Four Star Video was having a sale last weekend and we were there to browse anyway, so we spent an extra-long time wandering through the aisles, poking through the cases and reading all the labels. Well, not all of them. There’s at least a million six DVD cases in the basement alone, so I stuck to the drama section where things looked most promising. I didn’t find anything, but as I was leaving to go find My Darling B, I crossed through the television section and my eye happened to fall on a collection of Saturday Night Live recordings, mostly from what I think of as the later years: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Chris Farley, that lot. I stopped watching SNL after that. Just couldn’t relate to the humor any more. I might have taken home a Mike Myers for a buck, but it was priced ten apiece so I shoved it back into its slot and almost walked away without checking to see what was in the boxed set.


I don’t care what you or anybody else says, it never got any better than those goofy years when the Not Ready for Prime Time Players were on. I should’ve shoved the whole boxed set down my pants right there and then so nobody else would even see it and try to arm-wrestle me for it, but for some reason I walked away to find B. When I did, she pointed out the signs everywhere that I’d missed advertising the sale: Boxed sets were half off! “Well, in that case I’ve got to show you this!” I said, and dragged her back to the television section. She went oooh and ahhh and wouldn’t let go of it until we got to the check-out counter, where the clerk had to oooh and ahhh over it for a while, too.

We broke it open last night after dinner. George Carlin hosted the first show, came out on the stage and told jokes between skits, which were mostly silly stuff that the audience didn’t seem to know how to react to. There were a few laughs and a smattering of genuine applause here and there, but mostly they just sat and watched, not the rowdy crowd that would hoot and cheer all through the show in later episodes. I’ve read that when they originally conceived of the show, they brought Carlin on as a more or less permanent host, but if that’s right then the idea didn’t last long because Paul Simon hosted the second show. In fact, the second show was practically The Paul Simon Show. He opened it with a song, he followed up with another song, he brought Art Garfunkel on and they sang a couple more songs (Garfunkel did not look at all happy to be there), he brought on several other people – some gospel singers, Phoebe Snow, Randy Newman – it was almost a solid hour of music and singing. I think the only comedy bit was Simon playing a round of one-on basketball against Connie Hawkins, and NBA pro, and winning.

Two shows seemed to be enough to satisfy us so we quit there, until I was putting the disks away and noticed that disk two included Lily Tomlin singing “Saint James Infirmary” with Howard Shore and His All-Nurse Band, possibly my all-time favorite of the musical appearances on SNL. I wish there was a video I could link to, but I can’t find one right now and even if I could, I don’t think it would be up long. I found an audio clip that gives you just a hint of how cool it was, but you really have to see it to get the full effect of the whole SNL band dressed in nurses’ uniforms. If you can lay your hands on a copy, watch for Paul Schaffer at the keyboard of the grand piano Lilly Tomlin’s sitting on.

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