Tag Archive | SNL

Play Review: With a Little Help . . . It’s John Belushi at Theatre 80

John Belushi Play Card
Photos By Gail, Except Where Noted

To many, comedian and actor John Belushi still feels like a contemporary artist — owing to the tenacity with which his work has embedded itself in pop culture — but the fact is that Belushi has been dead for a long time. A friend who accompanied me to the opening-night performance of a new play entitled With a Little Help . . . It’s John Belushi wasn’t quite two years old in March of 1982, when the hard-partying performer died of an accidental drug overdose in a Hollywood hotel room. But while she wasn’t even born yet when John Belushi broke comedic ground during the first incarnation of Saturday Night Live, and probably didn’t see Animal House until it had been in the can for 20 years, my friend has a conversational knowledge of all his best bits. That’s what it means to be a legend.

John In Nativity Scene
Jack Zullo (Far Right) as John Belushi in a Scene from With A Little Help . . . (Photo By K. Bentley)

The story behind The Rise and Fall of John Belushi is seriously overdue for a stage or screen adaptation, and playwright/actor Jack Zullo — who fully embodies Belushi’s manic energy and uncompromising spirit in the title role — admits that it’s been over thirteen years since he was first inspired to work on John Belushi as a character study, and immersed himself in the comedian’s material. What started out as a spec feature film script evolved into this current stage production of With A Little Help . . . It’s John Belushi, which was previously honed through multiple West Coast performances. With a goal of finding a place in the NYC theater scene, Zullo aspires to reverse-engineer the play back into a feature-length script to tell the story of John’s life in narrative form; something that has been attempted by many, but not successfully executed.

With a Little Help opens quietly on a scene in the bungalow at the Chateau Marmont where John Belushi spent his final moments of life, having just fatally overdosed on a combination of heroin and cocaine. As he collapses on a mattress and takes his last breath, a chorus of disembodied voices ring out in the theater, admonishing the reckless thirty-three-year-old for being such a “dumb sonofabitch.” But the tragic tone quickly segues into a high-energy flashback of John, accompanied by his girlfriend Judy and best friend Steve, on a night in 1967 when he attended his first comedy show at Chicago’s The Second City club. John is visibly bursting with creative inspiration as he declares that he has found his life’s calling and intends to pursue a career in comedy.

From there, we follow John Belushi’s rise to prominence as an iconic American entertainer; working his way up from an indie college performer in 1968, to Manhattan in the mid-1970s, where he was part of the infamous National Lampoon Magazine and its Radio Hour, all the way through his four-year stint as one of the Not Ready For Prime Time Players on Saturday Night Live.

The story of Belushi’s quick ascent to pop culture success shines the spotlight on his struggles to maintain control on the excesses afforded a budding star, counterbalanced with his desire to always be ahead of the curve by keeping the work fresh and exciting, and setting trends rather than following them. With a Little Help effectively revisits a time in American TV when the field of comedy was a Wild West for creative invention. John Belushi’s career was a wild ride while it lasted, but it’s not like we don’t already know how the journey ends.

Ticket Stub

With a Little Help takes its title from the now-legendary Saturday Night Live skit in which Belushi gives an over-the-top impersonation of British singer Joe Cocker’s eccentrically-mannered performance of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” This skit is recreated in the play, as are musical numbers made famous by The Blues BrothersBelushi’s band with Dan Aykroyd. The production features the terrific Crazy Tomes Band, who provide a live soundtrack, accompanying the many musical numbers in the show, and playing a set of covers before the play starts.

In addition to the great live music, With a Little Help truly becomes a multi-media production, as it incorporates both newly-produced and archival film and video clips, which further the action in ways that would otherwise be impossible, such as when John and friends experience an LSD trip, or when SNL cast members indulge in drug binges that history tells us were common on that set.

