"Saturday Night Live" is all about sketch comedy. Nobody does sketch comedy better than Carol Burnett and Tim Conway. Nobody. "The Carol Burnett Show," which aired on CBS from 1967 to 1978, made grown people pee in their pants and gave children the gift of spending an hour in their living rooms laughing out loud with their parents.
Yes, Burnett is 79 and Conway is 78, but they've still got it. I know this because they were guests on "Anderson Live" recently and neither one drooled on their microphones. They kept their eyes wide open and were as hip as ever. People age. It happens. So let them poke a little fun of the aging process. Maybe Burnett can't climb a ladder in stilettos any more or balance a curtain rod on her shoulders (the Scarlett O'Hara sketch was one of the funniest skits in the history of television) but she could play the wife of Conway's "old man" character as both walk on stage at a snail's pace dressed in old-people clothes donning wigs and make-up. Picture it. The funny part is them taking two minutes and 30 seconds to get out on stage while taking tiny baby steps like old people tend to do when they get feeble. In a perfect world, everyone will turn 95 one day so let's have some fun with it.
The opening monologue -- with the two of them -- might include Burnett in one of her old Bob Mackie gowns with a taped-up zipper in the back and Conway just dusting off some old cobwebs (yes, real cobwebs). They'll be funny because they will write the monologue themselves -- or with the help of some of their former CBS writers (We need that element of witty, spontaneous stand-up dialogue on SNL.)
While we're at it, let's bring in the greatest "dead-pan" comedy icon in the business, Bob Newhart, as a special guest along with SNL alums Billy Crystal ("Fernando") and Christopher Guest ("I hate when that happens"); Steve Martin and Dan Akyroyd (the wild and crazy guys now have age spots); Martin Short (Ed Grimley owns a diner); Pat Sajak makes a surprise cameo when he walks into "Ed Grimley's Diner" -- he's Burnett & Conway's character's son. They commence arguing in front of him about whose side of the family he got his talent from. Conway can do a take-off on the Tum's commercial, letting his pizza smack him in the face as he's trying to eat it. The trick is, nobody in this scene should know he's going to do the pizza-smacking routine (special effects kick in here) so we can watch the best comedians in the business -- who are in this scene with him -- laugh out loud at this veteran prankster.
In separate segments, Dana Carvey -- the Church Lady -- speaks to same-sex couple Conway & Newhart. Eddie Murphy shows up in another segment. His character is the last patient to get a colonoscopy from Conway, a retiring proctologist with shaky hands ... no rehearsals so we get to hear the "Mr. Robinson" comedian laugh -- kind of like Harvey Korman used to do when Conway would adlib his moves (like in the dentist sketch). Ahhh, the Eddie Murphy laugh, priceless!!
Burnett could do her Gloria Swanson impersonation of "Sunset Boulevard" actress Norma Desmond ("Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up") with Crystal as an aging "Fernando," Conway as an 85-year-old William Holden type who has a very large colostomy bag attached to his belt and Short as the nervous, sweating, chain-smoking Nathan Thurm who has no idea why he was invited to this cocktail party.
Conway is the quickest, most prolific ad-libber on two feet. He won five Emmy Awards for his work on "The Carol Burnett Show" and made the funniest acceptance speeches in the history of awards shows. In one acceptance speech the audience was laughing hysterically as he thanked random people who played no part in his life at all. I fell off my sofa laughing, almost hyperventilating. Give that man another Emmy!
Comedians should never retire. It's kind of their duty to keep us laughing. You spoil us by making us laugh out loud, then you head into the sunset taking your talents with you? I don't think so! Get back in the comedy pool so we can laugh again. Life is no fun without laughter.
Here's the point Mr. SNL creator Lorne Michaels (the genus who hired all of the SNL veterans mentioned here): Wait until after the election, then bring out the big comedic guns. You've got the rolodex, they'll take your calls. You've got the clout to make this happen. These veteran SNL comedians owe you, and they know how to get a crowd laughing out loud. I know this because I've seen them do it.
Oh, Vicki Lawrence as "Mama" can get Burnett's "Eunice" riled up in front of the Church Lady. The possibilities are endless. And if Betty White wants to show up as Sue Ann Nivens ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show") Rose Nyland ("The Golden Girls) or even Ellen Harper Jackson (the character she played on "Mama's Family") to interact with Mama and Eunice, that would be a bonus.
Maybe 90 minutes won't be enough time. Sleep on it, and call them all in the morning. Think January. It'll help us all escape those dreaded winter doldrums. Just do it.
Follow Pat Gallagher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@pat_gallagher