Saturday Night Live at 40. A Scuttlefish History of SNL and the Sea.

by Chris Dixon


Phil Hartman and Wayne Gretzky from “The Anal Retentive Fisherman.” 

Last night Saturday Night Live celebrated 40 years on the air with a three-hour-long marathon gala. I’ve been a faithful fan of the show since staying up late without my parents’ permission in elementary school – and being way too young for some of what aired. Like every SNL ever produced – the anniversary show had moments of sheer awkwardness (Eddie Murphy stumbling into a commercial break), and tear-inducing brilliance – Will Ferrell leading the funniest Celebrity Jeopardy ever.


Dan Aykroyd from “Bass-O-Matic 76.”

Early on, Dan Aykroyd revived his famed “Bass-O-Matic” sketch from the show’s 1976 season. It was still pretty damn funny in revised form, and it got me thinking about some of my own favorite sketches through the years. I realized that several of them, at least ostensibly, revolved around what I’d call “SNL and the Sea.” So I went digging through the Interwebs. Normally I’m not very big on Internet lists – and for that reason, what follows is not every SNL skit that featured fishing, boats, surfing, or the coast. No, these are truly Scuttlefish-worthy shorts guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, or hurl. — CD

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Bill Paxton in the Brilliantly Disturbing “Fish Heads.” 


Jean Luc Picard Captains “The Love Boat – The Next Generation.” 


Andy Samberg “I’m on a Boat.” Screen Grab from SNL.


Taran Killam and Charlize Theron in the Wrong Place at the Right Time. Screen Grab from SNL.

1. The Super Bass-O-Matic 76. Dan Aykroyd’s Classic commercial was called one of the show’s best moments of all time by Rolling Stone. “Lets you use the whole bass.”

2. Jaws II. Landshark. “The cleverest species of them all.”
Features a beautiful young Candace Bergen. “You can’t tell me this woman was killed by falling out of a tree.”

3. Fish Heads. Another of Rolling Stone’s SNL videos of all time. This wild and subversive new wave film short was directed by a young Bill Paxton and conceived by former “Lost in Space” star Billy Mumy. It is at least as punk rock as the infamous Halloween appearance of the band Fear – which, just like “Fish Heads,” changed my life.
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4. Chris Farley is El Nino. A mind-bendingly funny, short moment from the too-short life of a comic genius.
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5. The Anal Retentive Fisherman. Featuring Wayne Gretzky alongside the late and truly great Phil Hartman in one of Hartman’s funniest characters. “I’ve attached a pre-moistened towellette to the bait bag.”

6. Fuzzy Memories by Jack Handey. The Fishing Trip.  Jack Handey remembers suspecting that his father wanted to drown him on a fishing trip. Absolutely classic, absurdist Handey.

7. The Love Boat – The Next Generation. Patrick Stewart as the Star Trek skipper of a galactic Love Boat. Worth watching just for the gusto Stewart puts into the role and Phil Hartman as Worf the Klingon.

8. Bikini Beach Party. This side-splitting short – inspired by Frankie, Annette, Gidget and the Exploding Whale of Newport Oregon – proves that Charlize Theron is a complete badass.

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9. I’m On a Boat. T-Pain stars with Andy Samberg in a fricking brilliant parody that won an Emmy nomination. “I got my swim trunks and my flippie-floppies. I’m flipping burgers, you at Kinko’s, straight flipping copies.”

10. The Californians. Stuart Has Cancer. The first episode of this classic series starring Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig (all doing their damndest not to crack up through the whole sketch) and an absolute spot-on take on a detached bro-brah So-Cal surfer doctor by Josh Brolin. “Uhhh, you have cancer.”  The people in this skit seem made up. But if you’ve ever lived in Southern California, you know they’re actually in every other damn car on the 405.

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