Some people would argue that Saturday Night Live is a total piece of crap (I believe you know who you are). I would have to strenuously object to that statement. Although they have had a few less than stellar years, “the not ready for prime time players” are by and large very funny indeed. Besides, any show that began in the year of my birth and hasn’t been cancelled yet deserves some props. SNL has launched the careers of some of the funniest people in movies. The original cast is by and large the best, but the first is always best.
Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd rocked the house and the city of New York with the hugely popular “Ghostbusters” and “Ghostbusters II.” When I was in the fourth grade the first of these two films was the coolest thing ever, so cool in fact that anyone who was anyone had a T-shirt, a sweatshirt, and the lunchbox and could quote the movie on command. If you weren’t “in” on the “lingo,” then you were nobody and you might as well have pulled your own underwear up your butt and flushed your head down the toilet ‘cuz you were a geek. After the success of the first film it was only natural for a second film about slimy ghosts and weird behavior by Sigourney Weaver to find its way into the neighborhood theater.
Quite a few breakout characters have come from the minds of SNL players and writers. Although most of these characters were fan-freaking-tastic in the show, they did not fare well on the big screen. One major exception was the “Wayne’s World” sketch. The cable access show about two slackers who love mainstream metal bands like AC/DC is funny stuff. The best part of the movie is the side characters like Lara Flynn Boyle as Stacy Wayne’s obsessed ex-girlfriend. Even though they aren’t dating anymore Stacy says things like, “Wayne, if you don’t start being nice to me I’m going to break up with you.” She’s crazy, so that makes her funny. The same goes for Ed “Al Bundy” O’Neill who is hilarious as the psycho manager of Mikita’s donut shop.
Even though some people like to go crazy for the most popular SNL performers, I prefer to stick with my all time favorite, Bill Murray. The matching of Harold Ramis as director and Bill as star in the movie “Groundhog Day” is brilliant. Bill plays Phil, a cynical bastard weatherman with the same name as the famous groundhog. Phil is in for a surprise when the worst day of his life, Groundhog Day, is repeated over and over again. Every day when Phil wakes up to the gentle sound of Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You Babe” it is the same day as before. He cannot escape the repetition of the day until he becomes a better person. See, it’s funny, and it has a message.
The worst breakout character film vehicle that I love to hate is “Superstar.” This film stars Molly Shannon as her most annoying character, Catholic Schoolgirl Mary Catherine Gallagher. Mary Catherine is a pit-sniffing geek with no friends. This skit was funny the first time I saw it on SNL but after that it just got progressively dumber. I hope that even though Molly keeps doing things that kind of blow she will learn her lesson one day and pick a piece of material that can showcase her actual talent. She is a wonderful physical comedian but she has been unable to truly shine in anything.
So, keep on watching SNL. You never know what might happen. Maybe John Goodman will host again.