Thursday, January 9, 2014

Readers' Write (5): Face-Off! Saturday Night Live vs. Second City TV

While Karen and Doug are on vacation in January, our readers have been entrusted with carrying on the daily conversations.  Today's Face-Off is a do-it-yourselfer.  As we've done in the past, the first commenter gets to pick today's topic of conversation.

Generally speaking, Face-Off is for two singers, comic characters, bands, films, etc. to go up against each other.  For example, we've run a post that asked readers to choose between Captain America's two main partners:  Bucky Barnes and the Falcon.We've also discussed Medusa and Crystal as replacement's for the Invisible Girl.

Thanks for holding it down for us!

David B. says -- Saturday Night Live vs. Second City TV!  And for good measure, why not also throw in a thought for Kids in the Hall and/or Fridays.


david_b said...

Hmmm, slow start today..:

Second City TV vs. Saturday Night Live.

Which was funnier, more original, better break-out stars (Murray, Belushi, Candy..), which kept you rolling on the floor more..?

You can also mention 'Kids in the Hall' as another great Canadian entry.


Edo Bosnar said...

Although I've watched a bit of SCTV, and loved Bob & Doug McKenzie, I'll go with SNL, just because I've watched so much more, and because I generally prefer its break-out stars like Murray, Belushi, Murphy, Meyers and more recently Tina Fey. Also, in some cases, I think some of these stars did arguably their best/funniest work for SNL; mainly I'm thinking of Eddie Murphy, but also Mike Meyers (the Sprockets sketches were genius).
However, given how long it's been on the air, I acknowledge that the show has had its low points, and for a while there, from around 1980, ABC's all-too-short-lived Fridays was actually a much funnier show...

david_b said...

Ahhhh, Melanie Chartoff from 'Fridays' will FOREVER be in my head and heart.

Second City had such a great way of showcasing their skits, with the entire Melonville studio bit, really playing to the strengths of Eugene Levy and cast.

Who could NOT love 'Count Floyd'..?

As for SNL, I'm still waiting for the Dick Ebersol years to be put on DVD, when he was the 'first' to bring it back from cancellation.., with folks like Murphy, Piscopo, Tim Kazurinsky, and Robin Duke. I know there's a lot of legal wranglings there.

All the Murphy and Piscopo stuff..? All the Gumby skits, like the 'Gumby Christmas Special'..? I know the 'classic Not Ready For Prime Time cast' had come and gone by this time, but this was some seriously funny stuff I hope we'll see one day.

mr. oyola said...

I have not watched enough SCTV to weigh in and I only barely remember Fridays.

Kids in Hall is obviously fantastic.

I also quite liked several bits on Mad TV.

david_b said...

I had forgotten that Lorne Michaels also created (or co-created) 'Kids in the Hall' for CBC and HBO.

They obviously have the coolest theme song: "Having an Average Weekend" by the Canadian band Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. I started playing that riff on my guitar years ago and it's pretty awesome.

Garett said...

SCTV was a great show! Bob + Doug McKenzie became the famous characters, but those comedians played so many other great characters...Dave Thomas especially with his Bob Hope impression, Bill Needle's mailbag, and his fast talking K-Tel salesman. Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty doing the news, Count Floyd, dance host Rockin' Mel Slirrup...Martin Short as Ed Grimly, John Candy as Johnny LaRue and Dr. Tongue. The ladies Andrea Martin as Edith Prickly, and Catherine O'Hara as Lola Heatherton. They created great recurring characters, and it was fun when they added character on character: John Candy as Dr. Tongue playing in a cowboy role! Also they had the long full-episode themes, like the Soviet station CCCP1 cutting in to SCTV's signal. Saturday Night Live had bigger stars, but SCTV was the little engine that could, and had smarter, more consistently funny episodes.

Kids in the Hall was a treat, and very much different than Saturday Night Live. At the same time subtler and more outrageous humour! They'd present everyday situations, in an office meeting, at the bank, police officers taking a coffee break, etc and introduce bizarre ideas into that ordinary situation, and see what happens. By contrast Saturday Night Live was mainstream, broad humour that wasn't trying much new. I did like Mike Myers, Chris Farley at that time in the early '90s, but the Kids were more edgy and inventive. You could see the difference in humour styles when one Kid Mark McKinney ("I'm crushing your head")went to SNL, and didn't fit in at all with the show.

So Canada produced SCTV in the '80s, Kids in the '90s...but not an ensemble comedy hit in the '00s. This Hour Has 22 Minutes is pretty tame, although star Rick Mercer has some good observations, including his fun special "Talking to Americans".

I watched SNL recently, and often their problem is taking a moderately funny premise, then running it into the ground. The writing is poor-- maybe it sounds funny on paper, but in the live delivery the audience is a step ahead of the comedy. It takes a great comic star to overcome that, and that's when SNL succeeds, when a new Eddie Murphy or Mike Myers comes on.

