'Saturday Night Live': John Madden Once Epically Pranked SNL Producer Dick Ebersol
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On Tuesday evening, the sports world faced a devastating blow when legendary football coach and broadcaster John Madden passed away at age 85. Famed for leading Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl victory in 1977, serving as one of the NFL's most beloved commentators (for which he nabbed 16 Sports Emmy awards) and being the “Madden” in the Madden NFL video game series (a game beloved by children and man-children alike) Madden's legacy spanned well beyond football, literally earning himself a place in Saturday Night Live's history book. Unbeknownst to everyone – except for maybe SNL overlord Logan Ro-- sorry, I mean Lorne Michaels – Madden held a highly-coveted spot in the SNL Debauchery Hall Of FameTM for scaring the absolute s--t out of producer Dick Ebersol with an epic fake-out prank while hosting the show in January 1982.
"With John Madden, it was really about the closest I ever came to having a heart attack before I had a real one in February of ‘96," he recalled in the 2015 retrospective, Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. During a dress rehearsal that Saturday afternoon, Madden called Ebersol over to relay a terrifying message moments before giving his opening monologue in front of a packed audience – he was done with SNL's nonsense.
“I came to about halfway to the stage area with a full house, whatever it is, 300-plus for dress,” Ebersol explained. "And he said, 'I just want to tell you now I'm going to finish this dress rehearsal and then I'm going to leave. I'm not happy with how things have been going, and I'm enough of a trouper to finish it for this audience, but then I'm outta here. This is just the pits.'"
Considering they were just hours away from well, being well, Saturday night's live television entertainment, Ebersol, like most of us would, nearly s--t himself. "I'm standing there and I'm dying," the producer said. “He lets about two or three seconds go and then he gets the biggest smile on his face in the world and he said, 'You know I'm a practical joker, don't you?'”
Although Ebersol says “the place went nuts” upon watching Madden scare the absolute crap out of the SNL exec, Ebersol says he was still shaken from the news. "In the meantime, I had just about had a heart attack."
So, folks, here's to Madden: Thank you for your contributions to professional football – and for your probable contribution to Ebersol's medical bills.