On April 10, 2024

Even the nights are better

Growing up, I was never the kid who caused a lot of trouble. I did my homework, played sports, and did my best to endear myself to girls. I suppose you could call me boring, but I looked at it as the easiest way to navigate childhood. 

Not surprisingly, I had an older brother who got involved in his fair share of mischief, giving me a front row seat on what not to do. My brother had many fights and disagreements with our parents, resulting in consistent drama. I guess my way of coping was to try to blend in as best as possible. 

My one ridiculously minor way of rebelling was watching “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend. My father hated the show and refused to have it on the television when he was around. Thankfully, “SNL” aired at 11:30 p.m., which was usually past my father’s bedtime. 

My father deemed “SNL” subversive, calling it a show that created more problems than it solved. He was especially disgusted by the skits that poked fun at the president, arguing that the position should be held in the highest regard and not be subjected to the brunt of jokes. 

Ironically, it was my older brother that introduced me to “SNL.” He and his friends talked about the sketches during its first season, which piqued my curiosity. When the second season began, I starting sneaking downstairs to watch with him. After that, 11:30 p.m. on a Saturday night meant my brother wouldn’t be around and I was left alone to watch.

Knowing how much my father hated the show, I had to be crafty about watching. Our family television sat in the room below my parent’s bedroom, so I couldn’t turn the volume up too loud. In fact, I rarely turned the lights on, knowing that any disturbance could result in an impromptu visit. 

Soon, “SNL” became my favorite show. I reveled in the creativity and pop culture references, but the musical guests intrigued me the most. Live music on television was rare in those days, so I soaked up any opportunity to watch. “SNL” provided a chance to see burgeoning bands in an unedited session. 

But what made things really special was when the “live” aspect of the show threw a curveball to an unsuspecting audience. Nothing felt better than when something happened on the show that no one was expecting. 

I remember when comedian Andy Kaufman’s appeared on the show in 1981 and got into a heated confrontation with the cast and crew, culminating in an on-air wrestling match. The feud blurred the lines between reality and performance art. I was one of the many who thought it was a skit but found out later that the fight was real. 

And who could forget the night Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor shocked audiences by tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II while singing an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s song “War.” O’Connor’s protest was intended to draw attention to issues of child abuse within the Catholic Church, but it sparked immediate controversy. At the time, I thought it was an odd gesture, but I had no idea the storm it would cause later.

I was also watching on the night that cast member Charles Rocket dropped an F-bomb live on air. This one is burned into my memory because, in 1981, you NEVER heard a swear word on television. That incident led to a tape delay being integrated for all future shows. 

And who could forget that night in 2005 when singer Ashley Simpson appeared on “SNL” for the most infamous musical performance in the show’s history? A crew member started playing the wrong backing track (which included Simpson’s main vocals), throwing all of the performers off. Simpson awkwardly danced offstage and into infamy, cementing her reputation as a cautionary tale for live performances.

I’ve continued to watch “SNL” for nearly 50 years, and while I find it a little harder to stay awake for the live broadcast these days, I never miss a skit or musical performance thanks to reruns on YouTube.

One of the brightest lights of the show over the last couple of years have been the comedic trio, Please Don’t Destroy, comprised of writers Ben Marshall, John Higgins, and Martin Herlihy. The three began collaborating as students at New York University, which lead to a collection of online videos that drew the attention of “SNL” executive producer Lorene Michaels. 

The Please Don’t Destroy skits became popular enough to warrant a movie, which resulted in this week’s feature, “Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain.” 

If you like this trio’s skits, with their irreverent writing and sharp video edits, you’ll appreciate this film, which is basically a 90-minute stylized take-off of their “SNL” material. It was better than I expected with several solid laughs, but nothing I’d write home about. 

A skittish “C+” for “Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain,” now streaming on Amazon Prime. 

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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