Flakiest Night of the Week

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"Satire is what closes Saturday night" said George Kaufman. NBC's Saturday Night is proving him wrong. For 90 minutes, three out of four Saturday nights after 11:30, a small, subversive group of iconoclasts is throwing the air waves into disorder, tossing barbs at the presidency, the system, the revolution(s), motherhood, feminism, civil rights and democracy. Only on the air for four months, this live and unpredictable show is the season's surprise hit. It already has a loyal following of more than seven million. Says Dick Ebersol, 28, the network's late-night programming vice president, who is responsible for the whole thing: "It's NBC's hottest show, the most attractive show to advertisers, in 25 years."

Hi, Studmuffins. Saturday Night has no organized format. A jumble of political satire, tasteless jokes and off-balance sketches is delivered by the rambunctious "Not Ready for Prime Time Players," a cast of mostly unknowns who have a breezy informality that makes Carol Burnett and Archie Bunker look like waxworks. President Ford falls over all the time on SN, crying, "No problem." Viewers are urged to send samples of marijuana to be tested for quality. Don Vito Corleone is trapped in a therapy session with a blonde who screams, "You're blocking, Vito"; female hardhats rib male passersby: "Hi, studmuffins. Watch out, joy chunks."

There are some regular features, including Jim Henson and his Muppets, from Sesame Street, and Chevy Chase's Weekend Update. Chevy, who started as a writer on the show (see box), is fast becoming its comedy star. He is a tall, conventional-looking young man, who opens a rude and funny parody of the nation's newscasters with "I'm Chevy Chase—and you're not." His news breaks are bizarre: "Vandals broke into the Louvre and attached arms onto the Venus de Milo." His favorite long-running story is: "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still seriously dead."

There is one other regular feature: the false advertisement deftly inserted in the middle of commercial breaks. "Hi," says a bright-eyed woman coming into her kitchen, "I'm a nuclear physicist and chairman of consumer affairs." How does she do it? "She takes speed." A young man playing tennis says: "Right now I'm having a vasectomy." How does he do it? Golden Needles Voodoo Acupuncture—for those who don't have the time or money for costly operations. The put-ons have been too successful. The Gay Activists Alliance is mad at an ad that shows a homosexual reminiscing about the joys of dressing in his mother's clothes even as he places a long-distance call to Mom: "The next best thing to being her."

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