Saturday Night Live

Season 1 Episode 1

George Carlin/Janis Ian & Billy Preston

4
Aired Saturday 11:30 PM Oct 11, 1975 on NBC
7.9
out of 10
User Rating
75 votes
7

EPISODE REVIEWS
By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

EDIT
Live from New York, It's... Chevy Chase!

Sketches include "Wolverines," George Carlin's Stand-Up I, "New Dad Insurance," "The Courtroom," a performance by Andy Kaufman," George Carlin Stand-Up II, "Victims Of Shark Bite," "Jamitol," "Triopenin," "Triple-Trac," George Carlin Stand-Up III, "The Impossible Truth" (film), a performance by Valri Bromfield, "Bee Hospital," "Academy of Better Careers," "Show Us Your Guns," George Carlin Stand-Up IV, and "Trojan Horse Home Security."

Billy Preston performed "Nothing from Nothing" and "Fancy Lady"; and Janis Ian performed "At Seventeen" and "In The Winter."moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • How the whole mess started…

    5.0
    A Review by “HelloStuart,” the former HeyStu, Amateur Critic At Large



    Since I first started writing reviews of SNL episodes in May 2003, I had specifically wanted to tackle the series premiere with the intent of comparing and contrasting the show to what it is today. In that time, I’ve watched the show’s debut twice, first on the repeats that used to air on early Sunday mornings on NBC, and later on the first season DVD set released in late 2006. For various reasons, however, I didn’t have the time to jot down my thoughts on the formative days of Lorne Michaels’ brainchild until now.



    SNL’s first-ever host was George Carlin, the legendary stand-up comedian who at the time was promoting his new live album of random thoughts and musings, “An Evening with Wally Londo Featuring Bill Slaszo.” As many behind-the-scenes people and Carlin himself will admit, he has too drugged out to appear in any sketches, but made up for it by performing several of his best known riffs.



    It was fairly common in the first few years of SNL to have two musical guests in one broadcast, and this episode was no exception. The artist with the top billing was Billy Preston, the so-called “Fifth Beatle” and a force to be reckoned with in mid-1970s R&B. The artist with the lower billing was Janis Ian, a wispy singer-songwriter whom at that point was known only for the 1967 fluke hit/biracial love anthem “Society’s Child.”



    And now, the first of many sketch-by-sketch analyses:



    COLD OPENING: An Eastern European immigrant (Belushi) mimics everything his ESL tutor (O’Donoghue) says, right down to when he drops dead of a heart attack. Chevy comes out of nowhere to utter “Live from New York,” and a cultural institution is born.



    MONOLOGUE: George not-so-subtly appears by waltzing his way through the audience, and then proceeds to do his classic “baseball vs. football” riff. Legend has it that Carlin was stoned during his performance, but with his comic timing and strong material you can barely tell Carlin was JUI (joking under the influence).



    “New Dad”: An ad parody for replacing deceased and deadbeat breadwinners. “Tops in Pops.”



    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Billy sings his #1 hit, “Nothing for Nothing.” Man, it’s a shame the producers don’t let the musical guest design their own backdrop anymore.



    “Courtoom”: An assault victim (Curtin) writes down a vulgar comment that her alleged attacker made, but it gets misconstrued by two jurors in a clever one-joke sketch.



    Guest Performance: In an early network television appearance (it may have been his first-ever, I don’t know), Andy Kaufman makes an immediate impact with his lip-syncing the theme song from “Mighty Mouse.” A frequent guest performer in the early years, he even banned himself from the show in one of his trademark off-kilter publicity stunts. This bit is a great example of his sorely-missed genius.



    Monologue #2: More observations from George, who riffs on phony dialogue in TV commercials and weapon searches at airports.



    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Janis whispers and shouts her way through her other Top Ten hit, the melancholy “At Seventeen.”



    “Victims of Shark Bite”: Talk show host Jane Curtin discovers that her guest (Belushi) is lying about being a double-amputee. I’ll spare you a bad pun about fish, but in spite of this being John’s highlight of the night, this felt somewhat underwhelming.



