Honorary LadyScout: Jane Curtin
When you think about what made the original Saturday Night Live cast work so well, it’s not just that they were the funniest people alive at that time, they were also, hands down, the coolest. You want to party with Akroyd and Belushi, vamp in the corner with Laraine, flirt with Chevy, shoot the shit with Garrett, and of course, dance and giggle incessantly with Gilda. So how did the seemingly square Jane Curtin fit in? Because there’s nothing cooler than a lady who can kick ass at her job and then act like it’s no big thing. More than that, she was the glue that held the original Saturday Night Live cast together. There’s a reason they call her the “Queen of Deadpan”: she’s the rare person who can be funny on her own or play it straight to make funny people look funnier.
Jane Curtin was the first woman to co-anchor Weekend Update and had to be the first person to follow breakout star Chevy Chase in the position. She handled the pressue like anyone else would: by flashing America and insulting Connie Chung. When Lorne Michaels had to send someone to charm the press, he sent Jane. When the cast needed someone to negotiate their contracts with the NBC brass, they sent Jane. When the writers needed someone to play a nebbish widow, an alien housewife or a dominatrix, they called Jane. And when guys like John Belushi were saying women couldn’t be funny, the woman who rolled her eyes and then killed every Saturday night without drama, hiccups or complaint was Jane.
The coolest thing about Jane Curtin? She’s been married to the same guy for over thirty years, raised a child and she never stopped doing comedy. Besides her film work, Jane has starred in three different hit comedies in three different decades (SNL in the 1970’s, Kate & Allie in the 1980’s & Third Rock From the Sun in the 1990’s). The only other woman to pull off that professional feat was Lucille Ball. You’ve also never heard a story about her fighting with Laraine or Gilda for roles in the hypercompetitive world of being a lady on SNL. She supported her fellow ladies and never let the toxic world of comedy mess with her head. When you stop for a second to consider her Emmy awards, her incredible versatility and career longevity, it becomes clear that she’s kind of the unlauded HBIC of American comedy. But does she care if people are peeing their pants over how amazing she is? No. She only wants people to pee their pants from laughing at all the jokes she’s nailing.
A Sample of Notable Badges Earned: Jane Curtin earns the “Plays Well With Others” badge for being a part of the original Not Ready For Primetime Players, the “Levelheadedness” badge for not getting distracted by the crazy debauchery of the 1970’s SNL world, and the “69th Badge” for being the most famous “ignorant slut” in the history of comedy. She also gets the “I’m Worth it Badge” for negotiating the cast’s contracts and “Boys’ Club Badge” for busting into late night tv.
I have always liked Jane Curtain, and think that her contribution on SNL has been a bit overlooked.