The play’s supporting cast of characters includes John Belushi’s devoted wife Judy Jacklin (Jennifer Lieberman, who also appears as Gilda Radner), as well as a who’s who of the comedian ‘friends’ who supported, collaborated with, and cajoled Belushi on his path to fame, such as the National Lampoon’s Tony Hendra (Len Rella), Christopher Guest (Benjamin Batchelder), Brian Murray (Artie Brennan, who also play’s Belushi’s close friend Steve Beshekas), Joe Flaherty (Nicolas Dipierro, who also  appears as Lorne Michaels) and Dan Aykroyd, portrayed brilliantly by Keith Saltojanes. All the actors are excellent in their handling of multiple roles, but Jack Zullo as Belushi is so spot-on in his timing and physical comedy, I forgot multiple times that I was watching an actor and not Belushi himself.

John Belushi did not get to live a long life. It’s tragic that his comedic legacy also includes the bleak Hollywood cliche of self-destructive behavior, but With a Little Help . . . It’s John Belushi is less a cautionary tale and more a celebration of and homage to a phenomenally talented individual whose body of work has been, and will continue to be, endlessly influential. Funny, smart, and deeply nostalgia-inducing, With a Little Help . . . It’s John Belushi is a story whose time is now.

Directed by Levy Lee Simon With a Little Help . . . It’s John Belushi runs through December 22nd only at Theatre 80, located at 80 St. Marks Place, in NYC’s East Village. Tickets are super affordable at just $30 — $40 and are available via With a Little Help Show Dot Com. Showtimes are Thursdays at 7 PM, Fridays & Saturdays at 7 PM and 10 PM, and Sunday Matinees at 3 PM. A portion of ticket sales from the Theatre 80 run will be donated to The Comedians Assistance Fund and Gilda’s Club charities.

Watch The Trailer Below:

Photos from Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition!

SNL The Exhibition Signage
All Photos By Gail

It’s funny to think that so many adults have never known a life where NBC’s late night comedy sketch program, Saturday Night Live did not exist, but it’s not so weird considering the show is currently celebrating its 40th year on the air. If you’re even a casual fan of the show and you live anywhere near NYC, you should make a point to see Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition, an independent and ridiculously comprehensive showcase collecting sets, props, photos, costumes, film clips and every type of random ephemera covering the show’s history, from the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players up to today.

SNL Skyline

Just as the exhibit takes chronological journey, let me guide you through some of the highlights with photos I took when I went to see it with Geoffrey last weekend.

Introductory Room

Entry to the exhibit hall is very loosely timed, so that they can send groups in together and create a cohesive, immersive experience. When you first enter, a short history of the show’s highlights plays on the screen seen in the above photo, and you can sit and watch it and get all excited for what  you are about to experience. Consider it a kind of “warm up act” for the exhibit.

Wayne and Garth

If you’ve been to a taping of SNL, you might recall that as you walk into Studio 8H you pass through a hallway lined with photos of the show’s many memorable characters from the past and present, such as Wayne and Garth, or Stefon. They have that here as well.

Stefon

Just looking at a photo of Bill Hader portraying Stefon, Weekend Update’s Nightlife Correspondent, makes me laugh out loud.

Monday Schedule

There are galleries dedicated to the activities of each of the six days that it takes to produce each show: from pitching sketch ideas to writing and revising the scripts, to set design and building (which takes place in a warehouse in Brooklyn), costume design, rehearsal, the live broadcast, and through to the after show party; there aren’t any details left out of what you’ll learn regarding the behind-the-scenes goings on of SNL.

Lorne Michael's Desk

This is producer Lorne Michaels actual desk from one of his two offices at 30 Rock.

Original Cast

The original Not Ready for Prime Time Players, before Billy Murray joined after the departure of Chevy Chase at the end of season one.

Land Shark
Land Shark Costume

Nick Winters Lounge Singer
Jacket Worn By Bill Murray’s Nick the Lounge Singer

Stuart Smalley
Costume of Stuart Smalley, Originally Portrayed by Al Franken, Now a Senator from Minnesota!

Mock Up of the Writers Room
Mock Up of the Writers Room

Schedule
The Night’s Schedule for Each Show is Created with Index Cards on a Cork Board, for Easy Changes!

