10 ‘SNL’ Sketches Cut From the Reruns
One interesting aspect about reruns of Saturday Night Live is how they’re sometimes very different than what went over the air live during the original airing. The piecemeal nature of the show makes it easy to remove an entire segment from the show rundown if necessary, and the producers can easily fill time using a pre-taped bit, material that originally aired during another show or even debut a previously unaired segment. This practice dates back to the early years of the show and continues today. Some segments have been restored for syndication, the DVD and online streaming versions. Reruns of shows after Lorne Michaels’ 1985 return have an increased amount of post-production work, though, and aren’t as likely to restore these cut bits.
These are ten of the many segments that were taken out of subsequent repeats. Sinead O’Connor tearing up the Pope’s picture is not here; neither is Conspiracy Theory Rock or Abby Elliott’s Brittany Murphy routine. I’ve stuck to complete, live, self-contained sketches removed completely from the network rebroadcast, rather than replaced with dress rehearsal takes. Sometimes the cut is understandable; sometimes it’s a head-scratcher.
1. H & L Brock Runner (Dick Cavett / Jimmy Cliff, January 31, 1976)
John Belushi appears as Lowell Brock in a series of three commercial parodies advertising “H&L Brock, the Tax Fraud People”, who cheat on taxes, bribe the IRS, and have mob ties. The first commercial is straightforward enough; Belushi is a little looser in the second one, but by the final installment he’s breaking character and makes a face at the very end. A camera switch then reveals Lorne Michaels on the floor crawling away from the set (with his customary wine glass nearby), and when Belushi gets up, he nearly trips as his shoelaces were tied together. You can actually hear a faint “What the fuck” and “God damn” through the applause on the live show. All three H&L Brock segments were cut along with a few other bits for the repeat that aired in summer 1980, which added Bee History and the goodnights from Cavett’s other SNL. Thankfully, the glimpse of a more mischievous Lorne Michaels remains intact on the DVD release.
2. Butt County Dance Party (Anthony Perkins / Betty Carter, March 13, 1976)
A televised dance party featuring local high school students run by a sheriff (Anthony Perkins) and his deputy (Dan Aykroyd). The winners of a spot-dance competition (John Belushi and Laraine Newman) get prizes as their names run through a computer to check for outstanding warrants. Unfortunately, the split-screened video tape showing the teletype printout started to play prematurely; after an awkward few seconds, Aykroyd improvises a line about a breakout at the prison and tells everyone to keep dancing (Gilda Radner can be heard saying “there isn’t any music!”) and the sketch ends with a fade into random stock footage of car wrecks and crash tests. The summer 1977 repeat of the Perkins show removed this segment and replaced it with a repeat of “Victims of Shark Bite” from the first episode. As with Long Distance and H&L Brock, Butt County was restored for the DVD release.
3. Remembering John Belushi (Robert Urich / Mink DeVille, March 20, 1982)
The first live show after John Belushi’s death ended with a quiet tribute by Brian Doyle-Murray, Belushi’s castmate from Second City and the National Lampoon Radio Hour. Doyle-Murray remembered Belushi as the man who looked after him when he came to New York, sharing a story about the time Belushi saved him from being hit from an oncoming ten-ton truck. Belushi took the hit, but a trip to the hospital revealed that he was not hurt. “I always thought he was indestructable,” Doyle-Murray says plaintively, and conveys the grief of hundreds at the show who knew and worked with Belushi with a simple “We mourn his death and we miss him very much.” The summer rerun cuts this, and fills the time with In The News, a taped bit about the many marriages of Elizabeth Taylor that aired in another episode. The Belushi tribute remains in the version that runs on Netflix.
4. Elevator Stool (Ed Begley, Jr. / Billy Squier, December 1, 1984)
Larry David’s sole SNL contribution to air, this sketch revolves around an architect (Ed Begley Jr.) who gets upset when the owner of the building he’s designing (Harry Shearer) questions the need for the elevator operator to have a stool to sit in, leading toward a physical altercation between the two. The sketch’s basic concept was reworked into the B-story of David’s script for the Seinfeld episode “The Maestro”, with George Costanza suggesting that a security guard have a chair to sit in while on-duty. The segment’s removal seems to be more of a strategic move by the producers during the spring 1985 writer’s strike, rather than active malice towards Larry David: Begley and a handful of other shows from this season have Eddie Murphy’s material replacing segments, and the opening montage is altered to advertise “a special appearance from Eddie Murphy.” Fortunately, Netflix has the sketch.
