Amusing Monday: Recalling SNL’s Emily Litella

Do you remember Emily Litella, the confused “Saturday Night Live” character who was outspoken on many issues? Created by Gilda Radner, she was one of my favorite SNL characters of all time.

Last week, when I became confused about a scheduled activity, my boss informed me that I was off by exactly one week. “Well,” I wrote in a note to her, “that’s different. Never mind.”

I got to thinking about this indelible character. I recalled that Emily Litella once commented about a water issue: boats on a river. If you don’t remember Emily, then take a look at the video on this page before moving on.

I’ve included transcripts of a few Emily Litella sketches — with Chevy Chase, who seemed to tolerate the little lady; Jane Curtin, who had no patience for her; and the bewildered captain of a liverboat (?).

Season 2, Mardi Gras Special in New Orleans (Feb. 20, 1977)

Emily Litella: [ facing to the camera ] Hi! Hi, I’m — [ the crowd cheers her presence ] oh, hello! Hi! I’m Emily Litella, and I’m SO excited! It’s my first time at Mardi Gras, and I’ve been drinking TEA! Straight, for three days! Ohh! [ a riverboat horn blares ] Ooh! Do you hear that?! Well, that’s the liverboat, coming down the Mississippi with LOADS of liver! And I’m standing here with Captain Devero Boyee, who is a captain of a BIG liverboat! Just like the one you just heard! Tell me, Captain – just how did the tradition of the liverboat start? Now, I know liver is rich in iron and vitamins, but so is PORK! Now, why aren’t there PORK boats?!
Captain Devero Boyee: Well —
Emily Litella: I mean — I mean, if you’re gonna have liverboats, you should also have some bacon, and some onions — I can’t believe it! What is — what is –?
Captain Devero Boyee: Miss Litella!
Emily Litella: What?!
Captain Devero Boyee: I’m the captain of a riverboat! A riverboat! Not a liverboat, a riverboat! We take leisurely cruises up and down the Mississippi.
Emily Litella: Ohhhhhh! Oh, well, that’s very different!
Captain Devero Boyee: Yes.
Emily Litella: [ turns to the camera ] Never mind!

Busting Schoolchildren (Dec. 13,1975)

Chevy Chase: Weekend Update recognizes its obligation to present responsible opposing viewpoints to our editorials. Here to reply to a recent editorial, is Emily Litella.
Emily Litella: I’m here tonight to speak out against busting schoolchildren. Busting schoolchildren is a terrible, terrible thing. I hear this is going on all over the country. Mean policemen arrest little children and put them in jail in the wrong neighborhood, so they can’t even play with their little friends. Imagine, busting schoolchildren! The food in jail isn’t good, and even though they get bread, I don’t believe they can get toast. Or nice cake. Now, who will tuck them in? Where will they hang their leggings? Where will they set up their little lemonade stands? Well, they don’t have toys in jail, except maybe..
Chevy Chase: [ interrupting ] Miss Litella?
Emily Litella: Yes?
Chevy Chase: I’m sorry. The editorial was on bussing schoolchildren. Bussing. Not busting.
Emily Litella: Oh. I’m sorry. Never mind.

Eagle rights (March 31, 1976)

Chevy Chase: [ blows his nose on the crumpled news sheet ] And now, in keeping with our policy to present responsible opposing viewpoints, here with an editorial reply is Emily Litella.
Emily Litella: What’s all this fuss I hear… about an Eagle Rights Amendment? Now, I realize that the eagle is the symbol for the United States of America. But I wouldn’t like to sit next to one on the bus! Well, I think the eagle’s been treated fair enough! We put them on the back of the quarter, didn’t we? Well, I’m angry! Do those birds expect to vote? They don’t even have fingers to push the little lever in the booth! And they’ll get their wings caught in the curtain! It’ll be a mess! Between you and me, if we give eagles rights, the next thing you know, we’ll have to give rights to pigeons! And then robins! And parakeets! Why, you won’t be able to get a seat in the park! It’ll be the BIRDS sitting on the bench throwing US little pieces of toast! If we’re gonna give birds rights, we’ll have to give them to parrots! At least they can talk! Not the eagle! They don’t do a thing! I —
Chevy Chase: Miss Litella? Miss Litella?
Emily Litella: What?!
Chevy Chase: The editorial was in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment. Not Eagle Rights — Equal Rights.
Emily Litella: Equal Rights?
Chevy Chase: Yes.
Emily Litella: For who?
Chevy Chase: Well, people, Miss Litella.
Emily Litella: Oh. Well, that’s reasonable.
Chevy Chase: Yes.
Emily Litella: Never mind!
Chevy Chase: “Weekend Update” recognizes its obligation to present responsible opposing viewpoints to our editorials — when we feel like it.

Presidential erections (April 17, 1976)

Chevy Chase: “Weekend Update” recognizes its responsibility to present responsible opposing viewpoints to our editorials. Here, with an editorial reply, is Miss Emily Litella.
Emily Litella: What’s all this fuss I’ve been hearing about the 1976 presidential erection? Now, I know they erected a monument for Mr. Lincoln and President Washington, but that’s because they’re DEAD! Hopefully, the 1976 President won’t be DEAD! So he won’t NEED an erection! If Americans are going to spend money to erect anything, why don’t we tear down those nasty slums and erect luxury high rises for poor people and senior citizens! Not for presidents who can afford to pay for their OWN erections!
Chevy Chase: Miss Litella —
Emily Litella: I can’t believe the way things are turning out in this country — what?
Chevy Chase: I’m sorry. That’s election. The editorial was about the presidential election, not the presidential erection. Election.
Emily Litella: Oh, that’s very different.
Chevy Chase: Yes.
Emily Litella: [ smiling ] Never mind.

