Saturday Night Live

Season 1 Episode 17

Ron Nessen/Toni Basil, Patti Smith

Aired Saturday 11:30 PM Apr 17, 1976 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
25 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Live from New York (pre-recorded), it's... Gerald Ford!

Sketches include "The Dead String Quartet," "Super Bass-O-Matic '76," "Briefing the President," "Digusting Jam Names," "Press Secretaries Through History" (three parts), "Lie Detector Test," "The New Army," "The Berkeley Collection," "Garbage" (film), "Autumn Fizz, the Carbonated Douche," "Tomorrow with Tom Snyder," "Singing at the Urinal" (film), "Supreme Court Spot Check," a guest performance by Billy Crystal, "Try-Hard 1-11," and "Misconceptions."

The Patti Smith Group performed "Gloria" and "My Generation."moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • Ron Nessen, Presidential Press Secretary to Gerald Ford, hosts this episode of "Saturday Night Live". Also stopping by the show is a then unknown comedian (and future "Saturday Night Live" regular) named Billy Crystal.moreless

    "Saturday Night Live" hit it's stride with this classic episode. The laughs start immediatley with the excellent "Dead String Quartet" opening sketch. There are a few firsts for the episode as well. Ron Nessen being the first political figure to host the show and the first appearance of Billy Crystal. This review would not be complete without mentioning the classic "Super Bassamatic 76" sketch. That sketch is just as funny today as it was when it first aired more than three decades ago. Dan Akroyd and Lorraine Newman could not have been more funnier if they tried. An excellent episode.moreless
  • Gerald Ford's press secretary Ron Nessen hosts this episode with the Patti Smith Group as musical guests. Billy Crystal also shows up for some stand-up comedy long before he was well-known in the least.moreless

    Host: Ron Nessen

    Musical Guest: Patti Smith Group

    Cold Open: The Dead String Quartet (Belushi, Chase, Morris, Newman + President Gerald Ford)

    --The same basic concept from the Gould/Murray episode, but this time when they all fall, we get a filmed message from President Gerald Ford, who says "Live From New York, it's Saturday Night!" The tone is set.

    Monologue: Duties (Nessen)

    --Ron compares his duties as a press secretary to performing on a live late-night comedy show and then goes on to describe what he must do to explain Ford's mishaps and flubs. Good start for Nessen.

    Commercial: Super Bass-O-Matic '76 (Aykroyd, Newman)

    --Terrific commercial where an announcer (Aykroyd) shills for his new product, the Super Bass-O-Matic '76, which ensures "no more scaling, cutting, or gutting" necessary. This is a classic and is definitely one of Aykroyd's best bits.

    An Oval Office (Nessen, Chase)

    --Ford is up to his usual mishaps and hijinx with Ron Nessen in his office as they discuss Nessen hosting SNL and Ford possibly making an appearance as well. They then go into the briefing for the next day ("That's all right, Ron. You're pardoned. Hahaha!"). This was pretty damn funny despite Nessen's blatant cue card reading at times.

    Commercial: Jam Names (Aykroyd, Belushi, Chase, Curtin, Morris)

    --The cast play advertisers that constantly try to one-up each other with disgusting names for jam with things like "painful rectal itch" and "mangled baby ducks." Garrett then finishes it off with "the brand so disgusting you can't say it on television." This was amusing as this was obviously to make the show as raunchy as possible.

    Patti Smith Group sings "Gloria"

    --Very lively and entertaining number from Patti and the gang...and yes, just as expected, it is an odd number to hear on an episode hosted by someone so closely associated with the president.

    Press Secretaries Through History: Catherine the Great (Nessen)

    --Announcing that Catherine the Great has died, her press secretary (Nessen) informs everyone that she will now be known as "...the mashed." Quick and alright sketch but it was proof that the writers know how to build ideas around the limits of the hosts.

    Lie Detector Test (Aykroyd, Radner)

    --David Eisenhower (Aykroyd) takes a lie detector test for Julie (Radner), but we can only hear their voices and can only see the test. This bit seems kind of pointless.

    Commercial: The New Army (Belushi)

    --A spokesman (Belushi) talks about how the new army is a volunteer-based operation now and makes a lot of drug references when talking about army specs. Belushi is funny here and the raunchiness of the sketch again makes it funnier because of the host.

    Weekend Update with Chevy Chase (also: Ron Nessen and Laraine Newman

    --Chase goes immediately into the Ford jokes and also has a great joke about the book that Nixon had written at the time. Laraine also gets to interview Mr. Boyardee (Nessen), Francisco Franco's press secretary, who assures everyone that the Generalissimo's condition is stable even though he is dead. Emily Litella (Radner) delivers an editorial on the "1976 Presidential Erection", where she's actually talking about a statue for President Ford but it still sounds like she's talking dirty. Pretty good stuff this time.

    Commercial: The Berkeley Connection

    --Jerry Rubin is back again in a repeat from the series premiere.

