Saturday Night Live/George Carlin/Billy Preston, Janis Ian
From The TV IV
George Carlin/Billy Preston, Janis Ian is the first episode of the first season of Saturday Night Live, and the first episode overall. It is the first appearance by both the host and either of its musical guests.
- Wolverines: A man in a suit (O'Donoghue) sits in an office reading a newspaper when a foreigner (Belushi) carrying a bag of groceries enters. The man in the suit helps the foreigner pronounce "Good evening" properly, then proceeds with an English lesson, in which the man in the suit reads a sentence in English, and the foreigner repeats it. All the practice sentences are bizarre comments about wolverines, such as, "I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines." Before he can read a fourth sentence, the man in the suit clutches his chest, gasps and collapses on the floor. The foreigner shrugs and imitates the man in the suit's heart attack. A floor manager (Chase) enters and speaks the famous opening line to the show.
- George Carlin's Monologue: Carlin performs an early version of his famous "Baseball vs. Football" monologue, the bulk of which contrasts baseball's 19th-century, gentlemanly terminology and rules to football's 20th-century, aggressively militaristic terminology and rules. The opening to this variation on the monologue compares football's goals to colonialist Europe's goals of land conquest.
- New Dad Insurance: Framed as a life insurance commercial, New Dad Insurance shows a father (Akroyd) what will happen if he were suddenly no longer in the picture. After he disappears from the commercial, a new father figure (Chase) appears thanks to the insurance policy. The wife (Jacqueline Carlin) starts making out with her new husband as he pastes his own face over that of his predecessor's.
- Nothing from Nothing: Billy Preston song.
- Witness for the Prosecution: A prosecutor (Chase) asks a female witness (Curtin) to describe what a defendant said when he pulled her into an alleyway, but remembering the incident is too upsetting for her. The defense attorney (Morris) objects to forcing the witness to talk, so the judge (Coe) suggests she write it down. She does so and passes it to the judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney, who are all shocked by the sentence. The prosecutor passes the paper to the jury foreman (Aykroyd), who passes it to another juror (Belushi), who nudges awake a female juror (Radner) who is sleeping. The female juror reads the paper, turns to the juror who passed the note to her, nods and winks.
- Andy Kaufman's Performance: Kaufman stands alone on stage with a record player. He starts the record, which is a recording of "Here I Come to Save the Day (Mighty Mouse Theme)." Kaufman lipsynchs to the line, "Here I come to save the day!" and the rest of the time stands awkwardly to the side and waits for his cue.
- George Carlin Standup #1: Carlin asks a serious of random questions and makes a series of one-liner musings on subjects ranging from dogs to waste baskets to bacon to underwear.
- At Seventeen: Janis Ian song.
- Victims of Shark Bite: Phyllis Crawford (Curtin) hosts a talk show which interviews people who have been attacked by sharks. Her first guest, Martin Gresner (Belushi) claims to have had his left arm eaten by a shark. When he tries to remember how long ago the attack occurred, however, he counts on his left hand, which is hidden under his jacket. Phyllis Crawford points out he has a left arm, so he claims to have lost his right leg, but she says his right leg is tucked under his left leg and calls him a fraud.
- Jamitol: A man (Chase) introduces his "wife" (O'Donoghue), who claims to get energy from the vitamin and iron supplement Jamitol.
- Weekend Update.
- Newman files a special report from the Blaine Hotel, where 38 murders have occurred over the preceding weeks. There are two covered bodies wearing yellow socks next to Newman, and the mayor has called the hotel "a pockmark on the neck of midtown Manhattan."
- Triopenin: A commercial which airs during WU. It is for an arthritis medication, and the screen shows a man's hands as he rubs them in pain. When a bottle of Triopenin appears, the man tries to open the bottle, but finds it impossible to open. The logo for the medicine shows the bottle is smashed open as the announcer promotes the "new child-proof safety cap." As the commercial cuts back to WU, announcer Don Pardo says accomodations for guests of SNL are provided by the Blaine Hotel.
- The Muppets - The Land of Gorch: Ploobis rules "from the bubbling tarpits to the sulfurous wasteland, to the stagnant mudflats." He chokes his lackey Scred and says he gets "mildly annoyed" when he is hungry, so Scred leaves to fetch him food. His wife Peuta arrives and says she can't bring Ploobis food, because she is sick and is "having tremendous difficulty releasing my darts." She sends Ploobis and Scred to the Mighty Favog for advice, but first Ploobis eats the food delivered by a busty female. Ploobis starts to molest the serving girl, but Peuta interrupts and reminds him to go to the Mighty Favog. The Might Favog demands two chickens as payment, but the only advice he gives Ploobis is, "Cheer up. Things could be worse."
