January 29, 2011

Live From New York... It's a BatR Exclusive!

I don't know why I'm frantically throwing this blog entry together considering it's 32-year old news, but being the consummate broadcast journalist I am, I've got the innate fear that someone else may still beat me to it. I was just watching an old episode of Saturday Night Live on Netflix hosted by Milton Berle--Season Four, Episode 17, April 12, 1979. I'd read that his performance on the episode lead to his subsequent "banning" by Lorne Michaels, so I had to see for myself. 

His opening monologue was very old school--rapid fire self-deprecating one-liners and some jokes about black guys, Arabs, and Puerto Ricans. His set is briefly interrupted by a loud sound from backstage (courtesy Bill Murray). As it turns out, karma might have come back to bite Berle in a moment that I have not found addressed anywhere else on the internet. Yes folks, it's time for a Beauty and the RoBeast exclusive!

The premise for the skit is not especially hilarious--it's The Widettes (the big butt family) with Berle as the visiting uncle. He and Dan Aykroyd are planning an Easter egg hunt for the children (Gilda Radner and John Belushi). Here, they sit on the couch just before Aykroyd announcing to the family that the hunt is on.

Milton drools/smiles.

This may look like Milton Berle getting in on another one of those crazy early-day SNL orgies, but I can assure you it's just the young Widettes scrambling for eggs.

Uncle Miltie plops down on the couch while Dan "Zapruder" Aykroyd stays in the back watching the Widette joke play out. 
See, they're always bumping into things with their big butts, and for the first time all night, Berle is not babbling or mugging for the camera. 

Not only is he uncharacteristically quiet, he also looks like he's been shot from the grassy knoll. Gilda's found an egg, but Berle appears to have lost something important. 

It seems to me that Milton Berle has lost his false teeth, but I can't tell if it's a setup or if it was an unintentional accident. 

At this point, Berle actually slams his hands down on the coffee table and frightens Gilda into a split second of silence. He then desperately retreats back to the couch.  

As he sits back, something rolls into sight on the side of the couch. I know this is a jpg capture of a streaming video originally broadcast on network television in 1979, but I'm going to go ahead and assume it's dentures. 

His hand searches the couch a couple times though we never actually see it make contact with the object from the previous shot. Here, he is either jamming the dentures back into his mouth, pretending to jam dentures into his mouth, or just taking stock of what teeth are left.

He hides behind Gilda for a moment than starts saying his lines. I don't really see a mouthful of teeth here, but his dialog doesn't seem horribly affected. Still, the next shot is a very long, awkward, unnecessary solo shot of Aykroyd. It could be an excuse to keep Berle off camera while he gains his composure, or it could just be the lingering 70s camera style. 

After watching the clip about 50 times, I still can't figure if it was

  • the joke
  • an ad-libbed joke
  • actually his teeth falling out

I am reserving my laughter only for option three. Still, I implore you to watch the clip for yourself and tell me what you think happened (if you have Netflix streaming, use this link and skip t\o 14:40). Was it intentional or was it a celebrity tooth-oops? I may have to write a letter to Dan Aykroyd or Jane Curtin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just watched it on dvd, definitely teeth falling out.