A storied institution containing a select group of experienced members. It’s been around for decades and has seen a myriad of personnel changes, some popular, some not. Members don costumes and assume alternate identities while performing. Each episode begins with a role call. Known familiarly by three letters. One member is a Martian.
Ok, so it fell apart at the end, but wasn’t that freaky for a bit there? Indeed, there’s an abundance of parallels that can be drawn between the casts of DC Comics’ Justice League of America and NBC’s Saturday Night Live. In each segment I’ll look at a different eras of both the JLA and SNL, although I admit I’ll be playing fast and loose with some of the exact dates. (Obviously since SNL only started in 1975, we’ll start in the 70s despite the JLA being around since earlier. The lineup was basically the same anyway.)
1970s: The Not Ready For Primetime Heroes
1) CHEVY CHASE AS SUPERMAN
Let that sink in for a bit and you’ll start to understand why I chose this. In the early SNL days, Chase was actually the breakout star of the original cast, which I suppose is kind of like being the leader a la Superman in the JLA. I also have it on good authority that Chevy has X-ray vision. Imagine if when Chase left SNL to pursue a movie career, some coked up producer cast him as Clark Kent instead of Christopher Reeve. Talk about bizarro world. Chase also played a reporter in Fletch, while Superman works for the Daily Planet. Holy hell, this just occurred to me: Clark Kent – Clark Griswald. Feel something fuzzy? Cuz we’re officially pants-deep in the rabbit hole now.
2) BILL MURRAY AS BATMAN
I didn’t choose this pairing because Murray was once considered to play the Caped Crusader in Tim Burton’s Batman (it’s true, give it a google), but more so because the two currently occupy the same level of infallibility in pop culture. For example, Batman can basically do anything and you go with it because he’s the “goddamn Batman,” and, even after reading about anything morally questionable Bill Murray has done, the appropriate response in meeting him is still this. They’re also both are perfectly acceptable and definitive answers to life’s many queries:
Q: How do we solve climate change?
Q: Who should be the next Pope?
A: Bill Murray
Q: How do I get my boyfriend/girlfriend to do what I want sexually?
3) GILDA RADNER AS WONDER WOMAN
I’ll be honest, I chose this mainly because they’re both women, but also since they’re my pocket-ready response to shitty things people say like “There aren’t any good female superhero that aren’t just male counterparts” or “There are no funny comediennes.” Aside from whatever hole I just dug for myself there, both are enduring female role models (am I out now?), despite Wonder Woman’s unforgiveable, yes-they-still-have-her-wearing-that outfit and Gilda’s apparent disdain for Bill Murray (he’s infallible, remember?).
4) JOHN BELUSHI AS GREEN LANTERN
Imagine Belushi doing the “I’m a zit, get it?” joke from Animal House, squeezing a ball of mashed potatoes the size of a planet into Kevin Bacon’s face. That’s basically what Lantern Belushi would be like in a nutshell. Both Hal Jordan and the late actor are fearless when it came to heroism and comedy, and giving Belushi a ring that can materialize anything he thinks would be endlessly entertaining. Plus, I think he’s is one of the few SNL members, nay human beings, who could communicate/get along with pretty much any creature in the universe.
5) DAN AYKROYD AS THE FLASH
The Flash is fast and Dan Aykroyd talks fast. That’s enough for me. And somewhere in the nether regions of devianArt (between the Brave Little Toaster fetish comic strips and frescoes of Alex Trebek farting) there must be a drawing of Barry Allen and Hal Jordan as the Blues Brothers saying “We’re on a mission from God” (although I suppose Grodd is more apropos). Warning: it won’t be well drawn and one will likely be balls-deep inside the other.
6) AL FRANKEN AS GREEN ARROW
Here’s another that works out quite nicely. Both are the liberal conscience of their respective groups, and are involved in politics (Franken is currently a US senator and Oliver Queen was once the mayor of Star city). Also, what better way to help your sidekick kick that nasty smack habit (as seen in the infamous Green Arrow story “Snowbirds Don’t Fly”) than telling him that he’s good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like him.
7) JANE CURTIN AS BLACK CANARY
According to Wikipedia (where I literally just gleaned about 80% of what I’m about to say), Curtin was a classic “straight man” in the early SNL years, often playing a counter to Belushi’s antics, as well as a sort of moral center of the show who didn’t partake in much of the cast’s wild, substance-abusing ways. Black Canary’s a similar character who’s pretty much all business and is grounded enough to act as the leader of the JLA at one point. On the other hand, both are probably best known for rather regrettable choices: Coneheads and fighting crime in fishnets.
8) GARRETT MORRIS AS AQUAMAN
Yeah, I had to look him up too. Anyway, I feel for both Morris and Aquaman. Morris, a black man who was actually a classically trained singer with a number of Broadway musicals under his belt by the time he joined SNL, was mostly stereotypically cast and apparently loathed most of his time on the show. Aquaman’s the ruler of a kingdom that spans 2/3 of the Earth, has enhanced physical abilities and can telecommunicate with all manner of ocean life, but he’ll will never be considered more than a punchline to most, despite Geoff Johns’s most spirited efforts. I can just imagine the pointed look coming across all the SNL cast members’ faces when considering who was going to play the silly ethnic character in a sketch as being the same one the JLA puts on when passing the buck to Aquaman whenever a threat has anything to do with water.
I suppose I could keep going, but I’ve more than exhausted my paltry knowledge of 70s SNL cast members, and I don’t think it would be fair to cast anyone as Red Tornado. Join me next time as I wade into a dark time for both the JLA and SNL: the 80s.