    “Jamitol”: A soft-spoken man (Chase) sings the praises of an elixir that has turned his doting partner (O’Donoghue) into some sort of bearded superwoman. Personally, I didn’t get it; was this supposed to be a spoof of a forgotten TV ad, a vague attempt at gay-bashing, or both?



    WEEKEND UPDATE: The show’s longest-running and most scrutinized segment also made its debut tonight, with Chevy talking dirty on the telephone, the first of many swipes at President Ford, and Laraine’s live report from the infamous Blaine Hotel.



    “Triopenin”: The name of the product is a pun, because it’s an arthritis medicine with an impossible child-proof cap, get it? (sound of crickets) Eh, I tried.



    “The Land of Gorch”: Introducing us to Jim Henson’s shortest-lived and most-vilified set of Muppet characters, the tyrant Ploobis (Henson) needs the aid of his dim, abused sidekick Scred (Jerry Nelson) to figure out his wife’s hot flashes. The local advice-giver, a stone effigy known as the Mighty Favog (Frank Oz), offers the two a bad Catskills joke and little else. This breathtakingly unfunny segment proves that even from the get-go SNL and The Muppets were an awkward mix.



    Monologue #3: Further musings include vitamins, oxymorons, and his famous riff on “blue food.”



    FILM: “The Impossible Truth” examines the most shocking news stories from around the world, including a blind taxi driver that just won’t take a day off to Oregon’s age of consent being dropped to seven. It’s goofy, absurd, and for the most part a highlight in Albert Brooks’ uneven and short-lived stint as a contributor to the show. “Bee Hospital”: In yet another short, one-gag sketch, several dads-to-be from the Apis genus learn the fate of their newly-born offspring. This was silly and conceptual, but never honeyed.



    “The Academy of Better Careers”: Here’s another example of an ad spoof repeated to death during the first season, which like its peers feels awfully quaint in retrospect. A woman (Radner) chats with a boisterous announcer (Andrew Duncan, of “Slap Shot” fame) to learn how to become a stand-by operator. Again, I’m stymied by how this could be possibly be funny.



    Guest Performance: Canadian comedienne (say that five times fast) Valri Bromfield recreates a typical pep talk between a high school volleyball coach and her players.



    FILM: Repeated throughout the first season, “Show Us Your Guns” spoofs a popular ad campaign from the time. A van of marketing employees (actually the show’s writers) drive around Anytown, USA looking for the average American citizen’s weapon of choice.



    Monologue #4: Further tapping into the well, George makes a longwinded comment on God and whether or not religion is relevant in today’s society. An outspoken atheist, Carlin states his point delicately without alienating his audience, yet still delivers a witty and thoughtful commentary.



    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: It may not have been as big a hit as the song he performed earlier, but “Fancy Lady” does have a good pseudo-gospel feel.



    “Trojan Horse Home Security”: Two salesmen (Aykroyd, Morris) bully a middle-aged couple (Belushi, Radner) into buying an electronic home security system. A promising setup leads to boredom and monotony, a depressing sketch trajectory that would never be seen on the show ever again, not even to this day.



    “Triple-Trac”: Tonight’s award for the most ludicrously outdated sketch of the show is this ad spoof for razors with (gasp!) three blades. Who knew the slightest change in technology could kill a joke?



    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “In The Winter” proves to be a memorable album cut for Janis, thus proving that there’s more substance to her than the average two-hit wonder.



    With that, the storied history of SNL ends its unremarkable first chapter. The sketches in this episode are typical of the early days of the show; each bit has a one or two-joke premise, and its lifespan seldom went beyond three minutes. Despite the brevity, they were just as hit and miss as any other live broadcast that would follow this adequate first broadcast. The young, promising cast was barely utilized, but by the crucial third and fourth broadcasts they stole the limelight and steadily climbed the ladder to stardom. Certain elements of the show would be fine-tuned as the first season wore on, with the Muppets going from prominent recurring segment to pariah of the SNL writing staff, but watching such an influential show at a rough-draft stage proves that not everything hits the ground running.



    Contact “HelloStuart” (“heystu” at the old TV Tome) at sma17kc@aim.com.moreless
  • The late George Carlin helps usher in a new era in television with the premiere episode of NBC's Saturday Night.