- George Carlin Standup #2: More random observations and musings on dialing the phone, store windows, blue food, vitamins and oxymorons.
- Albert Brooks Film - The Impossible Truth: The Impossible Truth News finds strange and bizarre stories. A cabbie still works after being blinded by the spotlights at a movie premiere. Israel and Georgia trade places, with each one's governments and populations moving to the other location; the prime minister of Israel hopes to get along better with New Orleans than he does with Cairo, while the governor of Georgia hopes for a dry heat. Oregon lowers its age of consent to seven, and the news reporter (Albert Brooks) finds a "casting producer" from Los Angeles who is on a date with a precocious seven-year-old girl.
- The Bees - Bee Hospital: At a hospital for bees, anxious fathers buzz as they pace outside the maternity ward. A nurse (Curtin) brings out a baby to one expectant father (Aykroyd), who is thrilled to learn he's had a drone. Another nurse (Newman) brings another father (Morris) another drone, and he, too, is excited. When a third nurse (Radner) brings a third father (Belushi) a worker, he is at first disappointed, but the excitement of the other fathers convinces him to cheer up. The episode ends there, but in a teaser for next week's episode, a fourth father (Chase) learns from the first nurse he's had a queen, and he is overjoyed. Coe appears as a fifth bee father.
- Academy of Better Careers: A housewife (Radner) receives a call from an announcer who says she can make money just by having answered the phone. He says the TV-advertised career training industry has created a need for phone answerers and promotes the Academy of Better Careers, or ABC (not affiliated with the network), where a teacher (Curtin) shows a classful of students (Chase, Newman, Aykroyd, Morris, et al.) how to answer the phone. Another student (Newman) reads about the history of phones, and an instructor (Coe) lists the area codes of different countries. Radner hangs up on the announcer to call ABC and become a stand-by operator.
- Valri Bromfield Monologue: Bromfield does a character piece as a prudish high school teacher giving her female students a pep talk for a volleyball game. The teacher introduces the Valley Girl team captain, Debbie, who babbles about cute boys.
- Show Us Your Guns: A short film in which people stand on the bed of a pick-up truck with a sign which reads, "Show Us Your Guns." As the truck passes, people from all walks of life pause to show off their handguns, machine guns and assault rifles. One gangster reaches for his gun, but his friend shakes his head, and the gangster declines. A traffic cop can't find his gun and shrugs. In the end, the announcer encourages viewers to show off their guns "when you see our truck in your neighborhood."
- George Carlin Standup #3: Carlin talks about God, and how humans created Him in our image. He says people describe God as omniscient, infinite and omnipotent, but Carlin postulates God must not be omnipotent because He is "subject to physical laws," and His work is imperfect. Carlin criticizes religion for using God as an excuse to make people absolve themselves of guilt, and he compares religion to lifts in shoes, which are useful for a short while but should not be imposed on others.
- Fancy Lady: Billy Preston song.
- Trojan Horse Home Security: The Kroemers (Belushi & Radner) are sitting at home when a masked gunman (Aykroyd) breaks into the home and takes them hostage. The gunman identifies himself as Kenny Vorstrather, president of Trojan Horse Home Security. He says the break-in is merely a simulation to demonstrate to the Kroemers why they should hire his company's services. He challenges Mr. Kroemer to force him to leave, but when Mr. Kroemer stands up, another gunman (Morris) enters and points an assault rifle at Mrs. Kroemer. Vorstrather identifies this second gunman as his assistant and the company's vice-president, Harvey Morglemaster. Vorstrather offers his services, which include land mines in the lawn, searchlights in the rec room and piranhas in the toilet bowl. When Mr. Kroemer asks why they would need the other items if they have land mines in the lawn, Vorstrather asks Mr. Kroemer to bring him a tomato from the kitchen. Mr. Kroemer stands up, but while his back is turned, Vorstrather fires two shots at him, but they are only blanks. The terrified Mr. Kroemer collapses into a chair while Vorstrather offers Mrs. Kroemer hand grenades in her toaster, a ".357 Magnum Mixmaster" and a "Sandwich-Sensitive Hot Plate Laser." Vorstrather says the cost of the home security system is $499.99, but when Mrs. Kroemer objects, Vorstrather asks where her son is. She replies he is playing in the yard, so Vorstrather picks up the phone and asks someone named Frank to "put the kid on." Exasperated, Mr. Kroemer agrees to take the home security system.
