Trading Card Set of the Week – Saturday Night Live (1992, Star Pics)
It’s startling that Saturday Night Live is reaching one of the big round anniversary numbers this year, but it is. That venerable sketch comedy show, with its en vogue host of the week, musical acts, fake news and a finger on the pulse of up-to-the-minute satire, has been around for 40 years now. Forty. Four-Oh. And its big bash is tomorrow night, with a cornucopia of stars scheduled to help blow out the candles — they’re even getting Eddie Murphy back this time. For those of us who can clearly remember the 25th anniversary revels for Lorne Michaels’ brainchild, if not the very first episode, this is one of those clear markers that, yes indeed, time flies. Especially when you’re having fun.
Everyone who’s ever watched SNL seems to have their favorite era. This isn’t a scientific theorem by any means, but I’ve always thought that this selection usually happens when a person is in their early teens to early twenties, as if that time in their life is when humor imprints on their brains like a mama bird’s face. Maybe it has something to do with the challenge-the-world audacity of youth, a time when we’re all responsive to things subversive, anything that undercuts and mocks the messed up world of our elders. But that’s the window when the Not Ready for Prime Time Players have their best chance of making an impression.
For me that era came in the early 1990s, in what could arguably be regarded as the absolute funniest, bestest era of SNL. Of course I’m biased, but it would seem that the combined comic talents of Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Kevin Nealon, Chris Rock, Phil Hartman, and Adam Sandler (yes, even Sandler) can stack up to any of the casts that have been around before or since. And, my God, so many of the characters and skits that sprang from that time have made their mark, it’s almost like you have to have a familiarity with it to converse intelligently about pop culture.
Which brings us to our topic of the day. Since the early nineties was also the apex of the trading card boom, that epoch is immortalized on a set of “CardArt.” Star Pics, purveyors of such TV cards as the Twin Peaks set, produced them in 1992, when — again, this is hard to believe — the show was less than halfway through its current run. There were 150 cards, which sounds like a lot. But if you consider the width and breadth of SNL and the characters and sketches it featured even up to that point, they fly by — much like the years. A sampling….
Perhaps a signifier of the potency of this era of the show is the fact that the Aaron Rodgers State Farm ads have for the last few years featured characters from this period: the Robert Smigel and George Wendt “Super Fans” and, this past season, pompous weightlifters Hans and Franz. Here are the latter, in all their pumped up, flabby-loser-mocking glory — plus a camel:
Remember Toonces, the cat who could drive a car, just not very well? I don’t know that I ever realized he was from Texas:
Since they were advertised on the box, it’s no surprise that Wayne and Garth, the stars of the cable access show Wayne’s World and two eponymous movies, have their share of cards. Reflecting back on how popular this duo was (and how my friends and I nauseatingly copied their sayings), it’s somewhat shocking that Myers is now known more as Austin Powers and the voice of Shrek (but most assuredly not the Love Guru):
Poor, sweet, dear departed Chris Farley, one of the best physical comedians SNL ever had, pops up a number of times. His most famous recurring characters might have been downtrodden and pissed off motivational speaker Matt Foley and a starstruck version of himself on the “Chris Farley Show,” but his finest hour, if you can call it that, might have been his Chippendales audition dance-off with Patrick Swayze (who deserves an honorable comedic mention for keeping a straight face the whole time). Behold:
Everybody’s working for the weekend!
The stars and characters of the past — mainly the 1970s cast, as you don’t see a lot of Joe Piscopo here — also get cards, under the “Classics” label. Jake and Elwood Blues! The Blues Brothers!:
The Wild and Crazy Guys! The Festrunk Brothers! (Steve Martin has hosted the show so many times, he might have more appearances by now than Dan Aykroyd, who was an actual cast member.):
After going through the assorted Weekend Update personalities, from Chevy Chase to Dennis Miller, the set moves on to its best part. One of the hallmarks of SNL has always been the spoof ads, which sometimes you can never tell are fake or real until you get to the punchline. It’s fitting that a broad cross-section of them close things out — like Colon Blow. I always loved how Super Colon Blow was just twigs:
Do you like beer? Are you gay? Try new Schmitt’s Gay!:
How about John Belushi and the Donuts of Champions:
(The box reminds us of when Bruce Jenner was known for his athletic prowess, and not A) transitioning into a woman and B) killing a woman.)
It’s fitting that the last card is for perhaps the best fake ad of them all: Bill Murray washing down a hearty meal with Swill, the only mineral water dredged from Lake Erie. You know, the beverage that oozes out of the bottle and has pull tabs in it. I like mine with a twist:
These cards are a ton of fun — you could go on and on with others that space and time prevent us from getting to: the Church Lady, the Love Toilet, Nat X, Happy Fun Ball, etc. A complaint would be that the collation was less than stellar here, as one box I opened didn’t even yield a full set. The overly busy border design is also a bit much, but this can be forgiven since it matches what the show was using for its bumpers at the time. (The garish colors and patched-up patterns are ever so early nineties.) Card backs were snippets from the dialogue in skits, and it’s a testament to the staying power of so many of the sketches that I didn’t have to consult any online transcripts to determine their accuracy, as they were burned into my memory long ago.
I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live in years. Like people always do, I’ve reached the point where I’m not that entertained by the whippersnappers onscreen, and have to resist the urge to bellow GET OFF MY LAWN at the TV. But there was a time, and it certainly retains its place in the culture. But for people who loved that particular moment of the show, or for those who just love its rich, lengthy and getting lengthier history, the cards are a great ride. You can find them quite cheap on eBay, and they might be a solid purchase if you’re celebrating along as SNL moves into its fifth(!) decade.