    7.5
    The opening episode of the historic first season is very unique and not just for the obvious reason that it is the very first one. It's also unique because of the way it's presented. It's almost presented as an experiment or trial run as to how future episodes would proceed. That does not mean it is bad however. The opening scene simple as it is, is very well done. It's probably the one thing that is remembered the most about this particular episode and understandably so. The late John Belushi and the late Michael O'Donoghue do a terrific job. The late George Carlin is his usual reliable self delivering well written monologues. I particularly like how he handled a tough situation when one of his jokes fell flat (Have I told these jokes before?"). Jim Henson's Muppets are another highlight. Though they were not around for very long, King Ploobis, Skred and The Mighty Favog were very entertaining. This review would not be complete without mentioning the great musical perfoances by the late Billy Preston and Grammy winner Janis Ian. They help set the stage for the many excellent musical guests who have followed. Overall, this episode was a good start to a television icon.moreless
  • A classic show is born (RIP George Carlin).

    9.5
    Well in honor of George Carlin SNL ran its first episode. I see most of the reviews of the episode are positive and I will agree with them. Man even comparing this episode to any of the crap SNL produces nowadays is mind blowing as there is no comparison. Today's SNL is CRAP, yesterday's SNL was classic, edgy, politically incorrect, original and most important funny, very funny. This is something that I can't say much about the SNL of today. Anyways on to the pilot episode:



    The opening sketch with John Belushi learning ESL was absolutely brilliant, nowadays of course so called edgy comedies have joined on the immigrant jokes bandwagon but SNL to do this and do it in a way that is funny is saying something. Coincidentally, this sketch is often replayed a lot during any mention of John Belushi. Coincidence? Not really. It was also played during the 20 or 15 th anniversary celebration many years ago. Great Sketch.



    George Carlin does his monologue and the crowd loves it. Whether Carlin was "on drugs" during this show seems to be a moot point, he was funny even though as stated he does not appear in the sketches. The "courtroom" sketch was funny.



    Now we get to Andy Kaufman doing the famous Mighty Mouse song and yes Andy just like Belushi was often funny. In the hands of anybody else, this would have failed miserably but only Andy could make something like this so hilarious.



    Black artist Janis Ian performs her music and is very touching. The "Shark Bite" sketch was funny as hell. SNL often routinely did sketches where there was a con man or a disturbed individual trying to manipulate a person or persons to their scam and this was one of them. Dan Aykroyd often played this slimeballs like a true genius here it was another comedy genius John Belushi doing it. He and Curtin had chemistry here. The "Jamitol" sketch was average but considering the really touch subject of two gay men there's not much they could have done here although in later sketches they would really push the envelope of this subject (remember the famous Bill Murray/OJ Simpson kiss spoofing Mandigo?)



    The debut of Weekend Update was decent and I always enjoyed Chevy Chase making fun of President Ford. Again another classic routine that SNL would do smartly is making fun of Presidents especially Presidents that deserve to be made fun of which continue to this day with the likes of George W. Bush.



    The Muppets sketch involving The Land of Gorch did feel a bit out of touch but anybody who knew about the Muppets must have loved this sketch. I liked the Muppets so seeing this back it still made me laugh and at the very least nostalgic so high points here as well.



    The Bee Hospital sketch is admittedly a dumb sketch but in its defense is funny once you get used to it. Today SNL passes of MANY dumb sketches for a laugh but without the likes of a Chevy Chase, Belushi or an Aykroyd is just doesn't achieve its desired result.



    One of my favorite politically incorrect (or was it?) sketches was the "Show Us Your Guns" home video. This was funny to see normal people who you wouldn't see carrying a gun in all sorts of situations shows us their guns. I mean think about that for a sec we are nation of gun lovers that much is true by the numerous gun related death in America year after year, yet whenever the media or somebody else points out the problems of having so many guns, gun lovers turn a blind eye to this since of course it doesn't involved them since they are not dead. I loved this sketch it showed me that in a sarcastic, dark humored way the writers were in tune into what was really going in society meaning that while people object to guns in general, many would people feel safer having one even though the results might be deadly Again whatever the intent was it was a funny sketch. Nowadays you'll see many sketches spoofing gun use, gun ownership done to the point of insanity.



