Tuesday, April 17, 2007

April 17, 1976:

Gerald Ford Appears on Late-Night TV

The April 17, 1976, episode of Saturday Night Live had a lot to offer its audience, including Dan Aykroyd pitching the Bass-O-Matic '76, the Patti Smith Group performing, a sketch in which Catherine the Great's press secretary announces that the empress has died in a riding accident, Emily Litella and more. The show also included President Gerald R. Ford making three cameo appearances on film, including one in which he says the signature opener, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"

Ford's press secretary, Ron Nessen, was host that night, a fact that's remarkable in its own right. How that came to pass was spoofed during the show, with Chevy Chase playing Ford and Nessen playing himself:

Nessen: ...that's why I want to host this show, to demonstrate that this administration has a sense of humor. You may remember in 1968, Nixon said, "Sock it to me" on Laugh-In, and it may have made the difference in the election.

Ford: He won, didn't he, Ron?

Nessen: Yes, he did, sir.

Ford: [chuckles to himself] By golly, he was funny then, and he's funny now. He's a funny man, Ron.

Nessen: Yes, sir.

Ford: That's why I gave him a break, Ron. [to stuffed dog on floor] Stop that infernal noise, Liberty! [to Ron] Well, by all means do the show.

Nessen: Thank you, sir. Now, the producer suggested you might like to do something on the show yourself.

Ford: Well, I can take a joke just so far... [stands up and walks behind desk] ...but I won't have this high office ridiculed. I won't have me stumbling around... [walks into window] ...making a fool of myself... [walks into flag and fumbles with it, trying to keep it from falling] ...for some late night comedy show... [picks up football helmet and puts it on] ...I don't need to prove that I can fall down like Chevy Chase or be an athlete. Everyone knows I'm an athlete... [accidentally kicks wastepaper basket and chases it, soon giving up and returning to his desk] ...I'll never forget those wonderful days... [picks up tennis racket, throws it in the air to try and catch it, but misses. Walks over to "Liberty," cups his hand near the dog's tail] ...Gimme the ball, Liberty!... [takes off helmet, tries to drop-kick it but misses. Returns to desk and sits down]

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