Making Puerto Rico a steak (Jan. 15, 1977)

Jane Curtin: And now a new addition to our Update team is correspondent Emily Litella with tonight’s commentary. [applause] Well, Miss Litella – you’ve badgered us all for a long time and now you have a job. Welcome.
Emily Litella: [bespectacled little old lady with squeaky voice] Oh, well, thank you, Jane. It’s very lovely to be part of a news team. Ah, tonight’s commentary is very important because I hear that President Ford wants to make Puerto Rico a steak! … Now, why does he have to make them a steak? I didn’t think those people even liked meat. … Now, let me warn all of you. If you make Puerto Rico a steak, the next thing they’ll want is a baked potato! With sour cream and chives and little tiny bacon bits and pieces of toast! And then they’ll probably want a salad bar! Why, they’ll be lined up for miles! If President Ford wants to be remembered as a great president in his final days, he should do something about the price of coffee! Not steak! It’s outrageous! I can’t believe what that man is doing–
Jane Curtin: Miss Litella.
Emily Litella: What? What?
Jane Curtin: [speaking slowly and clearly] Miss Litella, you’ve done it again. That’s not “steak.” President Ford wants to make Puerto Rico a state. Not a steak — a state.
Emily Litella: Ohhhhh. Well, I’m sorry. [squints and grins, into camera] Never mind. … [applause]
Jane Curtin: Miss – Miss Litella. Let – let’s get something straight. We’ve put up with your slight hearing impairment for a long time now and in the beginning it was cute. But now you’re part of a news team and we like to report the news accurately. Now, if you don’t report the news accurately, we’ll have to let you go. No job is permanent. Do you understand me?
Emily Litella: Oh, yes, yes, I do. I’ll – I will certainly do my best. I’ll try to do better, hm.
Jane Curtin: Please do.
Emily Litella: Bitch! … [applause – after a moment, Miss Litella briefly holds up two fingers behind Jane’s head to the crowd’s delight]
Jane Curtin: That’s our news for tonight. Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.
[Jane turns and glares at Miss Litella as we push in and fade out.]

Endangered feces (March 12, 1977)

Jane Curtin: And now, with tonight’s commentary, is “Update” correspondent Emily Litella.
Emily Litella: [ peeking into frame before the full pullback ] Why, thank you, Jane!
Jane Curtin: [ sharply ] I can’t wait to hear this “gem”.
Emily Litella: What’s all this FUSS I keep hearing… about endangered feces? Now, that’s outrageous!! Why — why are FECES endangered?! How can you POSSIBLY run out of such a thing?! Why — why, just look around you, you can see it ALL OVER the place!! Besides, who wants to SAVE THAT, anyway?! My goodness, where would we KEEP it?! It’s DANGEROUS, especially in the Summer!! Then — then, it could REALLY hit the fan!!
[ Emily begins to laugh, unable to stop, as Jane gives her a dirty look ]
Jane Curtin: What’s so funny?
Emily Litella: Ohhh… oh, my joke! [ she continues to laugh for a moment ] Oh, come on, Miss Curtin, didn’t you ever hear that one about “hitting the fan”? [ Jane remains silently annoyed ] Oh, come on, you old shiksa! Where have you been?
Jane Curtin: Species.
Emily Litella: What’s that?
Jane Curtin: Species! The list of endangered species! Not feces — species
Emily Litella: Ohhhh! I-I-I must have gotten carried away. [ turns to the camera and smiles ] Never mind!
[ the audience applauds ]
Jane Curtin: It’s wearing thin, Emily.
Emily Litella: What is?
Jane Curtin: The “Never mind” thing. You’ve been doing it for close to two years. At first it was cute, then it was tolerable; now it’s annoying.
Emily Litella: Oh, I’m sorry that you feel that way.
Jane Curtin: You’re ruining “Update”‘s responsibility as a credible journalist.
Emily Litella: Oh, my goodness, I — Miss Curtin, I wouldn’t want to do anything like that.
Jane Curtin: I’m sure you wouldn’t. [ smiles maliciously ] So, why don’t you just quit “Update” and try your hand at something else? We can get along fine without you!
Emily Litella: Perhaps you could — bitch!
Jane Curtin: [ stung once more, faces the camera ] That’s our news for tonight. Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

Finally, there was the time (Jan. 22, 1977) we got to see the Litella sisters at home, with Essie Litella played by Ruth Gordon. Click here for the transcript.

4 thoughts on “Amusing Monday: Recalling SNL’s Emily Litella

  1. Great post, Chris! Thanks for the humor. Emily was a wonderful character. I loved all the original SNL cast members.

  2. I am looking for the SNL episode where Gilda and Tim Conway become Parakeets in a cage going back and forth on a perch together. Love it and want to own it. Anyone know the date of or name of episode?

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