Saturday, February 9, 2008

Salute to TV writers: ‘Saturday Night Live’

Writer and occasional performer Michael O’Donoghue was a dominant figure in the early years of “Saturday Night Live.” Before that, he’d been a contributor to National Lampoon, earning a reputation as a bent genius.

Consider this, from O’Donoghue’s hilarious prose piece titled “The Churchill Wit”:

“Shortly after Churchill had grown a moustache, he was accosted by a certain young lady whose political views were in direct opposition to his own. Fancying herself something of a wag, she exclaimed, ‘Mr. Churchill, I care for neither your politics nor your moustache.’

“Unabashed, the young statesman regarded her quietly for a moment, then wryly commented, ‘Suck my dick.’ ”

As a teenage fan of “SNL,” I was put off by the sadistic humor of O’Donoghue’s “Mr. Mike” character. (I know it was supposed to be off-putting, but still.)

As a grown man, I got to know Darius James, a fierce satirist in his own right (and one of America’s coolest Negroes). Darius was a friend of O’Donoghue’s, and respected him greatly. Check what Darius wrote about him in his book “That’s Blaxploitation!”

If you’ve read about the backstage history of “SNL,” then you have marveled at some of Michael O’Donoghue’s workplace shenanigans... like spray-painting the word “DANGER” on the wall in 1980.

God had the last laugh, though, striking O’Donoghue dead with a brain hemorrhage in 1994.

In honor of the man and his spirit, I’m streaming audio of a sketch that aired in April of 1977. It’s called “Mr. Mike Meets Uncle Remus.” (Garrett Morris played Uncle Remus, of course.) Click here to hear it.

This scene can be seen on the DVD set “Saturday Night Live: The Complete Second Season.”


estiv said...

After following his work for nigh on forty years now, I've come to the conclusion that he was a genius of limited range. It was all about pain, period. On the other hand, "a genius of limited range" could also describe John Lee Hooker, and I'm not going to stop listening to him either. And any kind of genius is still a rare thing. Thanks for the post.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Thank you, Estiv. You nailed him.

Have you seen Tony Hendra's book, "Going Too Far"? Paints a real vivid picture of O'Donoghue... and of the entire development of our generation's humor.

Dan Coyle said...

Oh my God, that was so damn funny.

DeAngelo Starnes said...

Dave, I see why we're friends. You's a sick muthafucka. All your salutes have been on the One.

O'Donoghue was, and remains, my favorite SNL writer. I don't think any have approached his edge, except for the cat who does the cartoons whose name escapes me now. (I better take some supplements because my college days of smoking I-won't-name-the-substance is taking its toll on my recall. That's a warning sign for you young readers out there).


dez said...

don't think any have approached his edge, except for the cat who does the cartoons whose name escapes me now

Robert Smiegel. I love his "TV Funhouse" bits.

O'Donoghue was one of my favorite SNL guys, too. I loved Mr. Mike. Did you ever see "Mr. Mike's Mondo Video," UBM?

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Never did see that, dez. Or if I did, I don't remember... for reasons unrelated to smokeable substances. (We just old, DeAng!)

dj said...

I think he wrote some stuff for the "movie"Dynamite Chicken as well,which I still clearly remember renting in the early 80's.

Far out man!

The reason it stands out for me is because it was the first time I heard Mayfield's "Move On Up" and between that and daily, repeat plays of "Cool Jerk" are probably my earliest clear memories of digging on Funk n Soul music.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Cool. Never saw "Dynamite Chicken"... but believe it or not I seem to remember the video box, from those early-'80s days of mom-and-pop video stores.

Red said...

I really liked the Churchill bit in National Lampoon. Thanks for putting a name and a face to that.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Cheers, Red.