Saturday Night Live Transcripts
Season 4: Episode 20
Buck Henry’s Monologue
Buck Henry: Thank you! Thank you very much! It’s always flattering to be asked to host “Saturday Night Live”, but, for me, it’s more that that. I think you’ll understand what I’m telling you. It’s a sense of.. a sense of vindication of what I represent. Now, we’re always being told that television is a “cultural desert”, because it reflects the vulgarity of the American public. Well, if that’s true.. what am I doing here? After all, I’m not your typical television personality. I don’t have an act, I don’t have a golf tournament named after me.. I represent dignity and intellectual achievement – qualities that aren’t supposed to generate.. big ratings. and, yet, here I am – cerebral as always – and the host of the most highly-rated late night show in television history. I think that says something good about you, the audience.
Of course, there are some.. [ a couple of audience members start to applaud themselves ] Yes! There are some television executives who don’t share this view. Who still think that television has to pander to people’s baser instincts. And, for them, I’ve arranged a little demonstration to prove my point. Uh, Davey? Could you get a shot of the special group, please?
[ reveal shot of audience members wearing electrode helmets covered in wires on their heads ]
Now.. ladies and gentlemen.. these twenty-five members of our audience have volunteered to take part in a special experiment. The devices which you see attached to their foreheads, developed by the Institute for Behaviorial Science at Indiana University, will measure their level of interest in tonight’s show. What’s more, this audience interest quotient – or, the I.Q. – will be registered directly on the screen, through the activation of an electronic video grid. In other words, the image on your screen tonight, will accurately reflect our special group’s interest in the show.
Are we ready to start? all right.
Well, you know.. I’ve given a great deal of thought to what television could be. The ultimate medium for the transmission of ideas. A living, vibrant storehouse of the products of our cultural and intellectual activity as a nation. [ screen slowly begins to shrink to its center, registering the group’s disinterest in what Buck has to say ] That’s something very exciting to me, and, I’m sure, to all of you as well. And the idea of a great electronic mirror, that’s held up to society to reflect our activity in politics, science and the arts. But what, I ask you, what has television become? I’ll tell you. It’s become a gawdy, painted tart! [ screen quickly enlarges, as the group pays attention to Buck’s exciting statements ] Riving in a wanton, tawdry display of cleavage, bare midriff and jiggling buttocks! [ screen jumps to full-size, audience wild with applause ] Always ready to plumb new depths of moral terpitude in order to please her clients! Is this what television has to be? I don’t think so.
The other night, uh.. I was re-reading Marcel Proust’s “The Remembrance of Things Past”. [ screen slowly begins to shrink to its center ] And I asked myself, “Why can’t television be viewed the way Proust viewed literature?” As a means of recovering from our unconcious memory of the texture of life, the day-to-day reality that we don’t see on commercial networks. It’s not because they can’t be done, or because the American public doesn’t want it. It’s because a tiny group of network brass has refused to accept the fact that we’re as interested in, say.. Susan Sontag and her intellectual achievements as.. Suzanne Somers, and her physical endowments. [ screen jumps back to full capacity ] They won’t believe that we’d rather read Betrand Russell’s “Why I Am Not A Christian”.. [ screen shrinks again ] ..than Jane Russell doing “Why I’d Rather Wear A Full-Figured Bra”. [ screen jumps back to full size ] THe old thinking. The thinking that has made this medium a cultural brothel! Where decadence and vulgarity flourish, won’t die easily! Sorry. Yes.
Fortunately, however, there are others in public life that think the way we do. People with vision – interesting people like Cleveland Amory.. [ screen shrinks, shrinks, shrinks ] ..Marshall McLuhan, David Frost, Edwin Newman, Alistair Cooke, Jack Kilpatrick, and Shane Alexander, Andy Rooney.. oh, I could go on with this list for a long time, the point is that the movement is growing! And, with your continued support, it will continue!
Uh.. this has been interesting, I’m glad we had the chance to raise some of these questions here tonight. We’ll be right back after this commercial message!
[ screen has now shrunk to a tiny dot, until it is, at last, solid black ]
[ fade ]