    "The Home Security" sketch was another brilliant sketch. Again another really original sketch where the writers are trying to show capitalism, manipulation, and advertising all in one scene. Brilliant. The sketch is basically about a family (Belushi and Gilda Radner) being manipulated (often forcefully and in poor taste) into acquiring a home security they don't really need. Hmmm some things don't change do they? We still got advertisers and slimeballs hit us with products we don't really need in the hopes that they will solve our paranoid fears. This sketch is done brilliant by Aykroyd, Morris, Gilda and John. It's not a failure at all, it might be the most brilliant sketch of the night.



    After watching the pilot episode so many years later, there is no doubt in my eyes that this really was the catalyst for many cutting SNL shows to come. Then you have the fact most of the cast members from Belushi, Chase, Curtin, Morris, Aykrod are still heads and shoulders still better and funnier than even the new cast of SNL today well it's not hard to realize how SNL has achieved such longevity. If only the shows they had today are of same high quality.moreless
  • This Episode was From 10/11/1975

    7.6
    I Like this Episode even you know it's from the 1970's George Carlin is a Funny Man in the 40s

    Now He in his 70s On NBC in October 11, 1975 and On NBC in June 28, 2008

    That Almost 33 Years since it's been on.

    But That's Cool SNL was the NBC's Saturday Night.

    1975-2008 That's Long.

    The 5 1970's Fake Ads are funny too.

    (Show us your Guns Ad) Not funny the people could of pulled a trigger. But it's a Fake ad

    The 4 George Carlin Jokes are cool too.

    ...and it's Rated TV-14 But this show was not Been rated in the 1970's

    ...and that's it for me.moreless
  • The very first episode with George Carlin hosting and Janis Ian & Billy Preston bringin' the music on!

    6.5
    Host: George Carlin

    Musical Guests: Billy Preston & Janis Ian



    Cold Open: The Wolverines (Belushi, Chase, O'Donoghue)



    --An immigrant (Belushi) tries to learn dialect from his coach (O'Donoghue), before copying his heart attack. Chevy Chase then walks out and says the immortal line. Cute opening.



    Monologue: Baseball & Football (Carlin)



    --George riffs on the two sports quite amusingly.



    Commercial: New Dad (Aykroyd, Chase)



    --Funny commercial parody where the insurance agency replaces your dad (Aykroyd) altogether with a new one (Chase) should tragedy strike.



    Billy Preston sings "Nothing From Nothing"



    --Great song and Preston is really into it here as well, connecting with the live audience.



    Piece of Evidence (Aykroyd, Belushi, Chase, Coe, Curtin, Morris, Radner)



    --A woman (Curtin) receives a note so sexually perverse that she can't read it out loud, causing another woman (Radner) to think of it in a different way when a fellow juror (Belushi) passes it to her. Another amusing bit.



    Andy Kaufman lip-syncs to the Mighty Mouse theme



    --Just as it says although it's a lot more amusing than it sounds.



    Monologue #2: Airport Security (Carlin)



    --More goodness from Carlin here.



    Janis Ian sings "At Seventeen"



    --Good performance I suppose, although it wasn't really my type of music.



    Victims of Shark Bite (Belushi, Curtin)



    --A man (Belushi) claims to have been bitten by a shark, but the interviewee (Curtin) sees past his "clever" disguise. Amusing to a point, but not great.



    Commercial: Jamitol (Chase, O'Donoghue)



    --Um...okay.



    Paul Simon quickly shows up to announce that he'll be hosting next week with Phoebe Snow, Art Garfunkel, and Randy Newman making appearances. Yes, it's the MusicMania episode.



    Weekend Update with Chevy Chase (also: Laraine Newman)



    --Chevy introduces us to his shtick tonight and Newman provides a report of murders at the Blaine Motel. Good start to the longest-running SNL sketch ever.



    Commercial: Triopenin (Chase, Coe)



    --Arthritis medication that you can't even open. Lame.



    The Muppets



    --Oh man. These sketches. This was pretty bland and awful, but the muppets would have their occasional good moments...mostly when they interacted with cast members.



    Monologue #3: Wondering (Carlin)



    --George asks the people if they ever wonder about certain things. More good stuff here.



