How Tim Curry Saved ‘SNL’ From an Epic Behind-the-Scenes Meltdown

Is there anything this guy can’t do?
How Tim Curry Saved ‘SNL’ From an Epic Behind-the-Scenes Meltdown

Whether you’re a fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Clue or the celebration of child endangerment that is Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, it’s pretty much impossible not to love Tim Curry, the legendary actor who turned 78 on Friday. He even showed up in a couple of episodes of Roseanne, playing one of Dan’s sketchy friends who is sadly never revealed to be Pennywise the Clown in disguise.

Far less-celebrated is Curry’s one and only Saturday Night Live appearance, even though he bailed the show out of a historic disaster. 

Curry hosted in December 1981, an episode that also featured Meatloaf as the musical guest. The two even appeared in a sketch together, in which they hawk Rocky Horror-themed merchandise at “Tim and Meat’s One-Stop Rocky Horror Shop.”

But Curry’s big show was nearly completely derailed thanks to a petty network executive and a shit-disturbing writer. 

We’ve talked before about Michael O’Donoghue, SNL’s first head writer, who also appeared in the very first sketch that ever aired.

O’Donoghue returned to SNL in 1981, but it didn’t last long. He was fired after writing a prolonged sketch in which the beleaguered NBC CEO, Fred Silverman, was holed up in an underground bunker, just like Hitler in his final days. According to SNL writer David Sheffield, news of “Silverman’s Bunker” soon found its way to Silverman himself, who really was hiding out, but in Hawaii, not in a bunker.

Silverman demanded to send him footage of the rehearsal “at an NBC affiliate in Honolulu,” then ordered them to scrap the sketch altogether. “The sketch didn’t make it to air, and that’s why Michael quit ± or put himself in the position to be fired,” said writer Eliot Wald.

This all happened on the day before the episode, leaving a whopping “15-minute hole in the show” (that must have been some Hitler sketch). The despondent writers gathered together; in desperation, Sheffield turned to Curry and asked, “Don’t you do Mick Jagger?” Curry responded: “Yes, I do.” After demonstrating his “hilariously funny” impression of the Rolling Stones frontman, Sheffield and his writing partner Barry Blaustein “stayed up all night” writing a sketch in which Mick Jagger is the host of a tacky network variety show, with guests like Frank Sinatra (played by Joe Piscopo).

Curry’s impression is hilarious, though the sketch isn’t exactly one of the show’s best, probably because it goes on for nearly 14 minutes. But it did its job and filled the time that had been left vacant by O’Donoghue’s canceled sketch. And it could be argued that “The Mick Jagger Special” was a precursor to “The Barry Gibb Talk Show,” which similarly featured a real life music superstar as an unlikely TV host.

In a just world, Tim Curry would be hosting The Tonight Show right now. 

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 


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