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.