Julia Child Shows Fred Rogers How to Make a Quick & Delicious Pasta Dish (1974)

Julia Child and Fred Rogers were titans of public television, celebrated for their natural warmth, the ease with which they delivered important lessons to home viewers, and, for a certain sector of the viewing public, how readily their personalities lent themself to parody.

Child’s cooking program, The French Chef, debuted in 1963, and Roger’s much beloved children’s show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, followed five years later.

Rogers occasionally invited accomplished celebrities to join him for segments wherein they demonstrated their particular talents:

With our guest’s help, I have been able to show a wide diversity of self-expression, the extraordinary range of human potential. I want children and their families to know that there are many constructive ways to express who they are and how they feel. 

In 1974, Child paid a call to the neighborhood bakery presided over by “Chef” Don Brockett  (whose later credits included a cameo as a “Friendly Psychopath” in Silence of the Lambs…)

The easy-to-prepare pasta dish she teaches Rogers – and, by extension, his “television friend” – to make takes a surprisingly optimistic view of the average pre-school palate.


Red sauce gets a hard pass, in favor of a more sophisticated blend of flavors stemming from tuna, black olives, and pimentos.

Brockett provides an assist with both the cooking and, more importantly, the child safety rules that aren’t always front and center with this celebrity guest.

Child, who had no offspring, comes off as a high-spirited, loosey-goosey, fun aunt, encouraging child viewers to toss the cooked spaghetti “fairly high” after adding butter and oil “because it’s dramatic” and talking as if they’ll be hitting the supermarket solo, a flattering notion to any tot whose refrain is “I do it mySELF!”

She wisely reframes tasks assigned to bigger, more experienced hand – boiling water, knife work – as less exciting than “the fancy business at the end”, and makes it stick by suggesting that the kids “order the grown ups to do what you want done,” a verb choice the ever-respectful Rogers likely would have avoided.

As with The French Chef, her off-the-cuff remarks are a major source of delight.

Watching his guest wipe a wooden cutting board with olive oil, Rogers observes that some of his friends “could do this very well,” to which she replies:

It’s also good for your hands ‘coz it keeps ‘em nice and soft, so rub any excess into your hands.

She shares a bit of stage set scuttlebutt regarding a letter from “some woman” who complained that the off-camera wastebasket made it appear that Child was discarding peels and stems onto the floor.

She said, “Do you think this is a nice way to show young people how to cook, to throw things on the floor!?” And I said, “Well, I have a self cleaning floor! …The self cleaning is me.”

(Rogers appears both amused and relieved when the ultimate punchline steers things back to the realm of good manners and personal responsibility.)

Transferring the slippery pre-cooked noodles from pot to serving bowl, Child reminisces about a wonderful old movie in which someone – “Charlie Chaplin or was it, I guess it was, uh, it wasn’t Mickey Rooney, maybe it was…” – eats spaghetti through a funnel.

If only the Internet had existed in 1974 so intrigued parents could have Googled their way to the Noodle Break at the Bull Pup Cafe sequence from 1918’s The Cook, starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Buster Keaton!

The funnel is but one of many inspired silent spaghetti gags in this surefire don’t-try-this-at-home kid-pleaser.

We learn that Child named her dish Spaghetti Marco Polo in a nod to a widely circulated theory that pasta originated in China and was introduced to Italy by the explorer, a bit of lore food writer Tori Avey of The History Kitchen finds difficult to swallow:

A common belief about pasta is that it was brought to Italy from China by Marco Polo during the 13th century. In his book, The Travels of Marco Polo, there is a passage that briefly mentions his introduction to a plant that produced flour (possibly a breadfruit tree). The Chinese used this plant to create a meal similar to barley flour. The barley-like meal Polo mentioned was used to make several pasta-like dishes, including one described as lagana (lasagna). Since Polo’s original text no longer exists, the book relies heavily on retellings by various authors and experts. This, combined with the fact that pasta was already gaining popularity in other areas of Italy during the 13th-century, makes it very unlikely that Marco Polo was the first to introduce pasta to Italy.

Ah well.

We’re glad Child went with the China theory as it provides an excuse to eat spaghetti with chopsticks.

Nothing is more day-making than seeing Julia Child pop a small bundle of spaghetti directly into Fred Rogers’ mouth from the tips of her chopsticks…though after using the same implements to feed some to Chef Brockett too, she realizes that this wasn’t the best lesson in food hygiene.

In 2021, this sort of boo-boo would result in an automatic reshoot.

