“Radio Radio” – Elvis Costello with the Beastie Boys (from the SNL 25th Anniversary Show, circa 2000)

Before you watch this clip, here’s some background …

Elvis Costello made his US debut on “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) in early 1978.  He was supposed to perform “Less Than Zero,” a song about racism in England and Costello got through about 15 seconds of the song before he abruptly cut it and launched into “Radio Radio,” an extremely critical song about the increasing control of media by corporations.

Cut to 22 years later … SNL is broadcasting a 25-year tribute show.  The Beastie Boys perform their hit “Sabotage” when Costello runs on stage and … well … I think you can figure out where it goes from there …  a clever way to pay tribute to one of SNL’s most notorious moments and a terrific performance of one of Costello’s best songs with help from one of the most innovative rock / rap groups of all-time.

Even nearly 40 years later, the lyrics still bite:

“Some of my friends sit around every evening and they worry about the times ahead.
But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference and the promise of an early bed.
You either shut up or get cut up, they don’t wanna hear about it.
It’s only inches on the reel-to-reel.
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools tryin’ to anesthetize the way that you feel.”

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Chris Rock’s monlogue from SNL, Nov. 1, 2014

Chris Rock’s monologue from last night’s Saturday Night Live has been drawing a lot of fire from some people but I think it’s the best SNL host monologue in years.  And while I’m not a friend of … nor related to … anyone hurt or killed in either the 9/11 or Boston Marathon tragedies, I don’t think Rock said anything to demean the victims or their families.  He’s found a very funny way to talk about common fears and used that as a springboard to criticize how American culture commercializes tragedies and other meaningful human events.  Just as some people immediately jumped on to the “I’m offended” or “too soon” bandwagons, others are probably going to go overboard and call Rock’s monologue “brave,” which … I suspect .. even Rock would likely scoff at.  Because … these are jokes.  And they’re funny.  And they’re coming from a good place.  So, enough of my yakkin’ … just watch and laugh.  Or … be offended … and watch something you do like.  In any case, it’s all good.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (alternate ending)

They just announced a sequel to “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  This is completely unnecessary.  All they have to do is release the Director’s Cut with this alternate ending intact (which premiered on “Saturday Night Live”).

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/81249131/

“I Predict” – Sparks

Video

Another KROQ-FM favorite. This was actually a Top 100 hit for the American band Sparks (who barely had any chart action in the US, but were huge in England). The accompanying video was allegedly directed by David Lynch (of all people). I say allegedly, because I originally read something that he only produced the clip, but now I’m reading he directed it. (If someone can clear this up, I’ll gladly edit this entry to set the record straight).

Anyway, you may want to turn the bass down on this one because the heavy percussion will blow your speakers. And considering Lynch is involved with this video, it’s more than a little disturbing. Unless, of course, you like seeing a pale skinny guy in a Hitler mustache do a striptease wearing women’s lingerie.

From the album “Angst in my Pants” (one of the best album titles of all-time). More fun trivia: Sparks performed this on SNL back in 1982 … when SNL still showed some adventurous spirit when selecting their musical acts.

Moët and Chandon with Porn Stars (SNL)

http://www.veoh.com/watch/v45933151sbsQsZxE

Damn, SNL nails the mindbogglingly insane and annoying way “certain” porn stars speak. If you don’t believe people actually talk this way, this is approximately 25% of the people Howard Stern interviews on his show. Stern’s a great interviewer, but I can’t stand listening to him talk to people who ignore 30% of their consonants and speak ver-rr-ry de-lib-er-ate-ly. Featuring Cecily Strong, Vanessa Bayer, and Justin Timberlake. One of the best SNL skits I’ve ever seen.

FEAR performance on SNL (October 1981)

Video

This is the legendary appearance by the hardcore punk band Fear on Saturday Night Live for the Halloween episode in October 1981. Fear were hired at the behest of John Belushi, who was a huge fan of Fear’s, and Michael O’Donoghue, that season’s head writer. Producer Dick Ebersol asked O’Donoghue what Fear was like and the infamous Mr. Mike explained that they were a pop group, just like the Carpenters. What resulted is mayhem and underground TV history.

O’Donoghue and Belushi bused in multiple punks from Washington D.C. (including, legend has it, Ian MacKaye).  After being introduced by actor Donald Pleasance, the band started playing and the punks went completely nuts, violently slam dancing and stage diving. During the third song, one of the punks grabbed lead singer Lee Ving’s microphone and either said “F–k you New York” or “New Your sucks!” The scene faded to black and transitioned to a repeat of the infamous (and funny) satire of Norman Mailer’s sponsorship of Jack Henry Abbott, “Prose and Cons”.

