Jane Curtin Rewatches Old ‘SNL’: ‘Not One Thing Was Funny’
Whoever said “You can’t go home again” might want to amend that adage to something like, “You can’t watch your old comedy sketches again.” For proof, just ask Jane Curtin, who sat down to rewatch the early seasons of Saturday Night Live with her family and came away holding her nose.
"We were sent the five year compilation video of Saturday Night Live's first five years a few years ago, and I gave one to my daughter," Curtin told PEOPLE. When Curtin visited her kid over the holidays, "her husband said, 'Have you ever watched any of these? And I said, 'God, I haven't seen them in a long time.' "
You can probably see where this one is going. Curtin’s son-in-law asked if they could all watch one together, a suggestion that the former Not Ready for Primetime Player happily accepted. “So we sat around the TV, and I had that sort of anticipatory, open-mouth grin that people have when they're waiting for something to happen, that they know is going to be really great,” she says. “And ... it never happened. It wasn't funny. Not one thing was funny. There was not one utterance of a laugh or a giggle."
Jane, this is not the publicity Lorne Michaels wants for the 50th anniversary show.
So do the first seasons simply suck? Not exactly, according to Curtin. "I think it was just one of those, you had to be there in the moment things," she says. "That's what happens with live TV, and with topical TV. It gets dated after a while. Remember, this was almost 50 years ago. But after we rewatched, I was like, 'That really wasn't a very good show. It was terrible!'"
Curtin told PEOPLE that she was baffled why some sketches, like the Coneheads, became such runaway hits. But others still hold up, she says. Like what? "See the Bassomatic,” she says. “I still think it's funny."
Have to agree, Jane — that’s terrific bass!
Just like there were good sketches and others that were … not-so-good, Curtin remembers that some hosts were better than others. Some favorites included Richard Benjamin, Buck Henry and, not surprisingly, Steve Martin. What made those hosts work? “First of all, you had to be really smart to be a good host, and the ones who kept coming back got the idea of it and they got the fun of it."
But others, like Walter Matthau, weren’t prepared for the hectic pace of putting together a 90-minute live show in six days. “He just came from a very different place,” says Curtin. “We were in rehearsals, two days out from the live show, and he said, 'Why isn't anyone having fun around here?!”
Nearly 50 years later, Matthau's lack of fun didn't get any funnier.