Sunday, March 27, 2005

SNL in '77, Karen Ann Quinlan, Major League, Frailty

Dennis Perrin writes...
from SNL's second season, February 26, 1977 -- an absurdist take on the Karen Ann Quinlan case from that period. You won't see today's SNL trying something like this... esp given that Michael O'Donoghue had a hand in writing the below bit. O'D's style of humor wouldn't make it on today's SNL. Hell, O'D himself would be banned from the building.
"Pull The Plug"
Doctor: Steve Martin
Mrs. Dionosopolis: Jane Curtin
Mr. Dionosopolis: Bill Murray
Buddy: John Belushi

[Open on interior, hospital room; Doctor stands with Parents in front of Buddy's bed, as Buddy lies in a coma]

Doctor: I'm sorry, Mr. & Mrs. Dionosopolis, but your son can't get any closer to death than he is right now.

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Tomorrow's his birthday.

Mr. Dionosopolis: Doctor, isn't there a chance that Buddy could come out of this coma?

Doctor: Well, let me put it this way - if you want to get Buddy something for his birthday, I would suggest moss for his north side.

[Mrs. Dionosopolis cries in agony]

Doctor: Hey! I'm just trying to lighten things up a little bit!

Mr. Dionosopolis: [comforting his wife] Thank you, Doctor! It's a good joke! It is. I'm sure that Buddy would have laughed.

Doctor: Well, I think you should know that the machine that keeps Buddy alive is costing you $500 a day.

[awkward pause]

Mr. Dionosopolis: I think you'd better pull the plug, Doctor.

Mrs. Dionosopolis: [outraged] Buddy!!!

Mr. Dionosopolis: Now, you heard what the man said. Buddy has no motor reflexes, his mind is gone. Do you think he's having fun? Look at that! [pointing to Buddy]

Doctor: Now, listen, uh.. according to law, I cannot deliberately pull the plug.

Mr. Dionosopolis: I see.

Doctor: Buuuut. . . if the plug were to, uh.. "accidentally".. be pulled from the wall, I don't think anyone's gonna make a federal case out of it. I think you know what I'm talking about, huh? [winks]

Mr. Dionosopolis: Mmm-hmm. Well, I think we should probably just put him out of his misery..

Mrs. Dionosopolis: [outraged] Honey!!

Mr. Dionosopolis: [calmly] Cathy, I never told you this, but about a year ago, Buddy came to me, and he said, "Dad, if I'm ever in a bad accident at work, and I'm hit in the head with a sledgehammer and lapse into a coma and have to kept alive by a machine, I want to die with dignity. So, please pull the plug."

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Wellll . . . if that's the way that Buddy wants it, then . . . pull the plug.

Doctor: Accidentally.

Mr. Dionosopolis: Accidentally.

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Accidentally.

Doctor: [begins his act] Okay! Well, hey, I've got to, uh, run up to surgery. I'm, uh, kinda late right now, so I'll probably be taking off! See you later -- they're calling me! [pretends to trip over the plug as he makes his exit, getting tangled in the cord] Oh, no! My leg is tangled in the cord! It . . . it could cut off the circulation! Help me!

Mr. Dionosopolis: [playing along] Okay, here, here . . . let me get your foot out . . .

Doctor: Yeah! Maybe you could just pull on it!

[both men struggle with the cord, yanking on it, putting their feet on the wall for leverage, but the plug will not come out of the electrical outlet]

[suddenly, Buddy opens his eyes and sits straight up in bed]

Buddy: Hi Mom! Hi Dad! I'm not in a coma anymore!

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Thank God!

Mr. Dionosopolis: [embarrassed] Buddy..? Buddy..?

Buddy: [sees the men tangled in the cord] Ohhhhh . . . what are you doing? Were you pulling the plug on me!

Mr. Dionosopolis: Buddy, the doctor told us you were a vegetable.

Doctor: I, for one, am baffled!

Buddy: But pulling the plug!

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Buddy, we were just doing what you told your father about "dying with dignity." You know? If you ever got hit in the head with a sledgehammer and had to be kept alive by machines? You remember!

Buddy: I never said anything like that, Mom.

Mr. Dionosopolis: Oh, yeahhh . . . you remember, don't you? It was that one day, remember? You weren't acting yourself, you were real strange. I thought, "Gee, that's not like Buddy, wants to die like that." But I figured, what the heck, okay! You said it, though! You said it. You just forgot!

Buddy: [laughing] I probably forgot about it!

Mr. Dionosopolis: Well, Buddy, do you feel good enough to go home?

Buddy: [excited, bouncing out of bed] Yeah, that would be just great!

Mrs. Dionosopolis: All right. I'll fix you a nice big lunch!

Mr. Dionosopolis: And we'll go hunting first thing next week, okay? [turns to Doctor, now with scorn on his face] Thanks a lot, Doctor! Thanks for almost killing little Buddy!

[family exits hospital room]

Doctor: [to camera] Well, excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse ME!!

No,Terri Schiavo's plight isn't funny, but for goodness sake, does it really need to be said that a society that can matter-of-factly allow for humor like this is a considerably healthier one than one where we have to look over our shoulder for the God Squad to come after us and tell everyone about how they're being persecuted by anyone who dares disagree with them(or not fawn over them) in the slightsest? I find it interesting, however, how the SNL sketch seems to predict the hearsay question about Schiavo's wishes re resucitation and how the question of money rears its head, the way it hasn't in the tv coverage, although there is this pretty good USA Today article.

the other night Major League(1989), one of my favorite movies, was on TV. I wonder if this scene[dialogue below] would've made it into the theatrical release nowadays.

Pedro Cerrano: Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.

Eddie Harris: You know you might think about taking Jesus Christ as your savior instead of fooling around with all this stuff.

Jake Taylor: Harris.

Pedro Cerrano: Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.

Eddie Harris: You trying to say Jesus Christ can't hit a curveball?

Innocent as it is(and its impact is softened by a later scene where Cerrano rejects Jobu, a scene that smells false), I wonder if nowadays studios would just pre-emptively nix such a scene to avoid trouble. I also wonder if the ending of Bill Paxton's Frailty(2001) was monkeyed with out of fear of incurring the wrath of the Christian Right. I don't know how to describe what I'm talking about without giving away the ending of the picture-- suffice to say the first 3/4 of the story is told(very effectively) in a matter-of-fact, naturalistic style, and the ending has a supernatural element which seems completely out of keeping with the rest of the picture, as if the filmmakers lost their nerve and were afraid of where their story was going. (Because where their story was going was basically an indictment of excessive religious zeal and excessively authoritarian parenting. I guess we can't tell those kind of stories anymore. I can only imagine what Flannery O'Connor would've thought of our present age.)