In the wilder, woolier 70s, a more pressing concern, at least as far as public television was concerned, was expanding little Americans’ worldview, in part by showing them how to get a commanding grip on their chopsticks. It’s never too late to learn.

Bon appétit!

JULIA CHILD’S SPAGHETTI MARCO POLO

There are a number of variations online, but this recipe, from Food.com, hews closely to Child’s original, while providing measurements for her eyeballed amounts.

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS 

1 lb spaghetti 

2 tablespoons butter 

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 teaspoon salt black pepper 

1 6-ounce can tuna packed in oil, flaked, undrained 

2 tablespoons pimiento, diced or 2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, sliced into strips 

2 tablespoons green onions with tops, sliced 

2 tablespoons black olives, sliced 

2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped

1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded 

2 tablespoons fresh parsley or 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions. 

Drain pasta and return to pot, stirring in butter, olive oil, and salt and pepper. 

Toss with remaining ingredients and serve, garnished with parsley or cilantro.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Birth of the Blues Brothers: How Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi Started Introducing a New Generation to the Blues

What were the Blues Brothers? A comedy sketch? A parody act? A real band? A celebrity soul artist tribute? All of the above, yes. The musical-comedic duo of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi turned a ludicrous beginning in bumble bee costumes — not dark suits, fedoras, and Ray-Bans — into a musical act that “exposed a generation to the brilliance of blues and soul legends like John Lee Hooker and Aretha Franklin,” as Darren Weale writes at Loudersound.

That’s quite an accomplishment for a couple of improv comedians on a fledgling late-night comedy show that did not seem, in its first year, like it would stick around long. It was during that anarchic period when the Killer Bees became recurring characters on the show, appearing 11 times (despite the studio note, “Cut the bees,” which Lorne Michaels pointedly ignored).


The bees were the first incarnation of the Blues Brothers, two years before their actual debut in Season 4. (See a later appearance from that season, introduced by Garrett Morris, just above).

A January 17, 1976 appearance of the bees featured “Howard Shore and his All Bee Band,” consisting of “Aykroyd on the harmonica and Belushi on vocals belting out a blues classic very much in the style of the future Elwood and ‘Joliet’ Jake Blues,” notes History.com. They had the beginnings of an act, but the look and the personas would come later, “during the hiatus between SNL seasons two and three” in 1977, while Belushi filmed Animal House in Eugene, Oregon and fell under the spell of local bluesman Curtis Salgado, future harmonica player for Robert Cray.

Salgado “sure turned John on to blues music,” says Aykroyd. “He steeped him in blues culture.” Salgado himself describes how Belushi won him over on their first meeting: “I’m packing up my harps, trying to break free, when he says, ‘I’m going to have Ray Charles on the show.'” Salgado also gave Belushi a lesson in playing it straight, even when he played the blues for laughs. When the comic performed the song “Hey Bartender” to a packed house one night, in character as Joe Cocker, his mentor gave him a post-show dressing down.

“He asks me, ‘What did you think?’”
“I say, ‘John, it’s Joe Cocker.’”
‘Yes, I do Joe on Saturday Night Live.’
“I punch his chest and say, ‘You need to do this from here [pointing at his heart] and be yourself.’ After that he didn’t mimic any more. He was himself.”

Taking the look of Jake and Elwood from Salgado, but developing the character as his swaggering self, Belushi “came back from Oregon with a lust for the blues,” his widow, Judith, recalls. “He had tapes in his pockets and went to clubs.” (See the duo play “Hey Bartender” at the Universal Amphitheater in 1978, below.)

The name was the brainchild of SNL musical director Howard Shore (who would go on to write the Lord of the Rings film scores), who happened to be present when the two conceived the characters at a bar. Their 1978 debut — made over the protests of Lorne Michaels (who didn’t get it) — made them instant stars.

Paul Shaffer spun their origin story in his introduction, “claiming that they had been discovered in 1969 by the fictional ‘Marshall Checker,” writes Mental Floss. He went on:

Today they are no longer an authentic blues act, but have managed to become a viable commercial product. So now, let’s join “Joliet” Jake and his silent brother Elwood — the Blues Brothers.