Anonymous said...

Well, I never watched "Fridays" (although I agree with david_b about Melanie Chartoff), but I liked SCTV as a kid because it was a "Canadian" show and we didn't have too many like it up here. Of course, Kids in the Hall was on when I was in high school, so I was able to appreciate the more "adult" content by that time.

That being said, SNL from about 1987-2000 was brilliant, especially the late 80s stuff with Hartman, Lovitz, Carvey, Dunn, Jackson, Miller, Nealon, Hooks, etc. I still find myself quoting stuff from those shows.

Mike W.

david_b said...

Mike W., nice mention of later-day SNL. Not my particular favorite period, but Dennis Miller was great on Weekend Update.

Gawd, I miss Phil Hartman. Wasn't he AWESOME..? I still find myself quote one of his characters.., 'I'm... just.. a caveman lawyer'.

Remember when Eddie Murphy had the call-in number to save 'Larry the Lobster'..? It was an overwhelming tally in favor of saving Larry, until Eddie mentioned a letter saying 'black people don't eat seafood', so he started eating a plate of lobster on-air. Eddie's SNL tenure was 'in-your-face' hilarious for live TV, just the thing SNL needed at the time.

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, man, I totally remember that lobster bit, that was so funny.
And I really liked that late '80s/early '90s phase of SNL - to me, that period often reached the heights of the original "not ready for prime time" cast. And yes, I miss Hartman, he was indeed awesome.

As for Kids in the Hall, I unfortunately only watched it occasionally when it first came on. However, what I do recall was pretty damn funny...

J.A. Morris said...

I like them both, I own dvds of the classic SNL & all the SCTV that's (legally) available.

I'd lean slightly in favor or SCTV. Because they didn't just create a comedy show, they created their own universe. For example, Count Floyd wasn't played by Joe Flaherty, he was played by SCTV news anchor Floyd Robertson. Which added an extra layer to the show & characters.
Does anyone remember SCTV's 'Stairways To Heaven' commercial?

Garett said...

Great Stairways clip, J.A.! haha There's Dave Thomas with his K-Tel voice.

Karen said...

You all have much better memories than me.

But I do recall certain inspired bits from SCTV - I loved John Candy's Fishin' Musician, and of course Count Floyd. I think pound for pound, SCTV might have the edge, because SNL has had a lot of crap years.

Fridays I recall being cool, although the specifics evade me (brain like swiss cheese). Michael Richards was funny on it. I also enjoyed In Living Color for a while, but I guess that's post-Bronze Age, isn't it?

Doc Savage said...

If we're comparing SNL and SCTV during the time they were both on the air, SCTV was far, far funnier. I hardly ever laughed out loud at SNL and it was past its prime, whereas SCTV sometimes made my stomach hurt from laughing too much. KITH was good but I found their stage show funnier than the TV show for whatever reason. Never seen Fridays.

Count Floyd, the Schmenges, Don Caballero, Johnny Larue, Swami Sweatsocks, Bob & Doug, Sammy Maudlin, Lola Heatherton, William B. Williams, Bobby "As a comic in all seriousness", they blow SNL out of the water!

Anonymous said...

Let me just throw this out there for no good reason:
"Fred Garvin, male prostitute."
Portrayed by Dan Akroyd on SNL.

Tony said...

SNL was good during the periods of Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscopo and Billy Crystal. And when Mike Myers and Dana Carvey were on, also the original cast. But SNL was hit and miss for a lot of years, and it still is. Being a Canadian (and from Toronto) it would have to be SCTV, hands down winner. All my friends in high school were watching it as well, and we had our own language when we were discussing. It was always funny, filmed locally, and the cool thing about it, was that SCTV was it's own world, not a show poking fun at commercials, politicians, or tv shows. The stars were characters playing OTHER characters. You would see local commercials (Phil's Nails, Crazy Hy's..on Landsdowne near Pape) local movie shows with hosts of the news playing the host of the movie was just like watcjing your neighborhood tv station.

Tony said...

Karen said...

JA and Tony: thanks for the clips! Just makes me want to watch more SCTV.

Edo Bosnar said...

Second the big thanks to J.A. and Tony for the links. Man, now I really, really, really want to hear a Barry White cover of "Stairway to Heaven." Also, the end of that clip is a bit of a (time) trip: it reminds of the days of 8-tracks, and that fact that they used to cost more than LPs (as did cassettes, apparently).

Doc Savage said...

Not getting all this love for the Dana Carvey-Mike Myers years. Seriously, anytime in the late '80s to early '90s when Phil Hartman wasn't on the screen, that show just flatlined.

Michelle said...

All Time? You've gotta go with SNL.

Head to head when they were both on the air? I enjoyed SCTV more at the time. Does anyone remember Melvin & Howards? The straight parodies were really well done.

I remember Fridays - isn't that where Michael Richards got his start? Definitely a great show!

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