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Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

A Modest Proposal for a Potential SNL April Fool's Day Show

The chances that the first day of April (or any day in April, for that matter) will fall on a Saturday are one in seven — yet in 36 seasons, Saturday Night Live has aired an original episode on April Fool’s Day only once. In contrast, there have been six Valentine’s Day shows, five on St. Patrick’s Day and three on Halloween.

On April 1, 1989, Mel Gibson hosted with musical guest Living Colour, and surprisingly, the only reference made to what is arguably the funniest holiday of the year was a quick Weekend Update joke about Dan Quayle (“April Fool!”).

2012 offers a unique opportunity. March 31st falls on a Saturday, which means that if there is a new episode of SNL scheduled for that night (the schedule hasn't been released yet), the show will be on the air as the clock turns to April Fool’s Day at midnight.

Having watched the show religiously since I was a kid who hadn’t heard of the Little Rascals but still thought Eddie Murphy’s Buckwheat was hysterical, it’s been a long time since SNL really surprised me – so with that in mind, I humbly introduce what I’m referring to as “A Great Idea”:

Take the show back 25 years without telling anyone, and act like nothing is unusual about it.

Here’s how Lorne Michaels & Co. can pull it off:

1) Bring in a host who was famous enough to do it in 1987 but also remains relevant today. One possibility: Mark Harmon, who hosted that year on May 9 and is currently on the most popular show on television that no one I know watches.

2) Do the first half hour of the show as if everything is completely normal, and then come back for Weekend Update – with Dennis Miller.  Everything from the old desk set to his jiggling Statue of Liberty intro should be easy to replicate, and just have Miller do the news as if he never left the desk in the first place.

3) Gradually introduce the cast members from the 1986-87 season as the audience starts to figure out what’s happening — during Update, Victoria Jackson stops by to do a handstand and Kevin Nealon performs as “Mr. Subliminal.”  Then after a commercial, the sketches begin and the rest of the cast (Dana Carvey, Nora Dunn, Jan Hooks, Jon Lovitz) appears naturally as they would in a regular 1987 episode. No one from the current cast should appear on the show once the clock strikes midnight.

4) Because this would be a simulation of an actual show from 1987, don’t go overboard with recurring characters from the past.  In other words, stay away from the Church Lady and go for Massive Head-Wound Harry instead.

5) Use the old yellow-bar SNL logo for bumps to commercial, and throw G.E. Smith on stage with the band.

6) Bring in a musical guest whose career spans 25 years so that their first song (before midnight) fits in 2012 and their second (after midnight) fits in 1987.

7) That musical guest should not be Living Colour.

8) Pay tribute to Phil Hartman with a classic sketch at the end of the show.

If they really want to go all the way, why not contact some of the show’s regular sponsors and see if they’ll run their old commercials too? I know I’d be far less inclined to speed through it on the DVR if a Budweiser commercial from 25 years ago suddenly appeared on screen.

We are a nostalgic culture, and that’s part of the reason for SNL's endurance. Many times, it seems the only reason people outside the 18-34 year-old demographic watch is to say “It’s not what it used to be” and then reference the cast of their youth — but they still watch. Spanning five different decades, SNL is an iconic program with a unique and rich history that it embraces regularly (see the recent appearances by Maya Rudolph, Darrell Hammond and practically all of Jimmy Fallon’s castmates). As a result, there really is no other show on television that could pull something like this off — and because of the nature of the show itself, it wouldn’t be too tough to try.

You’re not going to see Bryant Gumbel or Deborah Norville host Today for nostalgia’s sake. There is little to no chance that Craig Kilborn is going to make a triumphant return to The Daily Show. And it goes without saying that Conan O’Brien will never again host The Tonight Show.

So come on, SNL­ — fool me.

Mitchell Scherr is a writer and producer in New York. He got an A in 8th grade Social Studies, primarily because of an oral report that was staged as an edition of Weekend Update with Dennis Miller.

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  • http://asianniceguy.com El Sabor Asiático

    The only problem with this otherwise awesome idea, of course, is that 2011 Victoria Jackson and Dennis Miller are batshit insane comedy killers.

    • BillBrasky

      As fun as this idea is, there probably won't be a live show on March 31st. Going by the pattern set by the last few seasons (2008 to the present), they generally do two live shows in March, and they are usually the first two Saturdays of the month. Unless something really weird happens with scheduling, March 31st is unlikely to be a new episode.

      I'm sure Dennis Miller and Victoria Jackson probably WOULD participate in this, but maybe not Jan Hooks- she has some medical problems I think that might keep her from wanting to do it (although she was on that "Women of SNL" special recently)

    • A Good Question

      @El Sabor Asiático
      It's not just Jackson and Miller that are the problem, either. Most of the surviving cast members – and that "surviving" qualifier is an omen in itself – aren't at the height of their powers. Kevin Nealon is still a good standup and has done some nice work on Weeds, but switching out the current cast for the grizzled old cast would not be a good trade.

  • Anthony Coro

    I love everything about this idea, although I think it would be better-received (and more realistic) to jump back to the early 90s. Like the others have pointed out, few of the late 80s cast members have aged very well and it would be awkward to see Dana Carvey carry the weight of the, er…now larger-than-life Jon Lovitz and Jan Hooks (no pun inte–screw it, both puns were totally intended).

    But for the early 90s, so many cast members from that era are so recognizable and at least somewhat relevant–Chris Rock, Mike Myers, David Spade, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, and of course Beth Cahill (April Fools!). Plus, that opens the door for better bands that have stayed relevant/active since, say, '92–Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins (they have a new album out next spring, although I'm not sure Billy Corgan would be willing to go along with the joke and play old material)…otherwise we're basically stuck with U2, and they'll end up playing 35 songs and ruining it.

    It looks like Easter falls a week later so I'm not sure if that would put a hitch in the schedule. It'll never happen anyway but it's a great concept.

    • Ohmarie

      @Anthony Coro Would the fact that the 90s cast members are more relevant make it tougher to book them, though?

      I cannot endorse this idea enough, by the way.

  • http://www.invertedsoapbox.com Tim Donnelly

    YES!

  • Ohmarie

    @Anthony Coro Would the fact that the 90s cast members are more relevant make it tougher to book them, though?

    I cannot endorse this idea enough, by the way.