Friday, April 19, 2013

Blast From The Past

In the aftermath of a horrible national tragedy like the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this week, initial shock turns to questions of how, why, and particularly who. As the investigation as to the parties responsible for this terrible attack continues I can't help but find myself being reminded of another bomb attack at a prominent sporting event. I am of course referring to the Olympic Park Bombing at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

One of the lasting lessons to be taken away from that whole tragedy is the sad story of Richard Jewell. Jewell as you may recall was a security guard in Olympic Park who first identified the planted pipe bomb. Although the bomb would eventually go off leading to 2 deaths and injuries to over a hundred bystanders, Jewell's initial actions of alerting the police and helping to evacuate the area prevented more harm. Unfortunately for Jewell, it was leaked that the FBI considered him a possible suspect and despite never being officially charged he become all but guilty in court of public opinion. He was sued by victims, unfairly portrayed in the news, mocked by late night; and essentially his life was wrecked.

With time the real bomber was eventually arrested and while Jewell was publicly exonerated by the authorities and received settlements from a bunch of libel suits; it was probably small consolation compared to all the personal grief he had to endure. At least by the time he passed away in 2007 he was properly acknowledged as a hero by the governor of Georgia. So while the search to identify the suspects continue, the media, the internet, and we the public at large should strive to execute a little bit of due diligence before doling out instant judgments (I'm looking at you Reddit).

That being said, while looking up his details I found the totally bananas fact that he made a guest cameo in a 1997 episode of SNL:

It really is as bizarre and awkward as one would expect from an SNL cameo by Richard Jewell. First off, why did they go through all the effort of even getting him on the show? He doesn't really bring anything to the table as a comedic presence and you could see poor Norm McDonald is doing all the heavy lifting. On top of him being a comedic brick wall, the writers didn't even bother giving him funny lines, just standard yes or no responses like some kind of deposition. They could have slapped a mustache on Darrell Hammond maybe put together a segment that would have been at least semi-humorous. Was this part of the undisclosed settlement between him and NBC? A generous cash payout and quick drop in on Studio 8H? 

Personally I suspect that this was just all part of the writing staff's general overarching plan during the Norm McDonald Weekend Update era of giving Norm the worst material possible and seeing how he can try to make it work (that stillborn Ike Turner joke at the end of the clip is a good representative of the period). I mean they start off with a segment based around the inherent humor of the 1996 Olympic Bombing and the trials of a man who become an unwitting victim of the media circus surrounding it, then hilariously throw in some references to the still fresh death of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa (waka, waka!). All I can say about Jewell here is, at least he can take a joke.

Odd as that appearance was, apparently Jewell made another appearance that night in another sketch where he punches Janet Reno as played by Will Ferrell. I couldn't find a clip or picture of the skit but even something as broadly humorous as having the then current Attorney General getting beat up seems funnier than the Weekend Update appearance.

One final note about the episode. I was extra surprised that I didn't remember seeing this cameo on the show considering this was during my late middle school/early high school SNL watching hey days of the late 90s and that the episode he appeared on was the 1997 Sylvester Stallone hosted season premiere. That episode in particular is a favorite of mine and contains among others the "Orange Julius Skit" which I've long since acknowledged I'm obsessed with.  

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