The death of the SNL star 30 year ago robbed the industry of one its finest expressions but not before she had fired a trail for women such as Tina Fey to follow
There is no shortage of excellent critical used to describe the US comedy scene in the 80 s, and Nick de Semlyen’s Wild and Crazy Guys, which is published in the UK next month, is a terrific contribution to the genre. De Semlyen frames his volume by telling the stories of the men who forged that nature, most of whom- including Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd– originated from the humor training ground of Saturday Night Live. But what De Semlyen’s book too pictures is that this scene was dominated by beings. Yet that wasn’t supposed to be the case.
This month is the 30 th commemoration of the death of Gilda Radner, one of the original shed members of SNL, alongside Chase, Belushi, Aykroyd and others. Although she is comparatively little known today outside comedy curves, back then she was widely assumed to be the future megastar of the working group. With her sharp lampoons of celebrities and her skill at satirising her own femininity and neuroses, she determined the mould for modern girl comedians. Without Radner, it is hard to imagine the existence of many of the most beloved comic characters of the past 30 years, from Elaine Benesin Seinfeld to Liz Lemon in 30 Rock.
The NBC president at the time, Fred Silverman, received in her a Mary Tyler Moore for the 80 s and urgently wanted to build a primetime variety show around her. When Radner decided she would rather stay with her original advocate, Lorne Michaels, the developer of SNL, the relationship between Silverman and Michaels was irreparably shattered. Michaels had so much better faith in Radner’s star power that in 1979 he made a Broadway show just for her, Gilda Radner: Livefrom New York, in which she play-act her best-known and much-loved personas from SNL, including Baba Wawa, her superlative lampoon of Barbara Walters; Roseanne Roseannadanna, an eccentrically offensive reporter; and Emily Litella, a doddery news commentator who never quite understood the story.