On this day exactly 40 years ago, Saturday Night Live premiered on television. I have all kinds of problems with the show, but one thing most people don’t want to admit is that it always just moderately successful. Think about it. The first big star to come out of the show was Chevy Chase. Now I don’t have anything especially against him, and I still think his 1980 album, Chevy Chase, was a unique comedic work. It was also something of an aberration in a career of almost uninterrupted mediocrity. And that was what people were just crazy about that first season.
But there were really great things on the show. Andy Kaufman was on it. It had some amazing stuff from Michael O’Donoghue. There was and always has been a decent amount of stuff to like. But it didn’t take very long for the show to give up even a pretense to having any edge. I can’t imagine that it would offend anyone for the last 35 years at least. Oh, except for Sinead O’Connor — who like so many other people were banned from the “edgy” show for coming anywhere near being edgy.
But an even bigger joke took place exactly a year later: President Ford signed Public Law 94-479. And what did this important piece of legislation do? It appointed George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States. What’s more, it was done retroactively to the date 4 July 1976. It is a stunningly pathetic thing to do.
Understand: I think these kinds of symbolic gestures are important. But doing this for George Washington?! Like Washington had been mistreated by history? It was introduced by Democrat Mario Biaggi. He was an interesting guy, who only died a couple of months ago at the age of 97. Most of his Wikipedia page is dedicated to his conviction for corruption, which got him sentenced to 8 years. (He only served a couple for health reasons, which is strange, given he lived another 24 years after his release.) But the other big part of his Wikipedia page is this stupid law. Such were his accomplishments: selling favors and celebrating over-celebrated figures from our history.
So there you go: two jokes in one anniversary post.