Monday, September 22, 2014

The Strangest SNL Sketch You’ve Never Seen

People don’t know about Yvonne Hudson, generally. She’s the first black female performer in the history of Saturday Night Live, but she has become hard to remember, probably because she had mostly low-profile roles on the show during her tenure (between 1978 and 1984) and because she seems to have retired from acting since. I actually often make the mistake of saying that Danitra Vance was the first black female performer on the show, but it’s not true: Vance was only the first main player, while Hudson was a featured performer.

The latest installment of Splitsider’s “Saturday Night’s Children” reminded me about Yvonne Hudson and also picked out one sketch in particular where she got to play a significant role: “Bad Clams,” from a Buck Henry-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live that originally aired on November 10, 1979.

I’d never seen it, but I hunted the episode down. And it’s weird as hell.

It’s not exactly hilarious, but to me there’s something compellingly bizarre about it. Really, what was the pitch for this? “Let’s have Gilda do Lucy and then we’ll force her to eat rancid clams on morning TV”? At a time when a lot of alternative comedy skews dark — from “Wait, what’s going on?” to “Oh, this is more strange than funny” to “Wait, this is just a low-budget nightmare sketch” — there’s something about this sketch that seems ahead of its time.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just funny watching a national treasure being force-fed spoiled shellfish by the most disturbingly pleasant TV hosts in history.

But hey — Breaking Away!

Weird SNL sketches, previously:

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