    Albert Brooks Film: The Impossible Truth



    --This was a promising start to Brooks' film "career" on SNL, but it never really worked in the long run because this is probably one of his better films.



    Bee Hospital (Aykroyd, Belushi, Chase, Coe, Curtin, Morris, Newman, O'Donoghue, Radner)



    --A quick bit that introduces us to strange recurring characters in the Bees. Kinda pointless time-filler.



    Commercial: Academy of Better Careers (Aykroyd, Chase, Coe, Curtin, Morris, Newman, Radner)



    --Decent little commercial that has a woman (Radner) applying to be a stand-by operator.



    Valri Bromfield



    --The comedian talks about valley girls and schoolteachers in a quirky and amusing little bit, but can't compare to Kaufman or Carlin from earlier. Still, nice effort.



    Commercial: Show Us Your Guns



    --Pretty funny ad spoof. I especially like how the cop is the only one to not have a gun to show.



    Monologue #4: Religion (Carlin)



    --His best one yet, Carlin delivers another funny riff but also makes some good points as well.



    Billy Preston sings "Fancy Lady"



    --A decent song from Preston.



    Home Security (Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, Radner)



    --Two spokesperson for Trojan Horse Home Security (Aykroyd & Morris) break into the home of a couple (Belushi, Radner) to show them how easily it could've been done without the help of their system. Typical 10-to-1 sketch.



    Commercial: Triple-Trac



    --Blah. We have these razors now, so this has lost most of its oomph.



    Janis Ian sings "In The Winter"



    --Decent song to close the show.



    Best segment: Carlin's final monologue

    Worst segment: The Muppets



    Host: George Carlin - 8/10



    Musical Guests: Billy Preston - 9/10 Janis Ian - 7.5/10



    Overall, a good first try but the show was PACKED full of stuff and a lot of it was unnecessary time-filler. The first half hour built up nice, but after that it was pretty spotty. Still, good debut show for the current longest-running program on television.



    Rating: 6.5/10moreless
George Carlin

George Carlin

Himself

Guest Star

Billy Preston

Billy Preston

Himself

Guest Star

Valri Bromfield

Valri Bromfield

Herself

Guest Star

Andy Kaufman

Andy Kaufman

Himself

Recurring Role

Albert Brooks

Albert Brooks

Himself

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

FILTER BY TYPE

  • TRIVIA (3)

  • QUOTES (19)

    • Chevy Chase: Our final story tonight concerns the birth of a baby sandpiper at the Washington Zoo. It's the first such birth in captivity on record. The pip made its debut at 9:18 this morning, weighing in at just under fourteen grams, and, according to zoo officials, resembled its mother quite closely. The name given our fuzzy little friend? Simply "Pip". One humourous note: the bird was stepped on and crushed to death this afternoon by Goggles, the baby hippo born in captivity last Wednesday.

    • Chevy Chase: (President) Ford was on the campaign trail, announcing in Detroit that he had written his own campaign slogan. The slogan: "If He's So Dumb, How Come He's President?"

    • George Carlin: Thank you! Talk about a live show! It's nice to see you, welcome, and thanks for joining us- live! Um... I'm kinda glad that we're on at night, so that we're not competing with all the football and baseball. So many, man... and this is the time of year when there's both, you know?
      Football's kinda nice, they changed it a little bit- they moved the hash marks in. Guys found it and smoked them, anyway! But you know, football wants to be the number-one sport, the national pastime. And I think it already is, really, because football represents something we are- we are Europe Junior. When you get right down to it, we're Europe Junior. We play a Europe game. What was the Europe game? (high voice) "Let's take their land away from them! You'll be the pink, on up; we'll be blue, the red and the green!" Ground acquisition. And that's what football is, football's a ground acquisition game. You knock the crap out of eleven guys and take their land away from them. Of course, we only do it ten yards at a time. That's the way we did it with the Indians- we won it little by little. First down in Ohio, Midwest to go!

    • George Carlin: The term Jumbo Shrimp has always amazed me. What is a Jumbo Shrimp? I mean, it's like Military Intelligence- the words don't go together, man.

