Ohh Nooo!!!
Mr. Bill

Mr. Bill and the Mr. Bill Show characters created by Walter Williams and are registered trademarks of Dreamsite Productions, Inc. Copyright 2001

From Albert Brooks to the TV Funhouse:
Selected Short Films from Saturday Night Live

A 90-minute Compilation Screening

In Los Angeles:
September 7 to
October 21, 2001
Wednesdays to
Sundays at 3:00 p.m.
Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.

In New York:
September 7 to
November 2, 2001
Thursdays and
Fridays at 6:30 p.m.
Saturdays and
Sundays at 4:00 p.m.

On October 11, 1975, Saturday Night Live exploded into a late-night landscape of old movies and reruns and galvanized its alienated, youthful audience with an irreverent, defiantly countercultural sensibility. SNL's incalculable impact on popular culture over its twenty-six-year run has been well documented, but one of the show's most intriguing achievements--its emergence as network television's premier showcase for short films--has been curiously neglected.

Casting about for a "name" comedian to act as permanent host and draw viewers to a program otherwise populated by unproven unknowns, SNL's producers approached ultrahip Albert Brooks, whose "anticomic" persona dovetailed with the show's underground flavor. Brooks declined, suggesting that SNL book a different guest host every week. Instead, he would contribute a series of short films... and so it began.

Brooks used the assignment as a de facto film school, turning out polished, satirical pieces on show business tropes that foreshadowed his work in features. His successor, Gary Weis--a former apprentice of legendary director Sam Peckinpah--crafted whimsical slice-of-life documentaries and wry character studies that contrasted sharply with Brooks's cutting "inside" humor.

Tom Schiller was SNL's next in-house filmmaker, an accomplished documentarian who had worked with such luminaries as Willem de Kooning and Henry Miller. Schiller was a master stylist, adept at parodying a wide range of material, and his pieces crackled with heady references to the likes of Fellini and Picasso.

Later in the show's run, cast member Christopher Guest perfected his deadpan improvisational style in shorts like the classic "synchronized swimmers" piece.

SNL also welcomed films from a wide variety of outside contributors:


Robert Altman offered a piece featuring Sissy Spacek that referenced the identity games the two would explore in the film Three Women.


Eric Idle debuted a segment of his parodic masterpiece The Rutles on the show. Rutles editor Aviva Slesin contributed short pieces before winning an Academy Award for her documentary feature on the Algonquin Round Table.


Andy Warhol inspired mass head-scratching with typically elliptical offerings.


Tim Robbins gave his right-wing folksinger Bob Roberts a dry run in an SNL short.


Eclipsing all of the above in popular impact was Mr. Bill, the brainchild of Walter Williams, an accounting school dropout who submitted a bare-bones home movie featuring an accident-prone little fellow made of modeling clay; Mr. Bill went on to become one of the most beloved characters in the show's history.

The tradition continues today with Adam McKay's disquietingly absurdist pieces and Robert Smigel's TV Funhouse, an umbrella title for a series of animated shorts that cloak pointed social commentary in the guise of the Saturday morning cartoon shows of the seventies. These short films still provide many of the show's most treasured highlights, as SNL continues to champion this vital and often marginalized aspect of the filmmaker's art.