- Triple-Trac Razor Blades: A commercial for a new razor, which the announcer (Coe) says is the best because it has three blades. An animated demonstration shows the first blade pulling on the hair, the second blade pulling it further and the third blade finally cutting it. As the commercial ends, the announcer says, "The Triple-Trac, because... you'll believe anything."
- In the Winter: Janis Ian song.
"Live from New York, It's Saturday Night!"
- Chevy Chase as a floor manager who has found John Belushi and Michael O'Donoghue lying motionless on the stage.
- Nothing from Nothing, performed by Billy Preston: The second #1 single from funk and soul musician Preston, who first became famous for performing with such artists as Little Richard, Ray Charles and the Beatles. The song (also known as "Nothin' from Nothing") appeared on Preston's 1974 album The Kids and Me.
- Here I Come to Save the Day, performed by The Sandpipers: Written and performed by the Sandpipers, this TV theme song was originally composed for use on the series The Mighty Mouse Playhouse, a repackaging of and extension on the character's 1940s theatrical shorts. Kaufman's simple, sweet-natured lipsynching to just the operatic line, "Here I come to save the day!" has become one of the late comedian's best remembered and most beloved routines.
- At Seventeen, performed by Janis Ian: The Grammy-award winning single from folk singer-songwriter Janis Ian's 1975 platinum album Between the Lines is a bittersweet adult reminiscence on the trials and tribulations of adolescence.
- Mack the Knife, performed by Bobby Darin: A pop standard written in 1928 as a showtune by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht for their musical Threepenny Opera. Darin recorded one of the most famous and popular versions of the song in 1959, based on a 1954 translation of the original German lyrics. Its well-known opening verses compare the titular hitman Macheath to a shark, which is why the song is used as the opening theme for the sketch "Victims of Shark Bite."
- The William Tell Overture, composed by Gioachino Rossini: The music which plays throughout the "Show Us Your Guns" sketch. This stirring, fast-paced orchestral overture to the opera William Tell became one of the most recognizable pieces of classical music in the world when its fourth and final part, "Finale," was used as the theme song to the radio show and later TV series of the Lone Ranger. It is that theme which is heard in the sketch.
- Fancy Lady, performed by Billy Preston: Although not as big a hit as "Nothing from Nothing," this lead-off track from Preston's electrified 1975 album It's My Pleasure was the album's only single.
- In the Winter, performed by Janis Ian: Ian's melancholy second single off Between the Lines, which charted at #97 in the US.
- First Appearance: Although this episode is very different from the show more familiar to viewers today, it introduces one sketch which would recur in every subsequent episode and several specials, Weekend Update. Anchor Chevy Chase helped conceive of and write the debut segment, which became a cornerstone and trademark of the show throughout its various incarnations. Chase's gag in the sketch that a handkerchief on which President Gerald Ford blew his nose was "wrestled ... to the ground" by "alert Secret Service agents" became a recurring gag during Chase's tenure as anchor, with any object which came in contact with Ford being treated in a similar manner, including Ford's thumb. This episode also marks the debuts of The Muppets and the Albert Brooks Film, two segments which would become staples of these early episodes.
- Crazy Credits: Every cast and crew member listed in the closing credits is given the nickname "Bud" (e.g.: Lorne "Bud" Michaels, Chevy "Bud" Chase, Al "Bud" Franken, etc.) Also, in thanking the cast, George Carlin mistakenly refers to them as the "Not-Quite-Ready-for-Primetime Players."
Behind the Scenes
- Friends in High Places: Director Dave Wilson was boyhood friends with host George Carlin, and he claims to have gotten the job of directing the show because producer Lorne Michaels was impressed by Wilson's connection. Although Carlin apparently did not impress Michaels (see also: Trivia: Behind the Scenes: Who Blacklisted George Carlin?), director Wilson obviously did, as he would go on to direct the show for a whopping twenty seasons.
- Cut from Dress: Comedian Billy Crystal was scheduled to perform a standup routine, but it was cut for time. Due to bad feelings over this, Crystal was not involved with the show at all for its early seasons, although Lorne Michaels seemed to have been trying to make Crystal a star and grooming him as either a cast member or recurring host in the vein of Buck Henry or Steve Martin. As luck would have it, Crystal would find great success on his own outside of SNL and would later return both as a host and as a cast member, but only after Michaels had left the show.
