From the Stacks

From The Stacks: ‘Gilda Radner: Live From New York’


Saturday Night Live kicks off its 45th season on September 28, 2019. How long is 45 years? Well, we’re roughly as far away from SNL’s debut as the first episode of the show was from the dawn of television.

When Saturday Night Live hit the airwaves in 1975 most houses only had one television, and that TV didn’t have a remote control. It only picked up three stations, too, plus a fuzzy UHF station that aired, if you were lucky, British comedies like Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Goodies. Never mind television: Most houses didn’t have microwaves, and the Hot Pocket was a distant dream. McDonald’s had yet to figure out how to McNugget a chicken, too. Heck, even the Happy Meal was in the future.

No Netflix or Hulu. No Blu-Ray or DVD. In 1975 even VHS didn’t exist. Betamax debuted that year, but at around $2,300 ($11,000 in 2019 dollars) the first video recorders were really only for rich (and probably horny) weirdos.

So how did we get our on-demand fix back in the technological stone age? Records, of course. Live From New York, released in 1979, captures original Not Ready For Prime-Time Player Gilda Radner at her comedic peak. Granted, the recording captures her Broadway show but the characters are SNL classics.  No more hoping for a Saturday Night rerun to catch a glimpse of Patti Smith alter ego Candy Slice.

No more hoping for a Lisa Loopner sketch, or an Emily Litella or Roseanne Roseanna Danna appearance on “Weekend Update.” We could listen whenever we wanted, which given that 1979 also marked Radner’s last season on the show was a double blessing.

Nowadays, of course, we have access to everything all of the time, including McNugget Happy Meals. A 40 year-old comedy record is no match for all the Gilda you care to watch via your streaming service of choice, but I’m one nostalgic sumbitch. Putting on Gilda Live and staring at the pictures on the sleeve while the record spins offers a kind of pleasure that can’t be explained to somebody who never lived in the technology stone ages. But hey, if you want to try to understand, you can pick up a copy of this one in the dollar bin. Happy hunting, and let’s hope SNL has a good 45th season. We could use the laughs.


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