With that, the never-authentic blues act did, indeed, become a viable commercial product. “Things started to move quickly,” Weale writes. “Record executive Michael Klenfner took John and Dan to see Ahmet Ertegün at Atlantic Records. He signed the Blues Brothers up.” They were a real act, and two years later, real movie stars with the release of John Landis’ The Blues Brothers, a film that fully delivered on the duo’s comic promises, while gleefully giving the spotlight away to its huge cast of soul and blues legends

Related Content:

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The Night John Belushi Cartwheeled Onstage During a Grateful Dead Show & Sang “U.S. Blues” with the Band (1980)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Depths of Wikipedia: Enjoy a Compendium of the Online Encyclopedia’s Most Bizarre Pages

@depthsofwikipedia If the authorities kill me for making this tiktok just know I loved you guys #learnontiktok #tiktokpartner ♬ original sound – Annie Rauwerda

What’s your stance on Wikipedia, the free, open content online encyclopedia?

Students are often discouraged or disallowed from citing Wikipedia as a source, a bias that a Wikipedia entry titled “Wikipedia should not be considered a definitive source in and of itself” supports:

As a user-generated source, it can be edited by anyone at any time, and any information it contains at a particular time could be vandalism, a work in progress, or simply incorrect. Biographies of living persons, subjects that happen to be in the news, and politically or culturally contentious topics are especially vulnerable to these issues…because Wikipedia is a volunteer-run project, it cannot constantly monitor every contribution. There are many errors that remain unnoticed for hours, days, weeks, months, or even years.


(Another entry counsels those who would persist to cite the exact time, date, and article version they are referencing.)

Wikipedia has a clearly stated policy prohibiting contributors from close paraphrasing or outright copying and pasting from outside sources, though in a bit of a circle-in-a-circle situation, several noted authors and journalists have been caught plagiarizing Wikipedia articles.

A list of Wikipedia controversies, published on – where else? – Wikipedia is a hair raising litany of political sabotage, character assassination, and “revenge edits”. (The list is currently substantiated by 338 reference links, and has been characterized as in need of update since October 2021, owing to a lack of edits regarding the “controversy about Mainland Chinese editors.”)


It can be a pretty scary place, but University of Michigan senior Annie Rauwerda, creator of the Instagram account Depths of Wikipedia is unfazed. As she wrote in an article for the tech publication Input:

Wikipedia is a splendidly extensive record of almost everything that matters; a modern-day Library of Alexandria that’s free, accessible, and dynamic. But Wikipedia is characterized not only by what it is but also by what it is not. It’s not a soapbox, a battleground, nor a blog.


It’s also becoming famous as Rauwerda’s playground, or more accurately, a packed swap shop in which millions of bizarre items are tucked away.

If your schedule limits the amount time you can spend down its myriad rabbit holes, Rauwerda will do the digging for you.

Turning a selection of Wikipedia excerpts into a collage for a friend’s quaran-zine inspired her to keep the party going with screenshots of oddball entries posted to a dedicated Instagram account.

Her followers don’t seem to care whether a post contains an image or not, though the neuroscience major finds that emotional, short or animal-related posts generate the most excitement. “I used to post more things that were conceptual,” she told Lithium Magazine,  “like mind-blowing physics concepts, but those didn’t lend themselves to Instagram as well since they require a few minutes of thinking and reading.”

The bulk of what she posts come to her as reader submissions, though in a pinch, she can always turn to the “holy grail” – Wikipedia’s own list of unusual articles.

In addition to Instagram, her discoveries find their way into an infrequently published newsletter, and onto TikTok and Twitter, where some of our recent faves include the definition of humster, a list of games that Buddha would not play, and the Paul O’Sullivan Band, “an internationally based, pop-rock band consisting of four members, all of whom are named Paul O’Sullivan.”

Along the way, she has found ways to give back, co-hosting a virtual edit-a-thon and bringing some genuine glamour to a livestreamed Wikipedia trivia contest.

And she recently authored a serious article for Slate about Russians scrambling to download a 29-gigabyte file containing Russian-language Wikipedia after the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) threatened to block it over content related to the invasion of Ukraine.

(You can read more about how that’s going on Wikipedia…)

Submit a link to Wikipedia page for possible inclusion on the Depths of Wikipedia here.

Follow Annie Rauwinda’s Depths of Wikipedia on Instagram and TikTok.

via NYTimes

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Can We Still Consume the Work of Disgraced Artists — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #119

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Comedian Genevieve Joy, philosopher/NY Times entertainment writer Lawrence Ware, and novelist Sarahlyn Bruck join your host Mark Linsenmayer to discuss how we as spectators deal with entertainers like R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, Woody Allen, et al. We all watched W. Kamau Bell’s Showtime documentary We Need to Talk About Cosby, so most of our discussion is around that.

