Somewhat odd timing, but Grantland kicked off SNL At 40 week today.1 There are already a couple solid articles posted, and day one of the bracket to pick the greatest cast member ever is up. I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy the rest of the series.

This, along with the passing of Don Pardo earlier this week, had me thinking of SNL this morning. I believe I’ve watched one full, current episode in the last 8-9 years. Once Will Ferrell and his cohorts filtered out, I was less interested in dealing with the new folks. I preferred watching compilation shows that cut out the highlights of recent years so I could see Stefon or “What Up With That?” without staying up until 1:00.

Despite that, the SNL sensibility is still central to my comedy tastes. Those early years when I watched the show were just too powerful an influence on me.

Which is kind of funny, given when I began watching the show. I remember watching prime time specials in the late 1970s, but didn’t stay up to watch the entire show on my own until the Eddie Murphy years. An era which, to many, was just Eddie and a bunch of bit players. Other than Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who didn’t become a star until nearly a decade after her time on SNL, no one else broke out and became a mainstream star.

But, man, did I love everyone on the show.

Joe Piscopo was Eddie’s sidekick, and proof that America was coming together across racial lines. Tim Kazurinsky and Mary Gross were odd, not terribly sexy, but terrifically funny. Brad Hall was goofy, and I figured probably was probably who I would most resemble if I ended up on SNL some day. Even Gary Kroeger, Robin Duke, and Rich Hall seemed like superstars to me, even if to most historians of the show, they are buried with the rest of the Never Stars of the past 40 years.

I won’t argue that the early 80s were the best era for SNL. Or even underrated. Still, that was when I discovered the show, and when my friends and I giggled on the bus or in the back of class on Mondays reviewing our favorite parts of the previous Saturday’s show.

Saturday Night Live at 40

  1. Why on a Thursday?