William S. Burroughs on Saturday Night Live, 1981




Today marks the 100th birthday of beat writer William S. Burroughs (1914-1997). Grab a bottle of wine … preferably cheap wine … and let’s travel back to November 7, 1981. That’s when Burroughs made his first appearance on American national television. And quite appropriately, it was on the irreverent, late-night comedy show, Saturday Night Live. As you’ll see, actress Lauren Hutton made the introduction, setting up Burroughs to read from Naked Lunch (1959) and Nova Express (1964). The clip itself is an outtake from the opening scene of Burroughs, a 1983 documentary by Howard Brookner, which is currently getting restored.  We originally featured this video back in early 2012. Since then we’ve brought you many other intriguing posts on Burroughs, whose life and art provides so much to talk about. See some of our favorites below:

Gus Van Sant Adapts William S. Burroughs’ The Discipline of D.E.: An Early 16mm Short

“The Thanksgiving Prayer,” Read by William S. Burroughs and Shot by Gus Van Sant

William S. Burroughs “Sings” R.E.M. and The Doors, Backed by the Original Bands

William S. Burroughs on the Art of Cut-up Writing

William S. Burroughs’ Free Short Course on Creative Reading

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.