New Sketches in an Old Package: 22 Examples of New ‘SNL’ Content that Debuted in Reruns

Reruns of Saturday Night Live are usually edited somewhat from the original live broadcasts.  These edits are often just minor fixes of technical issues and improvements to the sound mix, but throughout the show’s history, the reruns have also cut entire sketches, or replaced them with dress rehearsal performances.

On rare occasions, a repeat of Saturday Night Live will feature new content.  This usually happens when another segment is cut from the rerun, and something is needed to fill time.  In the earlier seasons, sketches would often be added from different week’s shows, but even as early as Season 2, original content has turned up in an SNL rerun.  This content can either be a sketch that was performed at dress rehearsal but didn’t make it into the original show, or it can be a filmed segment or commercial; even musical performances from dress rehearsal can be used to fill time.

What follows is a list of many of the segments that made their debut in a rerun of SNL as opposed to the original live broadcast.  It is not a complete list, but is still fairly exhaustive considering the show’s long history.

Live sketches:

Mardi Gras Cold Opening
What it replaced
: The Real Chevy Chase (Eric Idle / Joe Cocker)
To promote SNL’s Mardi Gras special the next night, a cold opening was taped for the February 19, 1977 repeat of Eric Idle’s first SNL show.  Idle, carrying suitcases, believes he was booked to do the show again because he saw a TV listing for his appearance, and explains that NBC told him that everyone was down in New Orleans. Lorne Michaels points out the “repeat” indicator in the listing; there’s a brief summary of highlights from the rerun before Michaels invites him to participate in the next night’s show, hyping more of the special guests.  Laraine Newman closes out with “Live from New York, it’s a rerun of Saturday Night!” Buck Henry blows powdered sugar off a donut into her face, and the segment abruptly cuts to the opening montage.

Just Like Phoebe
What it replaced
: Miss Pregnant Teenage America (Dudley Moore / Rev. Al Green)

Maxwell (Dudley Moore) and new wife Kathy (Joan Cusack) run into his ex-girlfriend Phoebe (Nora Dunn) at the laundromat. It turns out that Maxwell has been trying to turn Kathy into a substitute for his ex, from wardrobe her to the career path he encouraged her to take; he even named their new baby Phoebe.  Justifiably, Kathy is upset by this revelation.

Hijacking
What it replaced: Johnny’s Replacement (Bruce Willis / Neil Young)

How would Bruce Willis’s wiseass persona from Moonlighting or Die Hard work in the real world?  Dave’s (Willis) wit impresses his seatmate (Victoria Jackson), but when three armed Middle Eastern terrorists (led by Phil Hartman) take over the flight, his rapid-fire jokes and clever remarks only provoke the hijackers to shoot people.  The sketch has not aged particularly well, especially in light of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and a few of the quips come off as a bit racially insensitive, but this sketch is available on Hulu and aired intact on the Classic SNL repeat of the Willis show a few years after the attacks.

Psychiatrist
What it replaced: Soviet Central Committee (Quincy Jones)

Dr. Wallace R. Fulton (Quincy Jones) gets his patient (Phil Hartman) to open up about his ex-wife’s affair; the ensuing session is scored with piano accompaniment and takes the form of a blues song.

Bomb Messages
What it replaced: Dance Party USA (Kevin Bacon / INXS)
In Saudi Arabia, Col. McMasters (Phil Hartman) addresses troops about a growing problem among their ranks: their sarcastic messages scrawled on the bombs they drop are not very good.  Unfortunately, the messages the soldiers come up with range from forced puns (“Here’s the Sa-bomb”) to overly oblique literary references, to inexplicable toothbrush-obsessed taunts.

Deserts
What it replaced: Butt Pregnancy (Jason Lee / Foo Fighters)
The dreary work day brightens when Lisa (Rachel Dratch) reports on the variety of desserts available in the cafeteria, as she and her co-workers break into song.

Films and commercials:

Audition  (dir: Aviva Slesin)
What it replaced: First Love, Part 2 (Martin Sheen / David Bowie)
Gilda Radner plays a casting director auditioning sets of twins with assorted talents, including various musicians, dancers, baton twirlers, thumb-sucking toddlers, and even Laraine Newman and her twin brother Paul.  At the end, it is revealed Gilda is reviewing the acts with her own (split-screen-created) twin Goldlie.

Un film de (dir: Michael Austin)
What it replaced: “Smack Dab In The Middle”, Hef-Tea Tea Bags (Sigourney Weaver)
Blair Tefkin, Antonia Dauphin and Rupert Everett star as a trio of heavily-accented artistes, whose dialogue occasionally appears on-screen as thickly-accented subtitles.  When Claudio (Everett) dismisses Sylvie’s (Tefkin) idea for a film involving a depressed woman getting hit by a truck, the three soon find that life imitates art.

Horn of Plenty (dir: Spike Lee)
What it replaced: Dover Chalk Works (Malcolm-Jamal Warner / Run-DMC)
One of the more downbeat pieces to air on SNL:  Branford Marsalis plays Cecil, a saxophonist between gigs whose girlfriend (Diahnne Abbott) tells him to “act like a man” and bring in some money. With his new baby beside him, Cecil busks on the corner of Fulton and Grand in Brooklyn and interacts with passersby until a trio of toughs with a loud boom box challenges him for his corner.  When he chases them off, a thief makes off with Cecil’s case full of money, and he is forced to start fresh, using his hat to collect money.

Coffee and Cigarettes (dir: Jim Jarmusch)
What it replaced: Pango, Giant Dog of Tokyo! (Rosanna Arquette / Ric Ocasek)

Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright talk and partake in the titular vices, and eventually end up swapping places for Wright’s upcoming dental appointment.  This short was eventually used as the first segment in Jarmusch’s full length feature of the same name released in 2003.