Nowadays, such antics seem corny and quaint. But back when hardcore punk was virtually unknown to the masses, this moment was a sight to behold. One of the all-time best performances by a music guest on SNL.

“Louis C.K. IS Lincoln” – SNL (2012)

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/directors-cut-lincoln/1422712/

I don’t know, but SNL keeps hitting it out of the park this season.  If you’re a fan of Louis C.K. or his show “Louie” at all, this is one of the most inspired mash-ups I’ve ever seen.  Beyond totally f–king funny!  I will let this clip speak for itself.

“The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With At A Party” … From Saturday Night Live (2012)

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/girl-you-wish-you-hadnt-started-a-conversation-with-at-a-party/1418896

Probably the funniest thing I’ve seen on SNL in years.   Really dumb people who think they’re smart is always one of my favorite comedic genres.  However, Cecily Strong positively nails it, from the deliberate, thick-tongued way of speaking to the distracted mannerisms to the strongly held convictions about concepts she has no clue about. Positively brilliant.

“Saturday Night Live 1980” – Nathan Rabin’s “How Bad Can it Be? Case File #23”

http://www.avclub.com/articles/how-bad-can-it-be-case-file-23-saturday-night-live,84591/

Bad comedy has always intrigued me, which is why I found this article about SNL’s infamous 1980-81 season so fascinating.  Part of Nathan Rabin’s endlessly terrific “My World of Flops” series, Rabin analyzes the SNL season most people believe was the series’ worst.   This was the season produced by Jean Doumanian, right after Lorne Michaels (and the rest of the original cast) left, and she had to start over with a new cast and new writers.  After reading the detailed account of this season’s failure in Doug Hill’s and Jeff Weingrad’s 1985 book “Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live” many years ago, I had been trying to see these episodes for a long time.  Some of the episodes appeared on Comedy Central when repeats of the show were run, but many of them were severely edited.  It wasn’t until some DVD-Rs of this season mysteriously fell off a truck in a town I don’t remember that I finally got a chance to watch the season.

Yes, this season is pretty bad.  However, when you look at the show over its nearly 40-year history, there are other seasons that are arguably as bad.  What’s easier to see now (as opposed to back in 1980) is that the show goes through severe ups and downs, the downs usually being the years when the show has to start over with a new cast and writers.  It’s not that the performers/writers are bad during the down seasons, it just takes time for a new talent pool to gel, but watching that process can be incredibly painful (and interesting).  The 1980-81 season was one of those seasons, and Doumanian had an incredibly thankless job.  Because no one had ever seen this process before and because the first 5 seasons were so beloved, anything less than being better than the first 5 seasons would have been seen as a failure.

Despite these qualifications, the season is pretty terrible, though the obvious highlight is watching the introduction of Eddie Murphy.  Watching Murphy and how fresh and funny he was back in the day, it’s astonishing to think where his career has ended up over 30 years later.  Don’t get me wrong, the man still has enormous talent (“Dreamgirls”), but when you see the hacky comedies he’s become affiliated with in recent years (“Pluto Nash,” “Daddy Day Care”), it’s a sad reminder of how far he’s sunk.

The other fascinating person to watch that season is Charles Rocket.  Billed as a cross between Bill Murray and Chevy Chase and groomed to be the season’s breakout star by producer Doumanian, Rocket is a better talent than historians of the show would lead you to believe.  However, the pressure cooker environment of the show, coupled with the sky-high expectations put on his shoulders by Doumanian, likely contributed to him being immensely difficult to work with, as Hill and Weingrad allege in their book.  After being fired soon after dropping the “f-bomb” on live television, Rocket periodically popped up in character roles in movies and TV, usually very good and playing the kind of caddish roles that Wil Arnett specialized in before starring in “Up All Night” (ironically, produced by Lorne Michaels).   His 2005 suicide by slitting his own throat was especially sad, considering that before SNL, Rocket was considered an important figure in the Providence, Rhode Island arts scene during the early-mid 1970s, a scene that also produced Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers and the Talking Heads.  (Rocket played accordion on the David Byrne-produced B-52s album “Whammy”).  Below is a link to an article from the Providence Phoenix that discusses this part of Rocket’s career.

http://www.providencephoenix.com/features/p_and_j/documents/05030762.asp

Doumanian later went on to become producer of then-best friend Woody Allen’s films during the 1990s and early 2000s, until an infamous falling out occurred, detailed in the Vanity Fair article listed below:

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2005/12/woodyallen200512