Sunday, June 29, 2008

George Carlin and Last Night's 1975 SNL Debut


When George Carlin died last week, I was saddened. In my high school, college, and young adult days Carlin was almost an obsession of mine. I still have all of the vinyl albums from those days and regard him as one of the most cerebral and innovative comedians ever. I was aware of his heart problems in the past, but he was only 71 years old. That's too young. Sigh.

When I saw a promo for Saturday Night Live during the week, I got all excited. They were going to show the first ever episode of the show from September 1975 and its first guest host -- George Carlin. Woohoo! Vintage Carlin and something I've never seen! I was in college in Albany back in those days and the local network refused to carry the first two SNL shows as it was all so controversial. They buckled under pressure and I was a huge fan of the show into the '80s, but I never did get to see the first two shows ... until last night when I saw the debut.

Whoa! Not one, but two musical guests -- Billy Preston and Janis Ian. Each sang two songs. I would have preferred that Billy do "Will it Go Round in Circles" and "Nothing from Nothing" (which he did do) and that Janis Ian had sang "At Seventeen" (which she did) and "Society's Child." But, still ... I had forgotten that they didn't limit it to one artist early on in the show.

I had forgotten how good Chevy Chase was in the early days. Oh, this was before the "I'm Chevy Chase and you're not" bit, but good nonetheless. John Belushi wasn't hugely featured, but would become one of my favorites in the early years. Dan Ackroyd looked like a child. I guess we all pretty much were back then.

In the Carlin bits, there wasn't that much I don't have on the albums, but he did do a bit about religion and secularism towards the end of the show which was specifically for the show. At the end of the show he was smoking on stage, but back then people did. I remember Johnny Carson and the ashtray; Tom Snyder was a regular chimney. One bit which got me was when he mentioned watching old movies and wondering if people in the crowd scenes were dead. Here I was watching this show thinking he's gone, Belushi is gone, Gilda Radner is gone ... all way too soon.

I think Saturday Night Live did a fine thing by honoring George Carlin in this manner. It was great to see him in his heyday and a spiffy trip back in time for me.

17 comments:

sharon said...

I'm sorry I didn't realize that was on,I would have liked to have seen it. But George Carlin was a favortie of mine,too. He spoke the truth about so many things and pointed it out in a humorous way,but also a thought provoking one,as well. I will miss him,he was a great mind and a great wit.

Hope your day is a good one,Jackie.

joy n said...

I'll miss his annual "rules". I loved his "usually right on" slant on everything. He's always been one of my top five comedians since the Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan days. His baseball/football bit was great, too. He's been on HBO for the last few days as they have repeated his specials back-to-back.

He will be greatly missed.

Anne said...

Oh Jackie did you bring back some memories! SNL was my "connection" with the outside world when my kids were little and I was home while all of my friends were out partying all those Saturday nights.
I don't think today's SNL can hold a candle to those early years. Remember "Larry the Lobster? and Eddie Murphy's skits? True gems. Wish I had seen last night's episode - thanks so much for the trip back to a time when looking back, life was so much less complicated.

HamburgerHamburgerHamburger!

Anne said...

LOL or was it CheeseburgerCheeseburgerCheeseburger?

nancy in pa said...

hahaha...i had forgot about that...

chee-burger cheeburger cheeburger....no coke, pepsi....jane, you ingnorant slut...

sue....i was a freshman in college during those tornadoes...18 and invincible....so i was more in awe of it all then thinking i could have been killed. if it happened to me now, i'd probably have a stroke!

anne....i am REALLY impressed with the changes you have made in your life! it is inspirational. congratulations!!

erica and jess broke up? thats sad. on one hand i used to think she could do better..but then i would see how good he waws to her..and think they were cute. oh my. tv romances....lasts til the channel changes.

Sydney said...

JoyN-

I can't for the life of me find that interview with Graham on eonline.com

I have put everything I can think of into the search. Nothing comes up. can you actually post the link????

Sounds so interesting, the interview!

Sydney said...

How about Spam spam spam spam spam

I know... it was monty python, but still....

Anonymous said...

George Carlin was the quintessential intellectual comic...loved, loved, loved him. He will be greatly missed.

joyzjenn

Sydney said...

Hi Jackie --
Your post was a spiffy trip back down memory lane for me. Thanks for writing it and triggering all sorts of associations...

Glad to hear from you again so soon. Hope you are feeling better EVERY DAY!

Sydney said...

Joy- I think I found the Graham article on ETonline. I had been looking on e!online...

dawn said...

Jackie,
I was 11 when that SNL came out and it was just as good today. I loved Carlin , no other comedian compares. Now watching SNL with my 14 year old was a trip he didn't realize Curtain and Ackroid were the Coneheads. He thought it was really funny. Chevy was great too.

Sydney said...

Lots of spoilers out there about who the Bachelorette ends up with.... I put some notes on the Meet Up link for that show. I think those of us who were getting discouraged might end up happy about the show after all.... C.U. there tonight.

joy n said...

Sydney, sorry if I put the wrong news source out there. On my Google home page, I get both for headlines everyday, one above the other.I probably credited the wrong one. These senior moments are killing me. Glad you found it.

joy n said...

Just read Jackie's excellent BB10 post over on TVSquad. Things are getting back to normal around here, bit by bit.

Hope your setback is past tense now, Jackie, and that you've made more progress this week.

It was a nice surprise to see your name over there again.

joy n said...

I have to add that George Carlin's Baseball/Football routine on that first SNL show was good but different from his later version of it. The later one was hilarious and spot-on.

Zoetawny said...

Jackie...

Thanks for taking the time to put up a post about Carlin. I think many of us were huge Carlin fans. He was a brilliant comedian and not only made us laugh but made us think. His humor was about every day real issues in our life and world. He was indeed too young to leave us but his performances and humor will be memorialized forever.
I'm disappointed I missed the show on SNL. RIP George Carlin~

SueGee said...

Thanks Jackie for that SNL/George Carlin post. I missed the show this past Saturday night, but I have seen it several times over the years and it always reminds me of sitting home one Saturday night (yes dateless again!) and waiting for my favorite comic (George) to come on. Suddenly, this familiar face pops up on the screen and I blurt out loud "So why is John Belushi on TV?" You see, I went to school with him from grade school through High School and I had not seen him or any of his work since leaving HS. I was hooked on SNL from then on and watched every single episode. Too bad for his early end, Gilda and George Carlin's too.

Rent or buy some of the compilations of the various SNL years and the cast too. Their sketches were so timeless they still make me laugh!!

Sue