None of us seem able to separate the art from the artist, but this varies by art form, how much of the person’s personality and values went into the art, and the specifics of the alleged crimes or bad behavior. Cosby presents such a dramatic, unambiguous case because he was so universally beloved, and vitally important to the black community, yet his crimes were so numerous, heinous, well documented, and thoroughly undermine the image that he sought to convey. Does our disillusionment with him perhaps reflect not just on rape culture but the importance we put on celebrity itself that made Cosby for a long time “too big to fail”?

It’s fine if you haven’t seen the documentary. You can experience Bell talking about it on WTF and in Slate. For in-depth info on the charges against Bill Cosby, try the Chasing Cosby podcast.

Follow us @CAtFightJOy, @law_writes, @sarahlynbruck, and @MarkLinsenmayer.

This episode includes bonus discussion featuring all of our guests that you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

How Volodymyr Zelenskyy Went from Playing a President on a Comedy TV Show to Very Real Life

To the great dismay of West Wing fans, Josiah Bartlet never actually became President of the United States of America. At some point, one suspects they’d even have settled for Martin Sheen. Alas, playing the role of the president on television hasn’t yet become a qualifying experience for playing it in real life — or at least not in the U.S. But things work differently in Ukraine, which in 2019 elected to its presidency the star of Servant of the People (Слуга народу), a comedy series about a high-school teacher who becomes president on the back of an anti-establishment rant gone viral. His name, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is one we’ve all become familiar with indeed since last week, when Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of his country.

For as unlikely a head of state as Zelenskyy, a more formidable test could hardly be imagined. The seriousness of the conflict contrasts starkly with the tone of Servant of the People, in light of which Zelenskyy’s ascendance looks less like Martin Sheen becoming President than Veep‘s Julia Louis-Dreyfus becoming Vice President, or Yes Minister‘s Paul Eddington becoming Prime Minister.


Still, the past decade’s further blurring of the lines between televisual fiction and political fact made the Zelenskyy candidacy look less like a stunt than a genuinely viable campaign. During that campaign the BBC produced the segment at the top of the post, which calls him “the comedian who could be President”; Vice published the more detailed view above as election day approached.

Most officials of Zelenskyy’s rank are famous by definition. He had the advantage of already being well-known and well-liked in his homeland, but his performance so far under the harrowing conditions of Putin’s invasion has won him respect across the world. There is now, in addition to the fascination about his rise to power, an equally great fascination about that of Vasyl Holoborodko, the thirty-something history teacher he plays on Servant of the People. This Youtube playlist offers 23 episodes of the show, complete with English subtitles. Give it a watch, and you’ll better understand not just Zelenskyy’s appeal to the Ukrainian people, but that people’s distinctive sense of humor — a vital strategic asset indeed in such trying times.

Related content:

Why Russia Invaded Ukraine: A Useful Primer

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Why is Ukraine in Crisis?: A Quick Primer For Those Too Embarrassed to Ask (2014)

“Borat” on Politics and Embarrassment — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast Discussion #67

Comedians Speaking Truth to Power: Lenny Bruce, George Carlin & Richard Pryor (NSFW)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

P.J. O’Rourke (RIP) Explains Why You Can Never Win Over Your Political Adversaries by Mocking Them

Donald Trump, as his supporters and detractors alike can agree, is immune to humor. All the parody, satire, ridicule, and insult with which he was ceaselessly bombarded during his four years as the President of the United States of America had, to a first approximation, no effect whatsoever. If anything, it just made him more powerful. “There has been tremendous scorn for and fun made of Trump, and indeed Trump supporters,” says the late humorist P.J. O’Rourke in the clip above from a 2106 Intelligence Squared event. But “when you are angry at the establishment, and you see the establishment not just disagreeing with your candidate but mocking your candidate, there is an element that says, ‘They’re mocking me.'”

As a result, “every time you went out to make fun of Trump, you increased his support, because people were feeling scorned.” The result of the 2016 election, which happened the next month, would seem to have borne this out. “When people feel they are outsiders,” O’Rourke says, “you cannot convince them by mocking them.” This may, at first, sound somewhat rich coming from a writer who spent half a century turning everything that so much as approached the world of politics into joke material. But O’Rourke didn’t engage in mockery, per se; rather, he straightforwardly observed that which came before him. “Humor isn’t about being funny,” he once said in another interview. “It’s about putting emotional distance between yourself and the patterns of human behavior.”