Wayne and Garth
Wayne’s World! Wayne and Garth Costumes Worn by Mike Myers and Dan Carvey

Wayne's World Set

You can take photos of yourself and friends on the Wayne’s World Set. If you are by yourself, an exhibit employee will happily snap one or two for you. Excellent!

Dooneese
Dress Worn By Dooneese, the Girl with the Creepy Voice and Teeny Tiny Hands, Portrayed By Kristin Wiig

Dick in a Box
Dick in a Box

Bobby Moynihan as Yoda
Yoda Cowl Prosthetic Worn by Bobby Moynihan

Racial Tension Headache
Excedrin Racial Tension Headache Formula, Tressant Supreme Hair Color with Crack Cocaine

There’s a large display case filled with the various Fake Products featured in SNL Commercial Parodies over the past 40 — years, many of which I am sure you will remember with a chuckle!

Corn Chip Nail Tips
Chewable Pampers, Short & Curly Pubic Shampoo, Shirt in a Can, Corn Chip Nail Tips

Balz Off
Balz-Off Testosterone Blocker

King Tutt Costume
King Tut Costume Worn By Steve Martin

When the exhibition Treasures of Tutankhamen toured in the 1970s, the US was gripped by Tut-Mania. My parents even took us to see it! Steve Martin parodied the craze when he hosted in April of 1978. At the time, the King Tut sketch was SNL’s most expensive production. It became one of the show’s most iconic sketches and the song was  a million-selling single for Steve Martin, who resurrected the character for the 40th Anniversary Special.

Hans and Franz
Costumes Left to Right: Donatella Versace, Hans and Franz, Stefon

Seeing all of these great costumes from so many memorable characters that Saturday Night has brought into our lives, it is also a poignant reminder that some of the actors and comedians who portrayed them are, sadly, no longer with us.

Matt Foley , Opera Man
Costumes Left to Right: Matt Foley (RIP Chris Farley), Opera Man, (Behind Opera Man) Coneheads, Mary Catherine Gallagher

Sweeney Sisters
Costumes Worn by the Sweeney Sisters (RIP Jan Hooks)

Fire Bad
“Fire Bad!” RIP Phil Hartman

John and Gilda
RIP John and Gilda

Stack of Cue Cards
A Stack of Cue Cards for Just One Show!

Assorted Cue Cards
Assorted Cue Cards. Can You Name the Sketch Each One is From?

Cue Card

This one is my favorite: from Martin Short’s opening monologue for the 4oth Anniversary Special. Hilarious.

Control Room

This is a replica of the studio’s control room, where you can experience a 10 minute virtual recreation of what goes on during the live show! So cool!

Stage with Tina Fay

And here we are in an exact, smaller-scale replica of Studio 8H, where a virtual Tina Fay comes out to give a fun monologue created just for this exhibit! As you can see, the experience is quite immersive and interactive.

Weekend Update Desk Set

Get your photo taken on this old Weekend Update set from some random year in the 1980’s for $20! To be fare, they also superimpose your favorite Weekend Update Anchor into the shot with you! Almost worth it!

Gift Shop Overview

Exit through the gift shop – it is massive!

Californians Mug

Buy some swag, like this mug from The Californians’ sketch, which is insanely right on!

Ambiguously Gay Duo Magnet

Or an Ambiguously Gay Duo Magnet!

As you can see, we had a fantastic time at Saturday Night Live: the Exhibition, which is sponsored by Premier Exhibitions, and Located at 417 5th Avenue New York, NY 10016. Adult tickets are $31 (includes a $2.00 service charge) which you can book at This Link, or buy on site, but you should definitely do some Internet footwork before you pay full price, because I’ve seen significant discounts offered through GoldStar, Gilt, and Groupon. The exhibit is expected to run though the holidays!

Yes, It Exists: Dick in a Box Hard Candy

Dick in a Box
Photo By Gail

This Official Saturday Night Live hard candy will be a sweet surprise for the lady in your life.

1. Cut a hole in a box.
2. Put your junk in that box.
3. Make her open the box.

And that’s the way you do it!