    • George Carlin: I'll take my vitamin. Do you take vitamins? Did you ever travel with vitamins? Oh, well... if you take a lot of vitamins, and they're not the kind that says "Joe's Vitamins" on the side "the plain-looking vitamins" and you have a whole lot, and you don't the whole big jumbo thing on the road, you take as many as you need - and they're not marked. And the jar you put them in isn't marked. If a policeman really wants to give you a hard time, he can hold you overnight while they check the vitamins. That's why I travel with Flintstones vitamins!

    • George Carlin: Why is there no blue food? I can't find blue food - I can't find the flavor of blue! I mean, green is lime; yellow is lemon; orange is orange; red is cherry; what's blue? There's no blue! Oh, they say, "Blueberries!" Uh-uh; blue on the vine, purple on the plate. There's no blue food! Where is the blue food? We want the blue food! Probably instores immortality! They're keeping it from us!

    • George Carlin: Did you ever look at yourself in store windows when you're walking past the stores? "Hey, I look cool in the store window, man! (lukewarm audience reaction) Have I done these jokes before tonight? Please tell me.

    • George Carlin: Did you ever dial the phone and forget who you're calling? Don't you feel dumb? You don't know whether to hang on and hope you remember the voice or not.. Then when you remember who it was, you have to call back, so you change your voice so they don't think you're a moron.

    • George Carlin: What do dogs do on their day off? They can't lie around, that's their job, man!

    • George Carlin: Oh.. there's a moment... coming. There's a moment coming, it's... it's not here yet. It's on the way... It's still in the future. Here... here it is! (a beat) Oh.. it's gone, man. There's no present, man. Everything is the near future and the recent past. No wonder we can't get anything together, we've got no time, huh?

    • George Carlin: As you know, they search you pretty well at the airport. There'll be lots of places later they'll be searching us, but the airport is where they're kind of trying it out. And, as you know, they search your bags, too, to make sure there's no weapons. "Don't want any weapons on the plane! you know." They have the little fluoroscope job, and they run you through the model home, and: "No weapons! Let 'em on!" You get on the plane, and you're clean! What do they do, they give you a knife and a fork, and all the wine you can drink, man. I mean, I could take over a plane with a piece of looseleaf paper, right? Just hold it at the stewardess's head and threaten paper cuts! "Do what he says! Do what he says!"

    • George Carlin: Have you ever tried to throw away an old wastebasket? You can't do it. People keep bringing it back to you, man. "Hey, uh... your wastebasket is in the garbage here!"

    • George Carlin: Do you ever look at the crowds in old movies and wonder if they're dead yet? I can't help it.

    • Professor: Next...
      (The Professor suddenly gasps, clutches his chest, and falls off his chair to the floor, obviously stricken with a heart attack. The Immigrant looks puzzled for a moment, then repeats the Professors gasp, clutches his chest, and throws himself on the floor.)

      (Stage Manager enters the scene, peers at the two lifeless figures and looks into the camera and smiles.)
      Stage Manager: Live from New York... it's Saturday Night!

    • Chevy Chase: Our top story tonight: dedication ceremonies for the new Teamsters Union Headquarters building took place today in Detroit, where Union President Fitzsimmons was reported to have said that former President Jimmy Hoffa will always be a cornerstone in the organization.

    • George Carlin: How many of you have heard this in your home: "Where's the good scissors? I can't keep anything nice in this house." Here's another thing you don't hear at home, mostly guys say this: "Hey, who stole my underwear! Somebody stole my underwear!" "Which one?" "This week's underwear."

    • Chevy Chase: (talking into the telephone) What are you wearing right now? (smiles) No bathrobe? (notices the audience, hangs up telephone) Good evening, I'm Chevy Chase!

    • Announcer: New Dad- tops in pops.

    • Teacher: I would like... to feed your fingertips... to the wolverines.

  • NOTES (12)

  • ALLUSIONS (1)

    • Chevy Chase: Our top story tonight: dedication ceremonies for the new Teamsters Union Headquarters building took place today in Detroit, where Union President Fitzsimmons was reported to have said that former President Jimmy Hoffa would always be a cornerstone in the organization.

      After Hoffa's sudden disappearance, it was widely rumored that he had been killed by the mafia and buried under certain buildings. In this reference, the word "cornerstone" has a double-meaning.

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