Archive for September 1979

Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video

September 21, 1979

Best known for the “Cut and Slash” philosophy of comedy he brought as a writer to National Lampoon and Saturday Night Live, Michael O’Donoghue died of a cerebral hemorrhage in November 1994. Soon after his death, I went out and rented this bizarre shot-on-video project, which he assembled for NBC (who refused to air it — it played briefly in theaters). It’s probably the most sustained demonstration of his pitch-black wit. Don’t expect to fall off the couch laughing, though. This isn’t comedy; it’s confrontational anti-comedy, much like the kind Andy Kaufman used to practice, only far more surreal and grisly. A confirmed elitist, O’Donoghue took pride in producing conceptual comedy that the great unwashed wouldn’t “get.” (He had a crowd-pleasing side, too — the year before he died, he penned a book purportedly written by Bill Clinton’s cat Socks.) Some of the bits go on so long, the humor drains out. But at all times, what you’re watching is O’Donoghue in full control, so the video must be taken as a success on his terms. The whole affair — featuring, among others, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd (displaying his webbed toes), Paul Shaffer, Carrie Fisher, Laraine Newman, Margot Kidder, Debbie Harry, and Teri Garr — is hip, morbid, dark, self-consciously twisted, and very late-’70s. Yet it was ahead of its time; mainstream comedy has yet to catch up with what Michael O’Donoghue was doing in the ‘70s.