‘Saturday Night Live’ turns 40, MTSU faculty reminisce

John Robinson // Contributing writer

Forty years ago this October, comedian George Carlin introduced us to a groundbreaking comedy series, one as American as apple pie: “Saturday Night Live.” While the stage and players have changed throughout the years, the mission has always been the same: Make ’em laugh.

In honor of the milestone, I spoke with several MTSU faculty members about their favorite “SNL” sketches over the years. Some were familiar, others not so much.

“It’s hard to believe 40 years have passed since it first aired just a few years after I graduated from MTSU,” said Dr. Lana Seivers, dean of the College of Education.

“I was in college when Saturday Night Live was launched in 1975, and it immediately altered everyone’s social schedule,” remembered Dean Ken Paulson of the College of Media and Entertainment. “In those pre-YouTube days, you had to be in front of a TV on Saturday night or be considered clueless for the rest of the week.”

“I particularly liked watching Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and Jane Curtin and always enjoy the political sketches, especially Tina Fey as Sarah Palin,” Seivers said.

“As someone interested in politics, I always liked the political sketches,” added Dr. Mark Byrnes, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and a longtime fan of show. “Chevy Chase often staged elaborate pratfalls to make fun of President Ford’s supposed clumsiness.”

In 1992, there were a series of parodies of Ross Perot’s running mate, James Stockdale, which Byrnes also found hilarious. He went on to praise Tina Fey’s depiction of Sarah Palin back in 2008, most notably her interview with Katie Couric.

“My favorite moment on SNL was Andy Kaufman’s early appearance miming the Mighty Mouse theme song,” Paulson said. “It was unlike anything we’d ever seen before.”

It didn’t take long until another mention of the late, great John Belushi.

“Belushi was a genius, and we lost him too soon,” said Sharon Fitzgerald, a Public Relations professor in the College of Media and Entertainment. Belushi’s Samurai skit was her particular favorite. He first appeared as Samurai Futaba in December 1975 and continued until his departure from the cast in 1979.

Fitzgerald wasn’t the only one who favored long-running sketches. Lisa McCann, executive secretary to Paulson, spoke of one of SNL’s longest-running skits: the Land Shark.

“Everyone did it. You hear a ‘knock-knock‘ on the door and this shark comes crashing in,” McCann said. “It’s hilarious.”

Initially written in response to the 1975 release of “Jaws,” the Land Shark most recently appeared in a segment of “Weekend Update” this season as part of the 40th Anniversary Special. Land Shark, played by Bobby Moynihan, attempts to eat Tina Fey, before she is freed by Amy Poehler and Jane Curtin.

Though it has been 40 years since its premiere, “Saturday Night Live” continues to hold a special place in the hearts of millions of Americans. For many, there is nostalgia. For others, simply a good laugh. Either way, America’s longest running sketch comedy show doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

For more TV show look-backs, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

To contact Lifestyles editor Rhiannon Gilbert email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com

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