5. Drug Testing (Madonna / Simple Minds, November 9, 1985)
NBC President Brandon Tartikoff announces the launch of the second decade of SNL, addressing one aspect of the backstage legends of the show in years past: “As you know, in the past this show has had problems with, there’s no other way to say it, drugs.” Taking out a tray of urinalysis specimens labelled with the individual cast members’ names and the NBC peacock logo, he waits for Anthony Michael Hall’s sample; Hall then pledges to remain drug-free while employed by the network. Widely criticized as being in poor taste, Tartikoff apologized for his involvement in the sketch and promised the segment’s removal from the upcoming rebroadcast. The rerun now starts with the opening montage and a Simple Minds performance from dress rehearsal (“Sanctify Yourself”) fills time.
6. Miss Pregnant Teenage America Pageant (Dudley Moore / Rev. Al Green, January 25,1986)
Roman Polanski (Dudley Moore) emcees this 10-minute vehicle for Danitra Vance’s Cabrini Green Jackson character. Jackson competes against a Miss Pregnant South Carolina (Joan Cusack) who evidently still doesn’t know where babies come from, and Robert Downey Jr. shows up as the park ranger who impregnated three of the contestants. There’s also Polanski surrounded by ostensible teenagers singing “Let’s Hear It For The Boy,” a pregnant break-dance to “Party All The Time,” and an appearance by Terry Sweeney as Joan Collins. When cut from the rerun, this lengthy sketch left enough space for two sketches: Big Ball of Sports from the unrepeated Harry Dean Stanton show, and a dress rehearsal sketch with Moore as a man whose wife discovers their baby was named after an ex.
7. Hef-Tea Teabags (Sigourney Weaver / Buster Poindexter, October 11, 1986)
Shortly after Sarah Ferguson’s marriage to Prince Andrew, SNL did a commercial where Sigourney Weaver plays the Duchess of York as a giantess. The effect was achieved using forced perspective: slightly smaller sets, echo added to Weaver’s voice and camera shakes timed to her footsteps; she even enters the scene by breaking through the door. Weaver also jumps up and down on a pillowcase-sized “tea bag” (with more camera shake) and gnaws the bag’s string like a dog to show how tough the bags are. One of SNL’s more petty bits, its spot in the repeat is filled with Michael Austin’s short “Un Film De” (starring Rupert Everett).
8. Dover Chalk Works (Malcolm-Jamal Warner / Run DMC, October 18, 1986)
Dana Carvey and Malcolm-Jamal Warner as father and son? It happened. It’s slightly more believable when taking into consideration both were covered with white powder in a sketch set in an English chalk factory, with Malcolm’s character not wanting to follow in pop’s footsteps. He intends to avoid “white lung” by working in an eraser factory, but Dana suggests he talk with someone in the billiard chalk department (Jon Lovitz, covered in blue powder). Repeats of the Warner show replaced this bit with Spike Lee’s short film “Horn Of Plenty”.
9. First Impressions (Sting, January 19, 1991)
Victoria Jackson and Sting play a couple reminiscing about the time she met her future in-laws; specifically how she made an ass of herself by juggling Ming vases and wearing a plate of mashed potatoes as a hat. The first flash forward finds the two laughing about her foolishness, but in the second one, Jackson is replaced by a grotesque-looking dummy, and the final shot has Sting replaced as well. An interesting concept, but the technical aspects were a little less than seamless. The rerun replaces it with “The True Story of What Happened To Me,” a filmed version of one of Jack Handey’s pieces for Army Man.
10. Butt Pregnancy (Jason Lee / Foo Fighters, November 12, 2005)
Amy Poehler and Jason Lee are an expecting couple who surprise their baby shower guests when they reveal the baby is located in Poehler’s butt. Cue a lot of anal sex jokes, Lee and Poehler insisting this is normal, and Tina Fey as the sole voice of reason saying it isn’t. Chris Parnell gets a poop joke: “Whatever comes out of your behind,” he promises “I will love it.” The sketch gets one of the most random endings ever done on the show: a voiceover reveals Poehler’s baby grew up to be SNL cast member Will Forte as the scene cuts to Forte waving from the SNL home base stage. When the show rebroadcast that summer, Butt Pregnancy was missing, and in its place was a dress rehearsal sketch with office workers singing about their cafeteria’s dessert selection.
Honorable mention: Next Week, Running Late, Pardo credits voiceovers
Before the next show was advertised on a bumper right before the second commercial break, that task usually fell to Don Pardo, who had a regular voiceover during the credits until 1990, and on occasion someone from the cast would have a short segment (usually at the midnight station break) where they tell the audience who’s going to be on the show next week. As well, a member of the cast would be charged with the task of stalling for time if a sketch was cut last minute due to the show running late, a practice that has been replaced with extra shots of the SNL band. Pardo’s voiceovers were masked in reruns with a canned version of the closing theme, while the time-stalls and next weeks host segments were always removed but occasionally replaced with pre-tapes.
Ben Douwsma is a freelance writer and photographer. His sole motivation to seek fame and fortune is a burrito.