- Who Blacklisted George Carlin?: For many years, it has been rumored that George Carlin was blacklisted as host of SNL for a decade after his performance this episode because, in his Stand-Up Monologue #3, he said God is not a Supreme Being, thereby angering executives at NBC. The source of this rumor is most likely Carlin himself, who made the claim in his monologue on his second turn as host. However, it would appear this rumor is false. First, it is unclear whether or not Carlin was blacklisted at all. Of the 23 individuals who hosted or co-hosted the show in its first season, only 11—Paul Simon, Candice Bergen, Robert Klein, Lily Tomlin, Elliott Gould, Buck Henry, Dudley Moore, Dick Cavett, Jill Clayburgh, Madeline Kahn and Carlin himself—ever had a second turn as host as of 2007. While some of those one-time hosts of the first season, such as Louise Lasser, caused difficulties and likely were henceforth banned either by the network or by producer, creator and show runner Lorne Michaels, others, such as Moore's co-host and comedy partner Peter Cook, seem to have ably hosted the show without negative incident, and their subsequent absence was due simply to scheduling conflicts or lack of anything to promote (although the show was much less a vehicle for hosts to promote their projects in its earliest days than it is now). However, it is true that most of the other ten recurring hosts returned far more quickly than Carlin, who was one of the biggest names in comedy at the time. (Bergen, Gould and Henry, in particular, returned within the season.) Yet, if Carlin angered the network, their beef at the time centered more around his informal dress and hairstyle than around anything he said in any of his stand-up routines. In fact, no other witnesses at the time report Carlin's sacrilege as a bone of contention for network executives, who also let pass drug humor, references to homosexuality and jokes about prostitution and rape elsewhere in the episode. Further, by the time of Carlin's second appearance, his hippie-ish stage persona of the 1970s had given way to a more "grumpy old man" persona, and the "sacrilegious" jokes he made in that episode's monologue went much further than he was willing to do in 1975. (Granted, that second appearance was also his last.) That notwithstanding, if Carlin was blacklisted, the more likely culprit was Michaels, who was not involved with the show when Carlin made his only reappearance. If Michaels indeed blacklisted Carlin, his reason almost certainly had nothing to do with the content of Carlin's standup, which Michaels had seen in rehearsals and kept in the show in lieu of other standup routines he was forced to cut for time. (See also: Trivia: Behind the Scenes: Cut from Dress.) Perhaps Michaels was annoyed that Carlin was, by his own admission, stoned out of his mind throughout the episode, but this is highly improbable, as Michaels himself was using drugs at the time, and he was all too happy to look the other way while such cast members as Chevy Chase and John Belushi used deadly quantities of cocaine, LSD and other drugs. Perhaps the headaches Michaels got from the network over Carlin's hosting—including complaints over his dress code and the network's threats to air the episode on a six-second delay to bleep objectionable language (a threat on which the network would make good for host Richard Pryor, who also never returned)—proved to be more trouble than Carlin was worth in Michaels' estimation. However, Carlin's agent Craig Kellem claims Michaels simply didn't like Carlin as a host and didn't feel he was right for the show, and if a blacklisting took place, that is probably the sole reason for it.
Allusions and References
- Jaws: The sketch "Victims of Shark Bite" is devoted to those who have been attacked by sharks, and guest Martin Gresner claims to have been attacked off the coast of Long Island, New York. The 1975 film Jaws was the blockbuster film of the summer prior to SNL's debut and quickly became the highest-grossing film of all time. It made a superstar of its director, Steven Spielberg, and it ignited a national fascination with and fear of sharks. It was set on the fictional resort of Amity Island, located off the coast of Long Island. Its iconic poster of a giant phallic shark ascending from the depths to devour a female swimmer it can swallow whole is mimicked by the logo of the show in the sketch.
- Andy Kaufman's performance.
- Floor Manager: Live from New York, it's Saturday night!
- Chevy Chase: Dateline: Washington. At a press conference Thursday night, President Ford blew his nose. Alert Secret Service agents seized his handkerchief and wrestled it to the ground.
- Chevy Chase: The Post Office announced today... just a second, I lost my place. Oh. The Post Office announced today that it is going to issue a stamp commemorating prostitution in the United States. It's a ten-cent stamp, but if you wanna lick it, it's a quarter.
- George Carlin: I-I think God may not be perfect. I think His work shows that. Take a look at a mountain range: They're all crooked; they're never in line, all different sizes. There are no two leaves the same. He can't even get two people the same fingerprints. He's had billions of years to work on this stuff. And everything He has ever made has died! Everything so far! So far! Where did He get this great reputation? He's batting zero-zero-zero!