Wednesday, January 11, 2017


 Twenty years ago today, I read that John Cleese and Michael Palin were going to be making guest appearances that evening on Saturday Night Live.  This was during the height of my Monty Python fandom, and thus there was no way I was going to miss seeing two of my comedy then-idols.  (Pfft, then?!  I can still trade Dead Parrot lines with the best of them.)

At this point in my life, I was a fan of Saturday Night Live in theory, in the sense that I obviously knew of the show's long history, its actors, its biggest sketches, etc.  Wayne's World, for instance, was one of my favourite movies.  A fan in theory, though not in practice, as I'd never actually watched an episode of the show.  What can I say --- being something of a nerdy 15-year-old, it was pretty rare that I even stayed up that late.  My Saturday nights usually extended until around 11pm, when I hit the sack after either a wild night of watching a movie with friends, or staying home to watch random comedy shows (usually CODCO, Full Frontal*, or Red Dwarf) on Showcase.

* = Full Frontal the Australian sketch comedy program, get your minds out of the gutter!

I'll pause for another moment while you all go "Actually Mark, admitting you watched the lead-in programming to the Drambuie Showcase Revue sounds right in line with your personality.  Have you not read this blog before?"

So anyway, to stay up until 11:30pm and beyond, I needed to find something to occupy my time. Showcase was showing a movie that night, so the usual sketch comedy was out. So instead I watched MuchMusic, specifically the old 8 PM-10 PM show called something like 'Much Rocks' or something generic.  This was back in the olden days when Much actually aired music videos, rather than the absolute hodgepodge of teen-and-hipstercentric programming it does today.  'Much Rocks' was a stand-alone show that it was devoted solely to rock videos for two hours, so I figured I'd kill some time watching the show and listening to some new music.

As it happened, 1/11/97 was a day or two after U2's video for Discotheque was released, and thus to mark the occasion, "Much Rocks" was devoting the entire two hours to a U2 career retrospective.  While I was familiar with a few U2 songs, I wasn't really a devotee, but still, I had nothing better to do.

As you might suspect, the rest is history.  Throughout the program, I kept saying "Wow, I didn't know they did this song..." and by the end, I was enthralled.  Not by the videos themselves, of course; U2 are known for many things, but good videos aren't one of them.  It's ironic that the Discotheque video was the impetus behind the special, since a) it's one of the lamest videos ever recorded by man, and b) is often regarded as the biggest reason that the public turned on U2's Pop album. For some reason, dressing up as the Village People and Bono thrusting his groin into the camera made people think U2 were getting full of themselves. Who knew?

So that propelled me through the rest of the night, onwards to SNL.  The 1/11/97 episode ended up being the perfect way to hook me on the show, as it ended up being one of the most heralded SNL episodes of the era, wall-to-wall with classic sketches and great impressions by Kevin Spacey, who did so well he purposely didn't host for almost a decade in order to keep the mystique alive. The weakest part of the program, ironically, was Cleese and Palin, who did little more than a half-assed rendition of the Dead Parrot sketch.  That was my first SNL episode and I haven't missed one since.

So there it is, one big day.  January 11 will forever be tied to both the discovery of my favourite band and (while not technically my "favourite") the show that has probably done more to shape my love of comedy more than any other. 

So Jan. 11 holds a noted place in my personal history. My favourite band and (one of my) favourite shows were born on the same day. I think I'll celebrate by listening to Achtung Baby and watching some Will Ferrell sketches.  Or, by tracking down a set of Red Dwarf DVDs.


Jordan said...

U2 sucks! Pearl Jam forever!

Anonymous said...

lol.. i vote for red dwarf..0_0.. whatever that is.