Revisiting the Early Days of “SNL”‘s Coneheads
"Consume mass quantities," indeed
In a 2020 interview with the AV Club, SNL alumnus Jane Curtin looked back on her time in one of the show’s most iconic recurring bits — the Coneheads, which went on to spawn a cinematic spinoff years later. “I guess if I thought the Coneheads did have lasting power, it was because it was human,” Curtin said. “It had a core, it has soul.”
The idea of three aliens trying to blend in while living in suburbia is a solid comic premise to begin with. When those aliens are played by Curtin, Dan Aykroyd and Laraine Newman, you end up with the stuff comedy legends are made from. But the premise of the sketches wasn’t nearly as intuitive as one might think.
In a recent article, Ultimate Classic Rock looked back on the development of the characters. (It may not surprise you to learn that marijuana was involved in the conception of the sketch.) As Aykroyd recalled in an interview for the book Live from New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests, he was watching televison while smoking a joint.
“I thought, ‘Everybody’s heads don’t really reach the top of the screen,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be great if you added four inches to everybody?’”
The concept was initially considered for a sketch about French lawyers that ended up abandoned. Eventually, though, it was combined with a riff on 1950s science fiction films — and Lorne Michaels’s suggestion that the sketches be set in the suburbs. All told, it’s a fascinating look at how great comedy comes together.
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