon contribute to the glories of SCTV, Ramis as the show’s original head writer. Ramis of course would go on to be a legendary movie director, writer, and actor, playing a part in the success of Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Knocked Up, National Lampoon’s Animal House, and so on.

Boy, I wish everyone on SNL today had those exact same haircuts.

Post by CBC.

via Salon

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Invasion of the mindsnatcher: Sun Ra on ‘Saturday Night Live’ 1978
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Sun Ra
Saturday Night Live
Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Sinéad O’Connor rips a picture of the Pope art piece
04:22 pm


Saturday Night Live
Sinead O'Connor

An ode to Sinéad O’Connor’s infamous televised “fuck you” to the Pope in 1992, Mick Minogue‘s “Sinéad” is one of the many featured contributions at Gallery 1988‘s Saturday Night Live-themed group art show.

Watch “Sinéad” in action, below:


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
One of SNL’s best and brightest: Tom Davis has died

Jane Curtin, Al Franken, Tom Davis and Gilda Radner.
Comedian and writer Tom Davis of Saturday Night Live fame has died of throat and neck cancer at the age of 59.

Davis, along with his partner Al Franken, was responsible for some of the funniest and weirdest routines during SNL’s glory days, including the hugely popular running skit The Coneheads, which Davis said was inspired by one of the many LSD trips he took as a teenager in the late-1960s and early ‘70s. It should come as no surprise that Davis was into psychedelics. His humor was often laced with the kind of down-the-rabbit hole surrealism that arises from seeing things through a lysergic lens. Having Jerry Garcia as a friend also provided him with access to all kinds of cool shit, including an introduction to Stanley Owsley.

Davis retired from being a performer in the mid-1990s - although he briefly returned to SNL as a writer in 2003 - and focused on the writing of his memoirs, Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL From Someone Who Was There, and a book he was co-authoring on Owsley. Davis, an unrepentant psychonaut to the end, continued to embrace life even as he was leaving it. I hope his last trip was/is a good one.

I wake up in the morning, delighted to be waking up, read, write, feed the birds, watch sports on TV, accepting the fact that in the foreseeable future I will be a dead person. I want to remind you that dead people are people too.”

Here’s a fun clip of Davis as Keith Richards and Franken as Mick Jagger doing “Under My Thumb” at Stockton State College in New Jersey, 1983.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Captain Beefheart

Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band perform “Hot Head” and “Ashtray Heart” on the November 22, 1980 episode of Saturday Night Live.

Alex de Large introduces the bolshy banda.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Patti Smith performing at CBGB on the club’s closing night

Patti Smith in front of CBGB on Oct. 15, 2006
Today is Patti Smith’s birthday and a little over five years since CBGB closed. So in commemoration of both the goodness of Patti and the sad fate of a great rock venue, we present:

Patti Smith playing the final night at CBGB on October 15, 2006. Five songs from a three hour show.

01. “Piss Factory’
02. “Pale Blue Eyes”
03. “Birdland”
04. “Rock N Roll N******
05. “Gloria”

Patti performs “Gloria” on Saturday Night Live after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Devo performing live on TV in 1978: Secret teachings of the SubGenius

These clips are hard to find on the Internet and who knows how long they’ll last out there before the dark corporate forces wipe them from view. The teachings of the SubGenius are under relentless assault!

Devo’s appearance on Saturday Night Live on October 14, 1978 was a visitation from a rock and roll galaxy far far away and yet so near. It was as if aliens from another planet had created a concept of Earthlings based on old television transmissions they’d hijacked of industrial training films, Triumph Of The Will, episodes of Hullabaloo and Saturday morning cartoons and then spewed it all back at us in a digitized replication missing a few ones and zeros. It was an attempt at communication, not unlike Klaatu’s failed efforts in 1951.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
The performance that got Elvis Costello banned from America’s favorite late night comedy show
12:04 am


Saturday Night Live
Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello and The Attractions appeared on Saturday Night Live on December 17, 1977 as a last minute replacement for The Sex Pistols, who had run into problems getting into the USA because of some prior legal hassles in the UK. Costello’s performance on SNLwould become the stuff of rock and roll legend.

Costello’s record label, Columbia, wanted him to perform “Less Than Zero”, the first single from his as yet unreleased (in the U.S.) debut album My Aim Is True. Elvis wanted to perform “Radio Radio,” his attack on corporate control of the airwaves - a punk move that would have been in the spirit of The Pistols. Columbia disapproved and SNL producer Lorne Michaels allegedly also did not want the song performed as per orders from his employer NBC. Costello was told in no uncertain terms not to play the song.

Come showtime, the band started playing “Less Than Zero” and then abruptly stopped and shifted into “Radio Radio.” At the end of the tune, they defiantly walked off the set.

Michaels was furious. According to first hand accounts, he was flipping Costello the bird through the entire performance. Michaels ended up banning Costello from ever performing again on SNL. The ban lasted 12 years, which in TV years is an eternity. SNL was an essential promotional venue for jacking up a band’s record sales. Costello bit the hand that was supposed to feed him even before he even got a nibble of commercial success. In the long run, it didn’t stop him from becoming one of rock’s enduring forces.

Elvis and The Attractions do a killer version of “Radio Radio” in Detroit six months after SNL banning. Check it out after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday John Belushi

Happy Birthday John Belushi, who would have been 62 today. Born in 1949, Belushi’s big break came in 1971 when he joined The Second City comedy troupe in Chicago. Cast alongside Chevy Chase and Christopher Guest in National Lampoon’s Lemmings (which Richard Metzger wrote a great article on last year), Belushi’s natural comic talents shone. He moved to New York, with his girlfriend Judy Jacklin, and became a regular on the National Lampoon Radio Hour, working with such future Saturday Night Live performers Gilda Radner and Bill Murray. The rest we know.

It’ll be SNL and The Blues Brothers that Belushi will be remembered for best, and watching clips of his TV or film work now, only re-enforces what is so sad about his early demise.

Previously on DM

A Young John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Christopher Guest rock out in National Lampoon’s ‘Lemmings’

Bonus clips plus interview with Belushi and Dan Ackroyd after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment