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Andy Kaufman’s sublimely odd ‘Saturday Night Live’ audition reel
12.01.2017
10:56 am
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Now that the show has been around for more than forty years, the talent intake process at Saturday Night Live surely approximates an efficient, well-oiled machine, albeit one always tempered by Lorne Michaels’ inexplicable idiosyncrasies. But in those key first few years, the spirit of the place was so much more informed by actual generational rebellion against actual old-guard fuddy-duddies like Bob Hope. The continent (careful to include Canada for this part) was brimming with youthful comedic talent, to the point that anyone that would be likely to wander into 30 Rockefeller Plaza looking for a gig probably was a genius of some description or other.

Point being, in 1975, as the writing staff and cast was being assembled, NBC didn’t have a process in place, as much as a loose constellation of people who fit with their sensibility and could be relied upon to deliver bankably weird and resonant and funny material. Andy Kaufman, who was never a full cast member but was certainly part of the first crew in a general way, famously never fit any of the regular categories that existed for “entertainer” or “comedian,” even though he clearly was both, and as he matured into the key years of the mid- to late 1970s, his delicious bits tended to define a useful boundary between those who “got it” and those who never would.

Here is an impression of Kaufman in the context of the preparations for the very first show, which happened on October 11, 1975, from Bill Zehme’s 1999 book Lost in the Funhouse:
 

He became a fixture around the shows seventeenth-floor production offices in the weeks before the October premiere. He did not fraternize so much as lurk. Relatively few staff or cast members knew who he was or what he was or what he was supposed to do—although John Belushi had become an early true believer after having seen the conga-crying in clubs. Anne Beatts, a newly recruited writer, first encountered him slumping in Lorne’s antechamber—“I thought, Oh, man, is this the kind of person they’re hiring? I don’t know if I want to be part of this! He was so twitchy and weird and had bad skin. He looked very nerdy and geeky. I had severe doubts about the show from the beginning and my initial impression of Andy was the first of them.” Very late on the Friday night before the broadcast, however, her opinion changed when she saw him rehearse, which he almost didn’t because rehearsals dragged on interminably and he had yet to perform a run-through of Mighty Mouse for the crew and finally he said he had to leave. “And it was like––‘Wait, you can’t leave!” Beatts would recall. “And he said, ‘No, I have to go if I’m going to make the last train back to Great Neck.’ Lorne told him, “No Andy, we need you here.’ So he said, ‘Well, I guess I could get my mother to come pick me up….’”

On October 11, he meditated twice, locking himself in the office of Herb Sargent—once before dress rehearsal and again before the live broadcast. Both times he taped a note on the door—Please do not disturb me while I meditate, Andy Kaufman. All around him, panic and mayhem swirled as would become customary Saturday Night crucible.

 
Recently Netflix released a documentary with a gratuitously long title about Jim Carrey’s immersive process of pretty much “becoming” Andy Kaufman during the months in which he was shooting Man on the Moon, which is quite worth the time it takes to watch it. During the course of the movie the viewer gets a brief glimpse of Kaufman’s audition reel for Saturday Night Live, which I had never seen before.

In those early days, one of the staples of Kaufman’s act was a reading of the lyrics of “MacArthur Park,” the 1968 song that was first recorded by the actor Richard Harris…. except Kaufman did it as an elderly Jewish man from New York City. To understand why this is funny it might be necessary to see some of the impossibly winsome or lachrymose lyrics of the song. They are certainly distinctive:
 

Spring was never waiting for us, girl
It ran one step ahead
As we followed in the dance
Between the parted pages and were pressed
In love’s hot, fevered iron
Like a striped pair of pants

MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh no!

