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The original Not Ready for Prime Time Player details how she chickened out of a naughty idea.

By Jillian Sederholm
March 12, 2021 at 07:59 PM EST
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It didn't take getting on the 101 to the 110 to the 405 north to land Laraine Newman a spot in a Californians sketch on Saturday Night Live, it just took a phone call. Then came a naughty plan to try to sneak the C-word onto the show.

Newman, an SNL cast member from the show's 1975 premiere through 1980, chronicles her legendary comedy career in her new audio memoir, May You Live in Interesting Times (out now), including a return to her roots at the NBC show for its 40th-anniversary special in 2015. In a clip from the audiobook (below), she says she thought a Valley girl character named Sherry she'd played during her stint on the show would fit in perfectly with the Californians, a popular recurring sketch that featured exaggerated accents of L.A.'s San Fernando Valley.

"When the SNL 40th anniversary show was announced, I called Lorne [Micheals] and said I thought it would be fun to have Sherry in the Californians sketch as the matriarch," Newman narrates. "Next thing I knew, Fred Armisen contacted me to write a Californians sketch."

Then the pair got into "some devilment" involving the way the word couldn't sounds more like c'unt in the regional dialect, knowing it would sound dirty on air.

Newman explains the plan in the memoir: "What if we snuck c'unt into the sketch? So Fred wrote a little speech for me about how Betty White's character, Aunt Lana, went missing after a hot-air balloon accident. The plan was that I would use the word c'unt three times in a speech: 'They c'unt find her, they c'unt find the balloon, they c'unt even find the basket made of California rattan.'"

Shelley Duvall, Gilda Radner, Lorne Michaels, Laraine Newman, and Jane Curtin
'Saturday Night Live' season 2 host Shelley Duvall, cast member Gilda Radner, creator Lorne Michaels, cast member Laraine Newman, and cast member Jane Curtin (bottom) in 1977
| Credit: Edie Baskin

In an interview with EW, Newman says the line made it to the rehearsal stage, but she got cold feet when it came time to perform it live. "I felt I had to not do it just because it would have been selfish on my part," she explains. "I had no idea if that might negatively impact the 40th anniversary of the show, which was such a monumental feat on Lorne's part, and I didn't want there to even be a possibility that I might mar that."

When asked if her chickening out had anything to do with White — who was 93 at the time— also starring in the sketch, Newman gives an emphatic no. "Are you kidding? She's wonderfully raucous."

Watch the version that aired below.

Newman says the C-word is probably still taboo for the sketch show. "The way SNL is now, people are clearly saying f--- and its beeped out, but everybody knows what they're saying. But c--t has never — to the best of my knowledge — been even attempted to be snuck in, so I think that it's really a big one, and a wrong one, to try and interject."

The original Not Ready for Prime Time Player says she still watches SNL all the time. "I just love it. I love sketch comedy. I always will," she tells EW. "I've just been thrilled watching the various casts come into SNL over the years."

"I always hear people say 'Your cast was the best.' And I maintain that whatever cast was on when you were an adolescent is the best cast, and it's true because they've all been great. Every season, every generation, they've had writers and actors that represent that generation."

As for the cast of the current generation, Newman says she enjoys them all but has been particularly taken with Cecily Strong's growth on the show. "In terms of characters, I think Cecily Strong's characters fascinate me the most. She did [The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party] on Update, and then she just blew up and blossomed and did stuff that really isn't easy."

She also has high praise for Kate McKinnon, Heidi Gardner ("I've watched her develop [as a Groundling] and I know she's got a lot more coming."), Aidy Bryant, Melissa Villaseñor, and Ego Nwodim ("What I love about her is that her characters are very subtle but all very different, and she's got a wonderful sense of irony."), among others.

But can we expect to see Newman back at Studio 8H for a political impression, Maya Rudolph-style, any time soon? "I'd love to do it," she says. "I just can't imagine what it would be."

We c'unt be happier to hear it.

Watch Newman play Sherry, her Valley girl character, during her SNL screen test below.

May You Live in Interesting Times is available now on Audible.

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Episode Recaps

Saturday Night Live - Season 42

Saturday Night Live

The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.

type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 46
rating
  • TV-14
genre
airs
  • Saturdays at 11:30 PM
creator
  • Lorne Michaels
network
  • NBC
stream service

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