The “25 Facts” series features people, places, and stuff that make Milwaukee (and Wisconsin) great. These articles are meant just for fun and we have nothing but love for everyone included.
Saturday Night Live has been a pillar of late night television and American culture in general for 45 years now—one year for every 100 times Jimmy Fallon started laughing in the middle of a sketch. Since Lorne Michaels kicked off the show in 1975, thousands of talented people have graced the stage of Studio 8H at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Some of them are even from Milwaukee!
As you may have read in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s recent piece, Pewaukee’s NFL superstar J.J. Watt will join the growing list of people with Wisconsin ties to appear on SNL when he hosts for his first time this Saturday night. The list of local folks who have appeared on the show is pretty short and pretty interesting, but the Journal Sentinel already covered that. Today, we’ll be exploring the not-that-interesting facts about SNL‘s connections to Wisconsin in long, excruciating detail. Thanks for reading and On, Wisconsin!
1. J.J. Watt will host the show on February 1. This is only the second time in the history of the show that an episode will fall on that date. The first was hosted by Melissa McCarthy on February 1, 2014. That episode was Seth Myers’ last as a cast member and McCarthy accidentally used the S-word on air.
2. During SNL‘s first season (when it was still called Saturday Night), they didn’t have a show on February 1, of course, but the first February episode in the history of the show featured musical guest Al Jarreau. He was from Milwaukee.
3. Al Jarreau was also the musical guest for a Season 9 episode, hosted by Billy Crystal. Crystal hosted two episodes that season and then joined the cast for Season 10. The first official host of Season 10 was Bob Uecker.
4a. Ueck hosted the second episode of Season 10, but was technically the first host of the season as the first episode had no host. There are only 4 host-less non-special episodes in SNL history.
4b. Ueck’s musical guest was Peter Wolf, who was making his second appearance. Wolf’s first appearance was as a member of the J. Geils Band, the musical guest for a Season 5 episode hosted by Rodney Dangerfield.
4c. That Rodney episode preceded a host-less episode.
4d. SNL‘s other two episodes occurred on April 11, 1981 and October 3, 1981.
On April 11, the Milwaukee Brewers won their first game of the strike-shortened 1981 season.
On October 3, they beat the Detroit Tigers (2-1) to clinch their first ever postseason trip.
5. Gilda Radner was one of the greatest stars SNL ever had. After her time on the show, she worked her way into movies and married Milwaukee-native Gene Wilder. On the day they were married, the Detroit Tigers clinched their second AL East title with a 3-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
6. During Season 20, Madison-native and Marquette University legend Chris Farley played Larry Templeton from Milwaukee, Wisconsin in a pretty regrettable sketch about a Japanese game show.
7. During Season 19, Farley played Shawn Eckardt (of Nancy Kerrigan incident infamy) during Kerrigan’s opening monologue. During that same monologue, recent Olympic medalists and Pettit National Ice Center regulars Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair were major topics of conversation.
8. SNL alumnus John Belushi went to UW-Whitewater for a year. Remember when D-Day came into the Delta Tau Chi house and up the stairs in Animal House? That actually happened at the Hamilton House in Whitewater, where Belushi used to hang out.
9. The Blues Brothers, Wayne’s World, Bridesmaids, The Great Outdoors, This Is Spinal Tap, and Tommy Boy all have ties to both SNL and Wisconsin. However, none of their titles contain the letters C F J K Q V X or Z.
10. Wisconsinite-by-marriage Jim Gaffigan appeared in a “Fuzzy Memories by Jack Handey” sketch about a haunted house during a Season 21 episode, hosted by Christopher Walken.
11. During that same episode, Walken appeared as the fill-in host during David Spade’s “Spade In America.” Spade was outside covering a recent snowstorm and complaining about the cold. While insisting that one of the new cast members should be outside instead of him, he suggested newcomer Will Ferrell. “Yes, Will Ferrell. He’s from Wisconsin. Get him out here.” Ferrell is actually from California.
12a. While Ferrell is not from Wisconsin, but he did do a series of Old Milwaukee commercials.