 
It’s worth noting that the word “striped” is pronounced with two syllables, as a reader of, ahem, poetry might do.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.01.2017
10:56 am
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How gumption, stick-to-itiveness, and Neil Young got DEVO on ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 1978
10.14.2015
08:57 am
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Today marks the anniversary of DEVO’s 1978 appearance on Saturday Night Live, which really put the band on the mainstream’s radar and set them on the road to becoming, for better or worse, actual rock stars. The few years immediately after punk were an indulgent period in which to be trailblazers, and DEVO certainly benefitted from that audience shift towards openness to new ideas, but while SNL was known for taking some artistic chances with their musical bookings, DEVO were not initially of any interest at all to the show’s producer Lorne Michaels, and it took some maneuvering to get them on.
 

 

Ad found on DevoObsesso

Last summer, at a DEVO public art unveiling in the band’s hometown of Akron, OH, bassist Jerry Casale spoke frankly about the behind-the-scenes machinations that finally got them the slot on SNL that they had so coveted:

We had been sending videotapes to Saturday Night Live since 1976, after we did the Truth About De-Evolution ten minute movie, and we thought “Dan Aykroyd will get us on the show, John Belushi’ll get us on the show!” And we kept sending it with letters, and I’m sure it just went in a trash bin. These people were big time, and I’m sure they were thinking “Who ARE these weirdos?” So it was me not wanting to take no for an answer, and I just kept it up.

When we were interviewing managers, and we met Elliott Roberts, who was Neil Young’s manager, he said two good things—“I don’t want a piece of your publishing,” and “I don’t want you to sign a deal, we’ll shake hands and you give me 30 days notice when you say it’s over and I’ll give you the same.” I said “That’s great, but there’s one thing you gotta do! You have to get us on Saturday Night Live, and you have to make them let us show a piece of our movie.” And he goes “Oh my GOD.”

And he did it, because he dangled Neil Young as bait, saying “You’ll take these guys, Lorne—Lorne did NOT care about DEVO—and we’ll get you Neil Young. And then he dropped the bomb about the film, and that was almost a deal breaker. But it all worked out, and we went from playing in from 200-300 people a night to 3,000-5,000 people a night. We had to stop the tour and re-book it after Saturday Night Live.

The band’s association with Neil Young continued to bear fruit, notably in the form of the 1982 film Human Highway. But here’s that SNL appearance, introduced by the episode’s host, Fred Willard, and shared by PB user jwdoom.
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
DEVO becomes public art, streets of Akron, Ohio are overrun with Booji Boys
DEVO, Blondie, Talking Heads, Klaus Nomi on ‘20/20’ segment on New Wave, 1979
‘Satisfaction’ shootout: DEVO VS the Residents VS the Rolling Stones (spoiler: the Stones don’t win)

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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10.14.2015
08:57 am
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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
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08.12.2015
11:55 am
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Fear’s Lee Ving talks about their legendary ‘Saturday Night Live’ appearance and being offensive
04.07.2015
10:54 am
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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…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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04.07.2015
10:54 am
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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
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01.16.2015
02:56 pm
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Invasion of the mindsnatcher: Sun Ra on ‘Saturday Night Live’ 1978
07.24.2013
02:08 pm
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Posted by Marc Campbell
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07.24.2013
02:08 pm
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Sinéad O’Connor rips a picture of the Pope art piece
04.01.2013
04:22 pm
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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.

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Watch “Sinéad” in action, below:

 

Posted by Tara McGinley
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04.01.2013
04:22 pm
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One of SNL’s best and brightest: Tom Davis has died
07.19.2012
06:57 pm
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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
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07.19.2012
06:57 pm
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Happy Birthday Captain Beefheart

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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
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01.15.2012
06:51 pm
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Patti Smith performing at CBGB on the club’s closing night

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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…

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Posted by Marc Campbell
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12.30.2011
04:54 pm
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Devo performing live on TV in 1978: Secret teachings of the SubGenius
12.17.2011
04:04 am
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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
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12.17.2011
04:04 am
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The performance that got Elvis Costello banned from America’s favorite late night comedy show
12.10.2011
12:04 am
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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…

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Posted by Marc Campbell
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12.10.2011
12:04 am
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Happy Birthday John Belushi

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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…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.24.2011
05:34 pm
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