Gilda Radner Does a Comic Impersonation of Patti Smith: Watch the Classic SNL Skit, “Rock Against Yeast” (1979)

Gimme Mick, gimme Mick
Baby’s hair, bulgin’ eyes, lips so thick
Are you woman, are you man
I’m your biggest funked-up fan
So rock me and roll meeee…
‘Til I’m sick

                                —(the fictional) Candy Slice, Saturday Night Live

Sir Michael Philip—aka Mick Jagger—celebrated his 77th birthday earlier this summer, a milestone his fellow Rolling Stones Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood observed remotely, as befits seniors at particular risk from COVID-19 infection.

You, Mick Jagger, are English and go out with a model and get an incredible amount of publicity

You, Mick Jagger, don’t keep regular hours

You, Mick Jagger, have the greatest rock ‘n roll band in the history of rock ‘n roll, and you don’t even play an instrument yourself

It’s a bit sobering, watching the late Gilda Radner, expertly preening and prancing as the then-36-year-old, yet-to-be-knighted Mick in “Rock Against Yeast,” the star studded Saturday Night Live Sketch from 1979, above.

Readers over the age of 36 who want to get seriously bummed out, poll your under-35 friends to see who’s heard of the versatile Gilda, an original Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Player and one of America’s most complicated sweethearts.

Fortunately, she’s not entirely forgotten:

I can personally attest, and I feel comfortable speaking for Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch when I say that seeing Gilda as a kid…[she was] so authentically herself and so regular in so many ways. She was not a piece of casting, she was who she was on TV. We all saw that and said, ‘I want to do that, and it’s possible because I see her doing that. It was an early example for me of how important representation is, for everyone from every walk of life. Gilda was our equivalent of Michelle Obama. —Tina Fey

Gilda’s not alone in having left us at a young age. Some of her “Rock Against Yeast” castmates and the celebrities they spoofed made similarly shocking early exits:

John Belushi 

Bob Marley

Guest host Ricky Nelson, appearing as himself

Music producer Don Kirshner—embodied here by musician Paul Shaffer—made it to a ripe old age, ie: just a year younger than Sir Mick is now.

Actually, Gilda’s Mick routine was filtered through the fictional Candy Slice, a satirical take on Godmother of Punk Patti Smith—now a venerable 73-year-old National Book award-winning memoirist, gearing up for next month’s “high-end multi-camera visual and sonic experience,” i.e. virtual book reading for last year’s Year Of The Monkey.

Smith, who over the years has proved herself to be a very good egg, admitted to NPR that while  her band found Gilda’s characterization “hilarious,” she took a while to warm up to it:

When I was younger, I—it sort of bothered me because, you know, she makes a big thing about, you know, I think it’s like the white powder and the vast amounts of cocaine in the recording studio. I had never even had cocaine. It wasn’t how—it’s not how I work. But I thought it was actually hilarious besides that. She was a great artist.

It was—actually, it was a privilege to be played—it was a privilege to have Gilda Radner project what she thought I might be like. And the funniest part was since there was a big controversy over the armpit hair on the cover of “Easter,” she brushed the hair under her arms, and I think she had like a foot of hair coming from her armpit, and we were all laughing so hard.

She was a great artist, and cocaine or not, I salute her. And I feel very lucky to have been, you know, portrayed by Gilda.

Read a full transcript of “Rock Against Yeast” here, while heaving a sigh of relief that that singer Dolly Parton (Jane Curtin) continues to walk so vigorously amongst us.

Related Content:

Bill Murray & Gilda Radner Deliver the Laughs in Two 1970s Skits for National Lampoon

Lorne Michaels Introduces Saturday Night Live and Its Brilliant First Cast for the Very First Time (1975)

When William S. Burroughs Appeared on Saturday Night Live: His First TV Appearance (1981)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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  • Dorianne Marsh says:

    That’s a weird misrepresentation to say that she’s ‘doing’ Mick Jagger, when she’s actually imitating Patti Smith channeling of Mick Jagger.

  • Lonnie says:

    Too bad they couldn’t eradicate that yeast thing

  • Robert Burrows says:

    I remember watching this live and thinking that Gilda’s imitation of Patti Smith was mean spirited. I feel the same
    way watching it decades later.

  • Paul Nelson says:

    When I first watched it in 70’s,I believed it showed Gilda immense talent and exuberance at making people laugh.No malicious intent on her part.The was the time one of ruthless parody.And laughing at ourselves and the world the time,was some the best comedy there was.I wish the same was true today instead of the banal stuff we are forced to see today.Imitation and parody is the sincere form flattery this.Thank you Gilda and other comediennes and writers.That sadly are falling into obscurity.

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