12b. In a Season 17 episode, hosts Roseanne and Tom Arnold starred in “A Star Is Born”—a parody biopic about Tom Arnold’s rise to stardom and Roseanne’s descent into infamy. During the sketch, manager Larry Roman (Dana Carvey) scolds Roseanne (Roseanne) for eating nothing but sandwiches and Old Milwaukee.
13a. Christopher Walken played Fonzie in a parody biopic of Milwaukee’s coolest shark jumper during a Season 25 episode.
13b. The Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, appeared briefly on Saturday Night Live‘s Mardi Gras special during Season 2, but he has never hosted an episode himself.
13c. Adam Sandler wasn’t in either of those sketches, but we’re told he was in the movie Click with Christopher Walken and Henry Winkler in 2006.
14. Boz Scaggs served as musical guest for the second episode of Season 2. In the 1960s, Scaggs attended the University of Wisconsin and played in various bands with friend Steve Miller (of the Steve Miller Band). Drummer Jim Papandrea also played with Steve Miller before going on to become my childhood dentist.
15a. Kenan Thompson played former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke in the cold open during a Season 44 episode.
15b. Former sheriff Clarke shares a birthday (August 21) with former SNL cast member Brooks Wheelan.
15c. Brooks Wheelan once appeared on Milwaukee Record‘s On The Record podcast.
16a. Milwaukee native Heather Graham hosted SNL episode #467 on October 16, 1999.
16b. That same day, the University of Wisconsin beat the University of Indiana 59-0 and accumulated 465 yards rushing.
16c. Heather Graham appeared in two movies in 1999 that starred SNL alumni (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me with Mike Myers and Bowfinger with Eddie Murphy).
16d. 467 – 465 = 2
17. George Wendt (who is SNL alum Jason Sudeikis’ uncle) made several cameos as Bob Swerski in “Bill Swerski’s Super Fans” sketches, but was never an official member of the cast. He did, however, officially graduate from Campion High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
18a. In the eighth episode of Season 45, there was a sketch called “Wisconsin Women” that takes place somewhere in Wisconsin. It’s about bears and it’s not funny and features nobody who’s actually from Wisconsin.
18b. In the eighth episode of Season 18, there was an installment of “Bill Swerski’s Super Fans” that takes place in the Richard M. Butkus Trauma Center at Halas Memorial Hospital. Bob Swerski (George Wendt) and Todd O’Connor (Chris Farley) are there receiving treatment for heart attacks sustained during recent Bears losses. It’s about Bears fans and it’s hilarious and it features Farley and Wendt, who both lived in Wisconsin as young men. It also features cheese.
19. Jason Sudeikis (George Wendt’s nephew) and Chevy Chase both appeared on Dan Harmon’s show, Community, after leaving SNL. Harmon is, of course, from Milwaukee.
20. The original SNL cast and Lorne Michaels appeared on Milwaukee-native Tom Snyder’s The Tomorrow Show on October 4, 1975—one week before Saturday Night made its debut.
21. Dan Aykroyd did his first impersonation of Milwaukee’s Tom Snyder on SNL on April 17, 1976.
22. David Spade did his first impersonation of Milwaukee’s Kato Kaelin on SNL on September 24, 1994.
23. Chris Farley made his final TV appearance on October 25, 1997 when he returned to Studio 8H to host SNL for the first time. Less than two months later, he passed away. However, his final film appearance wasn’t released until June 12, 1998. Dirty Work featured a cornucopia of SNL alumni, including star Norm MacDonald and cameos from Chevy Chase, Adam Sandler, David Koechner, Fred Wolf, and Jim Downey—most of whom had actually been fired from SNL.
24. On a “Weekend Update” installment during Season 44, Michael Che joked about a Wisconsin man who stole 24 bottles of Hennessy from the Menomonee Falls Costco.
25. Waukesha’s BoDeans performed with The Band legend Robbie Robertson during a Season 13 episode. However, they also got a sweet mention from a doctor named Marc (Will Ferrell) in a ridiculous Season 25 episode.
Break a leg, J.J., and please mention the time we ran into you at The Crossings Restaurant in Pewaukee during your opening monologue!
[h/t Nick Hoppert]