Harold Ramis ‘Didn’t Like ‘Saturday Night Live’ Very Much’

‘The people I know on the show, I’d seen them all do better work’
Harold Ramis ‘Didn’t Like ‘Saturday Night Live’ Very Much’

Harold Ramis’ fingerprints are all over some of the biggest comedies of his generation, movies like GhostbustersGroundhog Day and Animal House. Ramis was also a Second City performer before moving on to National Lampoon projects alongside John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray. Considering the company he kept and his status as a funny guy himself, how is it that he never found his way to the original Saturday Night Live?

Lorne Michaels offered me a job after the first year,” Ramis told Mike Sacks in And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on Their Craft. But there were three problems: 1) Ramis already had a job writing and performing on SCTV; 2) Michaels provided no assurances that Ramis would get to perform in front of the camera on SNL; and 3) “I didn’t like Saturday Night Live very much.”

That seems like an odd statement, if only because SNL featured so many of his friends and former comedy compatriots. But “the people I know on the show, I’d seen them all do better work,” Ramis explained. “I also thought the writing was a little weak and gratuitous in a lot of ways.” 

Characters like Belushi’s Samurai or Radner’s Emily Litella weren’t doing it for Ramis, at least not on the fourth, fifth and sixth go-rounds: “I thought the notion of just repeating scenes over and over, week after week, was not a good thing. It could have just been me preserving my outsider posture, but it felt like Lorne took something that was underground and made it mainstream.”

Well, that could have just been Ramis, but it sounds exactly like what Michaels did.

Both SNL and SCTV had bright people, Ramis allowed, but SCTV had the advantage of flying under the pop-culture radar. “SCTV was allowed to be much more obscure,” he said. “We didn’t have to worry about sponsors and networks. We were not mainstream.”

In many ways, SCTV was the anti-SNL. Michaels’ show had sponsors and a budget, a massive network and a prime time slot. SCTV went in the other direction. “We couldn’t hope to be a splashy, slick network show. I forget whose idea it was. I think Del (Close) takes credit for it. ‘But why can’t we be a really crummy local station?’” Ramis explained in The Second City Unscripted: Revolution and Revelation at the World-Famous Comedy Theater“And I think we all said, ‘Well, yeah, that would be quite a relief. Let’s be really bad. We’ll do a lot of bad television and be local personalities.’ So it wasn’t going to be like SNL at all, and that was very liberating.”

Like Ramis’s early work with SNL comics on the National Lampoon Radio HourSCTV provided a situation “where somebody gives you a studio and says, ‘Do whatever you want,’” he said. “Over the years I came to appreciate the fact that we had no sponsors, no network and no audience that we knew of. We were on different times in every city. So all we had to do was satisfy ourselves.”


Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?