Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.
Earlier this month Saturday Night Live celebrated it’s 40th year. I’ve felt a connection to the show for far longer than the moment I realized that we were the same age. The special treat of being allowed to watch the first half hour when I was still a tween and being introduced to the Bangles, Neil Young and Paul Simon. Feeling like my favourites could never be replaced when regulars Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Jan Hooks, and Chris Rock left the show when I was a teen. This mourning was short lived when the brilliance of Will Ferrell, Colin Quinn and Cheri Oteri followed soon after. Tina Fey, Seth Meyers, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler took over from there and every 4-7 year stretch there is someone who makes you laugh every time and makes it worth tuning in. Some hosts, like Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Drew Barrymore and Justin Timberlake hit it out of the park every time, while shows hosted by non-performers (i.e. athletes or politicians) can be a bit trying, but even those can be saved by the Weekend Update segment and recurring sketches.
Not only is it one of the longest running TV shows in the history of television, but it is exclusive in it’s format. Live sketch comedy television for 90 minutes each week. Mad TV, while brilliant, was not live. The occasional TV drama (e.g. “E.R.” and “West Wing”) having a single live episode was ambitious, but rare. To create live television primarily catered to a new host within the span of a single week (and week after week at that), is amazing. Not every sketch makes the show, not every sketch is successful. But coming up with new and topical material for a 90-minute show for 40 years is a feat. As a fan of pop culture, it’s also fascinating to see which celebrities can navigate cue cards, comedy, impressions and all-out silliness. Most importantly, it’s live. No edits or retakes, the notion is glaringly obvious and yet the most impressive feature. Despite that things often run smoothly, the mere idea that “anything can happen” gives the show a buzz, a hype, an energy that elevates it from simply a sketch show. Sinead O’Connor ripping up a picture of the Pope, Jimmy Fallon and Ben Affleck cracking each other up until their words were inaudible or even costumes, wigs, moustaches falling off, props not working. Bill Hader’s part as New York tourist guide Stefon on the Weekend Update was notorious for cracking up. It was more a matter of when and not if he did, so in addition to the gut-busting dialogue, it also became a time bomb of when he would break, making it equally predictable and hilarious.
An impressive number of movie stars owe their careers to SNL, from Mike Myers and Will Ferrell to Tina Fey and Eddie Murphy. But more than that, most former cast members have enjoyed very successful careers launched from their tenure on the show: Tracy Morgan, David Spade, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Andy Samberg, Paul Shaffer, Kristin Wiig, to name a few. Movie spin-offs, from “Wayne’s World” to “MacGruber” have been spawned, a testament to the creative environment created by the show. Simply put, there is nothing like it.
The event celebrating the show’s 40 years was like a family reunion and a surreal trip down a memory lane of actors and characters that I’d gotten to know so well. I’m an unapologetic fan and look forward to enjoying the show for years to come. More cowbell! Well, isn’t that special! What up with that? Two wild and crazy guys! Party on Wayne! Makin’ copies! Talk amongst yourselves. Buh-bye!