8 Ounces for $9.99 at It’Sugar!

Yes, It Exists: Colon Blow

Colon Blow
Photo By Gail

During Saturday Night Live‘s Season 15, way back in 1989, the late Phil Hartman starred in one of the series more hilarious commercial parodies for a fictional product called Colon Blow, spoofing the new wave of high fiber cereals. In the spot, Phil is a typical man sitting down to have a bowl of cereal when an off-camera announcer asks him, how many bowls of his regular oat bran cereal would he have to eat to get as much fiber as Colon Blow. It turns out to be something like 30 thousand bowls, which then form a towering pyramid, with Phil perched atop of them all. Priceless.

I took this photo of a box of Colon Blow, perfectly emulating the original fake product package, in the candy emporium, It’Sugar, located downtown on Broadway in NYC’s NoHo. Actually filled with Nature’s Best crispy energy granola, a 16 ounce box sells for $15.99!

Colon Blow SNL

Phil Hartman (RIP) in original Colon Blow Skit

The Bake Sale

Tell me this video (by comedy troupe Awkward Spaceship) wouldn’t have made a great episode of the SNL skit Goth Talk.

Thanks to Neatorama For The Tip!

Jimmy Page Sells Out for SNL

On This Day, May 9th, in 1998: Jimmy Page appeared on Saturday Night Live with Sean “Puffy” Combs to perform “Come With Me,” (from the soundtrack of the movie, Godzilla) which sampled the guitar riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” I remember it was a mortifying horrorshow during which I plugged my ears and hid my eyes with a pillow until it was over. How Page could willingly enable P-Doodle-Dandy to ruin a great Led Zeppelin song still mystifies me. Surely he did not need the money.

Gail and Sue’s Rad Saturday Night Live Adventure

snl logo

 “Live from New York…”

Over the weekend, I hosted a visit by my very best friend from college, a totally Rad lady named Sue. Sue has connections in the television industry and, thanks to a few pulled strings, we ended up with last minute most-coveted tickets to see this weekend’s taping of Saturday Night Live. While I am not the biggest fanatic of that show, it has been pretty consistently good for the past year, and those Sarah Palin jokes just never get old. We had to arrive at the NBC studios by 10:00 PM to wait online and were completely soaked to the bone by the freak rainstorm that hit just as we left the house, but despite being exhausted and having to sit in wet clothes, we had a blast.

Here’s my Top Ten List of cool stuff about our Rad SNL Adventure!

  1. Some guy in line was talking about how he’d waited 20 years to get tickets to a taping. We waited only one day! Yay!
  2. We saw comedian Eddie Izzard in line! This is significant because the last time Sue visited me in NYC we had front row tickets to see Izzard live at Town Hall. So that was crazy.
  3. Jenna Fischer from The Office – my favorite non-reality TV show – was sitting two rows in front of us! In person she is a gazillion times prettier than she is on the show. I love her.
  4. It was so cool to see the displays of costumes from characters made famous by the show, and the amazing retrospective of black and white photos from every season of SNL since the beginning that line the walls of the studio’s exterior. Nostalgic!
  5. Host Jon Hamm of Mad Men is so hot and very funny! How he kept a straight face during some of those skits is beyond me.
  6. Michelle and Barack Obama Variety Show, featuring Bill Clinton singing “Don’t You Forget About Me.”
  7. Cold Play performed four songs to fill the time gap created by the skits they had to cut because Amy Poehler went into labor on Friday.
  8. Jon Hamm’s John Ham: “If it feels like a slice of ham, don’t wipe your ass with it.”
  9. “Don Draper’s Guide on How to Pick Up Women” – hilarious!
  10. Andy Samberg’s “Rasta Man” digital short.

And The Emmy Goes to . . . Dick In A Box!

Dick In a Box
Emmys — Dick in a box
Tonys — Dick in a box
Oscars — Dick in a box
Every single awards show a dick in a box!

Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg’s hilarious SNL video, “Dick In a Box” has been nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics.

Watch the original uncensored version of the skit at This Link!