Under The Thinking Cap
What it replaced: Rodeo Drive Grab Bag (John Larroquette / Timbuk 3)
Artist and inventor Philip (now Pippa) Garner showcases absurd new products to help people with their workouts, in an extension of the “Better Living Catalog.”  Garner shows three inventions: Jump-N-Stick (a toilet plunger to help you dangle from the ceiling), Aero Briefs (a cone attached to running shorts to reduce wind resistance), and Heavy Head (a helmet with a spindle to add weights “for the bull-neck look”).

Ed’s Secret Life (dir: Michael Lehmann)
What it replaced: Elvira Weekend Update Commentary (Dabney Coleman / The Cars)
A documentary about Mr. Ed’s downward spiral following the cancellation of his sitcom, featuring interviews with William Schallert and Mick Fleetwood.  The film explores the famous talking horse’s involvement in the counterculture, ties to Charles Manson, involvement in pimping, and death, but a new lead ends up taking the host to Heather Locklear’s front door.

Puppeteers For Dukakis
What it replaced: McDonnell Rand (Matthew Broderick / The Sugarcubes)

Originally cut from the Matthew Modine show, this eventually turned up in a repeat of the Matthew Broderick episode.  A grotesque Splitting Image-style puppet George Bush is derided for his “sideshow antics” before attendees from that year’s Democratic National Convention are shown reacting to a puppet Dukakis lip-syncing the real candidate’s acceptance speech.  The puppet Dukakis is also seen in the typical “candidate” ad poses (including wearing a hard hat in a factory).

Broadway Story, Part 3 (Tom Schiller)
What it replaced: Florszag Travel (Demi Moore / Johnny Clegg & Savuka)
Schiller’s homage to 1930s movie serials first aired aired late in 1988-89, and only the first two installments aired before the season’s end.  A few weeks into the show’s summer hiatus, though, the third part of the story aired in the repeat of the Demi Moore show from November.  The story of Broadway Daisy’s big break set up in the previous films continues in “Phibes’ Infernal Machine”, where rival theatre owner Tristan Phibes (Dennis Miller) destroys Lionel Belmont’s (Jon Lovitz) theatre, killing father figure Pops (A. Whitney Brown).  Belmont and young newsboy Jimmy (Mike Myers) then plan their revenge with a zap ray.

The Land Before Television (dir: Tom Schiller)
What it replaced: Dieter In Space (Andie MacDowell / Tracy Chapman)

When Dana Carvey grows tired of the pitfalls of his TV fame, he wishes himself away from television into a wondrous land. Carvey soon learns that Peter Pan (Frank O’Hara) and the other inhabitants of The Land Before Television are bored silly living in people’s imaginations, even hitting the bottle.  Even the appeal of hearing stories read by Hans Christian Andersen (Drummond Erskine) wears off due to the author’s droning, monotonous voice.  Carvey soon learns his lesson about appreciating his fame (and residuals).

The True Story of What Happened To Me
What it replaced: First Impressions (Sting)

Similar to “Football Days,”which aired in the Jeremy Irons episode, Jack Handey narrates a short film about his younger self, where his father tries to tell him some bad news. To dad’s increasing frustration, Young Jack is entirely fixated on his hammer.

The Lost Episodes of I Love Lucy
What it replaced: the portion of the goodnights where Mike Myers leads a chorus of “O Canada” (Kirstie Alley / Tom Petty

Ricky Ricardo (Dana Carvey) vows revenge on President Kennedy for the Bay of Pigs Invasion in “Ricky Threatens The President,” one of the episodes in the new Time-Life video set.

Vacation (dir: Bruce McCulloch)
What it replaced: O’Callaghan and Son
This  short film doubles as a music video for “Eraserhead,” one of the tracks from McCulloch’s Shame-Based Man album, where he details his annual ritual of drinking alone in a darkened house and watching David Lynch’s debut film.

The Procedure (dir:  Adam McKay)
What it replaced: Sparks (Jackie Chan / Kid Rock)
The latest surgical breakthrough allows Christopher (Willem Dafoe) to have “Private Eyes” playing endlessly in his mind.  The cost of perpetual Hall & Oates in his head? Madness.

Missing segments:

James Minter Attack Ad (John Turturro / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)

When the John Turturro episode first aired, the show ran long, and the series of attack ads featuring dueling dentists Ira Resnick (Turturro) and Josh Levine (Chris Elliot) ran without this last installment, which pays off the entire series with Tim Meadows as a “third-party” dentist who doesn’t have formal training, but knows what patients want because he was a patient himself.

Lorne and Tom In A Tub (II and III) (Tom Green / David Gray)

Only one segment of the series featuring Lorne Michaels sitting in a bathtub with Tom Green made it to the original broadcast: the installment with the SNL creator sipping a juice box as Green plays with his rubber duck.  The other two segments turned up in the repeat: one features the “Canadian Buddies” musing about why people hate, while the other has Green freaking out when Michaels splashes him with soapy water.

Virgania Horsen Hot Air Balloon Rides (Part II) (Alec Baldwin / Jonas Brothers)

Kristen Wiig and the Lonely Island collaborated on a green-screen heavy commercial featuring an awkward entrepreneur hawking her hot air balloon rides as a terrorism-free travel option. The first segment aired in the Tina Fey / Carrie Underwood episode and the following season’s Alec Baldwin /Jonas Brothers show, but the latter show was short on material; the other segment featuring Horsen “flying” and dressed up as a gruff-voiced captain (who flirted with Horsen), was added to fill time on the rerun.

Ben Douwsma is a freelance writer and photographer. His sole motivation to seek fame and fortune is a burrito.

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