I’ve long kept that observation in mind, as I have so much else O’Rourke wrote and said. If any one thing made me a writer, it was all the fifteen-minute breaks from my high-school job at the Gap I spent reading his books at the Borders on the other side of the mall. I took a rebellious pleasure, at that age and at that time, in getting laughs from the work of a writer who was clearly not a man of the left. Or rather, a writer who was formerly a man of the left: a self-confessed 1960s hippie, he like many of the Baby Boom generation underwent a political conversion after noticing the deductions from his paycheck. “I’d been struggling for years to achieve socialism in America,” goes one of his oft-quoted lines, “only to discover that we had it already.”

Yet O’Rourke was never a doctrinaire right-winger. Forged at the National Lampoon (for which he wrote the well known piece “How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink”) he emerged as a 1980s libertarian-libertine. In recent decades, during which he often appeared as a convivial political outsider on shows like National Public Radio’s Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me, he shifted to the territory referenced in the title of his last book, 2020’s A Cry from the Far Middle. In the video above he reads its introduction, a dispatch from a time of not just “moron populism and idiot partisanship” but also a “grievous health crisis, lockdown isolation, economic collapse, and material deprivation.” Once a wisecracking correspondent from the world’s trouble spots, he knew to bet that even in America, “human nature will triumph over adversity and challenge. And I don’t mean that in a good way.”

You can read O’Rourke’s obituary here.

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Bill Hicks’ 12 Principles of Comedy

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Organized Chaos!: Watch 33 Videos Showing How Saturday Night Live Gets Made Each Week

Who do you think of when you think of Saturday Night Live?

The original cast? 

Creator Lorne Michaels?

Whoever hosted last week’s episode?

What about the guy who makes and holds the cue cards?

Wally Feresten is just one of the backstage heroes to be celebrated in Creating Saturday Night Live, a fascinating look at how the long-running television sketch show comes together every week.

Like many of those interviewed Feresten is more or less of a lifer, having come aboard in 1990 at the age of 25.

He estimates that he and his team of 8 run through some 1000 14” x 22” cards cards per show. Teleprompters would save trees, but the possibility of technical issues during the live broadcast presents too big of a risk.


This means that any last minute changes, including those made mid-broadcast, must be handled in a very hands on way, with corrections written in all caps over carefully applied white painter’s tape or, worst case scenario, on brand new cards.

(After a show wraps, its cards enjoy a second act as dropcloths for the next week’s painted sets.)

Nearly every sketch requires three sets of cue cards, so that the cast, who are rarely off book due to the frequent changes, can steal glances to the left, right and center.

As the department head, Feresten is partnered with each week’s guest host, whose lines are the only ones to be written in black. Betty White, who hosted in 2010 at the age of 88, thanked him in her 2011 autobiography.

Surely that’s worth his work-related arthritic shoulder, and the recurrent nightmares in which he arrives at Studio 8H just five minutes before showtime to find that all 1000 cue cards are blank.

Costumes have always been one of Saturday Night Live’s flashiest pleasures, running the gamut from Coneheads and a rapping Cup o’Soup to an immaculate recreation of the white pantsuit in which Vice President Kamala Harris delivered her victory speech a scant 3 hours before the show aired.

“A costume has a job,” wardrobe supervisor Dale Richards explains:

It has to tell a story before (the actors) open their mouth…as soon as it comes on camera, it should give you so much backstory.

And it has to cleave to some sort of reality and truthfulness, even in a sketch as outlandish as 2017’s Henrietta & the Fugitive, starring host Ryan Gosling as a detective in a film noir style romance. The gag is that the dame is a chicken (cast member Aidy Bryant.)

Richards cites actress Bette Davis as the inspiration for the chicken’s look:


Because you’re not going to believe it if the detective couldn’t actually fall in love with her. She has to be very feminine, so we gave her Bette Davis bangs and long eyelashes and a beautiful bonnet, so the underpinnings were very much like an actress in a movie, although she did have a chicken costume on.

The number of quick costume changes each performer must make during the live broadcast helps determine the sketches’ running order.

Some of the breakneck transformations are handled by Richards’ sister, Donna, who once beat the clock by piggybacking host Jennifer Lopez across the studio floor to the changing area where a well-coordinated crew swished her out of her opening monologue’s skintight dress and skyscraper heels and into her first costume.

That’s one example of the sort of traffic the 4-person crane camera crew must battle as they hurtle across the studio to each new set. Camera operator John Pinto commands from atop the crane’s counterbalanced arm.

Those swooping crane shots of the musical guests, opening monologue and goodnights (see below) are a Saturday Night Live tradition, a part of its iconic look since the beginning.

Get to know other backstage workers and how they contribute to this weekly high wire act in a 33 episode Creating Saturday Night playlist, all on display below:

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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The Jagger Moving Company


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