    Weis Film #10: Garbage

    --Several garbagemen talk about all the stuff they find in the garbage including dead bodies and such. This is pretty quirky and strange but it's actually a decent little film.

    Commercial: Autumn Fizz (Chase, Radner)

    --A woman (Radner) advertises for the "carbonated douche", Autumn Fizz. Good stuff.

    Tomorrow (Nessen, Aykroyd)

    --The debut of Aykroyd's Tom Snyder impression as he interviews Ron Nessen about certain matters of importance. The writing here is decent and Aykroyd really shines here with his great impression.

    Home Movie: Singing at the Urinal

    --Exactly as it sounds. Four men stand at the urinal and one by one, they begin singing a tune with each other. Um, that was...something.

    Press Secretaries Through History: Oedipus the King (Nessen)

    --This time, Nessen has some quick things to say about Oedipus. Not as good as the first.

    Supreme Court Spot Check (Aykroyd, Belushi, Chase, Curtin, Morris)

    --A couple (Chase, Curtin) get busted by the Supreme Court judges (Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, and some writers) while in bed as they perform a spot check on their actions. Hilarious concept to the sketch and the execution of it is really well-done as well. Another raunch-tastic sketch as well.

    Press Secretaries Through History: Thomas Jefferson (Nessen)

    --Nessen defends Jefferson's slaves as simply 6000 men who like to pick cotton under a blazing sun and are close friends with Jefferson. Best one out of the three.

    Billy Crystal Stand-Up

    --Billy Crystal (then known as "Bill" Crystal) talks about a jazz singer that he reunited with recently. This was surprisingly very boring.

    Misconceptions (Nessen, Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris)

    --Ron goes to prove a misconception wrong that says that too many cooks spoil a broth and it's proven thanks to Danny, John, and Garrett. Filler.

    Patti Smith Group sings "My Generation"

    --Terrific cover of the Who classic with PSG's own little twist on it for effect. The string of profanities at the end of the song add that much more to it.

    Ron thanks the cast and says goodnight to everyone to close the show. Despite the episode's raunchiness, Nessen still looks like he had a good time.

    Best segment: Super Bass-O-Matic '76

    Worst segment: Billy Crystal Stand-Up

    Host: Ron Nessen - 6/10

    Musical Guest: Patti Smith Group - 8/10

    This was one of the more intriguing episodes of the debut season for SNL, as they somehow managed to get Ron Nessen to host the show and then proceeded to put on some of the raunchiest sketches that they had done so far. The "Jam Names" sketch was probably the most guilty in that regard, but they also insulted Ford extra hard, made fun of the Supreme Court, had an ad for a "carbonated douche", and more. Nessen was apt as a host but he definitely wasn't off the charts or anything, whereas Patti Smith Group rocked everyone's socks off with their style and attitudes regarding everything. As for the cast, they all had their moments but Chevy and Dan stand out for "An Oval Office" and "Super Bass-O-Matic '76" specifically. The result of all this: another fun episode.

    Rating: 7.5/10moreless
Ron Nessen

Ron Nessen


Guest Star

Patti Smith

Patti Smith


Guest Star

Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford


Guest Star

Billy Crystal

Billy Crystal


Recurring Role

Alan Zweibel

Alan Zweibel

Judge / Cook

Recurring Role

Neil Levy

Neil Levy

NBC Page

Recurring Role

Featured Episode Clip

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • During their performance of "My Generation," the Patti Smith Group Patti shouts obscenities at the end of the song, then says "kill censorship!" Ironically, when this episode was repeated two years later a feedback sound effect was overdubbed to cover the obscenities, although you can still hear Patti's kill censorship comment. This censored version also appears in the First Season DVD set.

    • During the montage, Don Pardo reads the cast names, says "and Laraine Newman", forgetting that Gilda's picture comes after Laraine's. Pardo quickly cuts in "And Gilda Radner!" as he realizes his mistake.

    • During "An Oval Office," One camera pans a bit too far and reveals the stairs leadig to the studio balcony. (NBC's technical union was on strike that week, forcing heads of department to run the studio equipment.)

