Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Berry Berry Good


Chico Escuela made his first appearance on NBC's Saturday Night Live on the fifth show of the fourth season, hosted by Buck Henry, on November 11th, 1978. He wasn't filling his most famous position, as the sportscaster on "Weekend Update," but as the featured speaker at a St. Mickey's K of C dinner. Chico received a speaking fee of 900 bucks to deliver the following address:

"Thank you berry much. Baseball been berry berry good to me. Thank you. God bless you. Gracias... Keep you eye on de ball."

Chico was introduced as a former second baseman and shortstop for the Cubs, although later on, of course, he would be called a former Met, as illustrated by his tell-all memoir, Bad Stuff Bout the Mets. St. Mickey's, though, apparently is situated in someplace like Blue Island, Illinois, given the accents of the characters involved.

Does it seem possible that a sketch-comedy show would present something like the St. Mickey's K of C today? Do people even know what a Knights of Columbus is? The middle-aged blue-collar Catholics in those skits, so familiar to me, are presented not really as figures of fun but as recognizable characters. They are caricatured rather than lampooned. If someone did a skit about those people today, they'd have to make them reactionary pedophiles or something, to keep a fair distance from them. I can't imagine Will Ferrell presenting an affectionate portrait of some of his father's cronies the way John Belushi does in these skits.

2 comments:

Mark said...

Are those the skits where the opening line was always something like "And we'd like to thank Mrs. McGillicuddy for that fine spaghetti supper." (Love that line.) I also seem to remember there were characters named "Joe Mell" and "Joe Mell, Jr." Possibly inspired by Chicago Alderman and Blago fodder-in-law Dick Mell?

I know I could look this up, but why bother when you already did.

T. Nawrocki said...

That's the ones. And at the end, John Belushi would always say, "Let's bring out those ladies who made us this great spaghetti dinner," and Gilda and Jane would come out from the kitchen looking all sheepish in their formless gray dresses. After the Christmas episode, in which Elliott Gould as Milt Finkel was the only one who knew the words to "Good King Wenceslas," once the sketch ended (with Belushi declaring, "The bar is open!") and everyone else ran off, Gilda and Jane actually stuck around to pick up dishes. Now that's character work.

The characters weren't Joe Mell and Joe Mell Jr., though. Belushi was Frank Leary, Aykroyd was Chuck Neuheisel (or something like that), Bill Murray was Frank "Jocko" Leary Jr. Really, they could have been anybody; there were a million people like that in the Chicagoland area in the mid-70s.