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Ron Nessen: [ confused, pause ] And that's why I want to host this show.. to demonstrate that this administration has a sense of humor. You may remember in 1968, Nixon said, "Sock it to me" on "Laugh-In", and it may have made the difference in the election.
      President Gerald Ford: He won, didn't he, Ron?
      Ron Nessen: Yes, he did, sir.
      President Gerald Ford: [ chuckles to himself ] By golly, he was funny then, and he's funny now. He's a funny man, Ron.
      Ron Nessen: Yes, sir.
      President Gerald Ford: That's why I gave him a break, Ron. [ to stuffed dog on floor ] Stop that infernal noise, Liberty! [ to Ron ] Well, by all means do the show.
      Ron Nessen: Thank you, sir. Now, the producer suggested you might like to do something on the show yourself.
      President Gerald Ford: Well, I can take a joke just so far.. [ stands up and walks behind desk ] ..but I won't have this high office ridiculed. I won't have me stumbling around.. [ walks into window ] ..making a fool of myself.. [ walks into flag and fumbles with it, trying to keep it from falling ] ..for some late night comedy show. [ picks up football helmet and puts it on ] I don't need to prove that I can fall down like Chevy Chase or be an athlete. Everyone knows I'm an athlete. [ accidentally kicks wastepaper basket and chases it, soon giving up and returning to his desk ] I'll never forget those wonderful days.. [ picks up tennis racket, throwd it in the air to try and catch it, but misses. Walks over to "Liberty", cups his hand near the dog's tail ] Gimme the ball, Liberty! [ takes off helmet, tries to drop-kick it but misses. Returns to desk and sits down ] Why don't you brief me on my schedule tomorrow, Ron?
      Ron Nessen: Alright, sir. [ looks at schedule ] You'll be awakened at 5:30 AM in the usual manner.
      President Gerald Ford: Ron, I'm getting pretty tired of the twenty-one gun salute which Dick Nixon instituted. Couldn't someone just speak in my ear or set the alarm clock?
      Ron Nessen: We tried the alarm clock at the beginning, if you remember, sir. When it went off, you answered the telephone and broke your ankle. I guess we should have briefed you on that. You see, sir, the telephone is the one that has the series of short staccato rings, and the alarm clock is the long continuous ring.
      President Gerald Ford: Well, never mind that now, go on.
      Ron Nessen: [ reading list, as Ford checks his own ] 6:17, shave and brush your teeth. 6:28, yawn and stretch. 6:30, get out of bed. 7:05, break the water glass by the sink and Mrs. Ford's shampoo bottle by mistake. 7:12, tumble down the stairs. 9:00 - well, do you remember the cow in Wisconsin, Mr. President?
      President Gerald Ford: The one that made the doody on my suit, Ron? Yes.
      Ron Nessen: Yes, well, at 9:00 you're going to give a medal to the secret service man who wrestled the cow to the ground.
      President Gerald Ford: Let's get to the point here. When is the Easter Egg Hunt?
      Ron Nessen: That's at 9:30, sir.
      President Gerald Ford: Well, I better hang the kids' stockings and get ready..
      Ron Nessen: I'm sorry, Mr. President, but that's the wrong holiday. I think we probably should have briefed you on this before.

    • Chevy Chase:  Good evening, I'm Chevy Chase and you're not.
      President Gerald R. Ford: (on film)  Good evening, I'm Gerald Ford and you're not.

  • NOTES (10)

    • Ron Nessen is the first NBC News reporter to host SNL. He was the network's Washington correspondent until he was hired as President Ford's press secretary in September 1974. As a result, he was also the first political figure to host the show.

    • Another consequence of the technicians' strike is that starting with this episode, the teletype sound effect heard behind Chevy Chase on "Weekend Update" was that from the Thomas J. Valentino/Major Records production music and sound effects library (classified by Valentino as "Teletype Receiver"). The usual teletype sound effect which originated from NBC's own in-house sound effects library (and was also heard on the opening theme for the one-minute NBC News Update newscasts in 1979-1980) would not return until the Elliott Gould/Leon Redbone episode.

    • Beginning with this episode, the technical credits (technical director, lighting, sound, video, and assistant lighting director) are removed from the end credit crawl. This can most likely be explained by the technical strike that affected the show this week; these credits eventually reappear in the Elliott Gould/Leon Redbone episode.

    • The "Complete First Season" DVD release has several prominent audio edits: the opening theme music is replaced with the canned theme heard in the menus and a redone Pardo voiceover, eliminating Pardo's stumble when announcing Newman and Radner's names. As well, the theme and applause plays continuously under Ford's introduction of Nessen. The theme music on the original broadcast sounded particularly crudely mixed (with the organ being quite prominent) and did not play during the Ford film. As well, the scattered applause that originally appeared at the end of the second Patti Smith Group performance was overdubbed with more robust applause.

    • During the goodnights, Nessen mentions that Toni Basil and the Muppets were unable to appear on tonight's show due to "technical complications," and mentions next week's host is Raquel Welch (adding "now they tell me!" afterward). This is edited in reruns. The 7/1/78 rerun also obscures Patti Smith singing "goddamn" with feedback squalls and adds a repeat of the "Try-Hard 1-11" commercial.

    • The "Berkeley Collection" and "Try Hard 1-11" ad spoofs are repeated from earlier in the season.

    • The show was done during a tech strike, which accounts for the particuarly stilted camera work.

    • This is the second episode this seasont to feature "The Dead String Quartet" as the cold opening.

    • The 38th President of the United States Gerald Ford makes three filmed appearances on this episode. He is the only president to say "Live From New York, its Saturday Night!". He's also the only person (other than castmembers Chevy Chase and Garrett Morris) to say the line during the first season.

    • Despite the special attention added due to the host, this episode has some of the most raunchiest material seen on SNL this far.