40 years ago: Drew Barrymore stays up past her bedtime on ‘SNL’

Fresh from the worldwide phenomenon that was ET The extraterrestrialthe film’s 7-year-old co-star Drew Barrymore became, and remains, the youngest person ever to host the live and decided comedy show Saturday Night Live. For Barrymore, who has left as host SNL several times since her first appearance, Saturday Night Live has become a welcoming place — even if her first foray into the late-night comedy series was framed as something of an all-out cast rebellion.

With the Dick Ebersol years in full swing, it’s cold open that actors Brad Hall, Gary Kroeger, Robin Duke, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Eddie Murphy, Tim Kazurinsky, Mary Gross and Joe Piscopo all congregated indignantly in the host’s empty dressing room, turned for the occasion into a dolly and stuffed animal-strewn little girl’s playroom. “It’s disgusting! Ebersol must be crazy to book her,” Hall complains, as Piscopo pokes fun at their boss by noting how in the episode before, the producer had dumped the comedian. Andy Kaufman live in the air.

With everyone (except the sympathetic Kazurinsky) hurling abuse regarding the absent 7-year-old’s presence on the show, the sketch introduces the still-dubious prospect of a literal child anchoring a show that doesn’t even begin at 11:30 p.m. (Barrymore’s supposed dressing room is equipped with a comfortable cot.) “If I see another stuffed animal, I throw up,” observes Louis-Dreyfus (a fresh-faced 22 at the time), as Mary Gross quips that Studio 8H “crawling with social workers and union people checking child labor laws,” and Duke reports that NBC censors have decided to remove all sex and violence from the episode in deference to the host’s age. “You mean they cut the borderline gynecologist’s sketch?” exclaims an outraged Kroeger, peeling off the rubber gloves and cowboy hat he had carried into the room. Murphy complains that he had tried to get Ebersol to book Michael Jackson rather than “this white bread kid,” as Gross explodes, “This show is going to be a nightmare!”

It’s then that a sheepish and surprisingly small Barrymore makes his entrance, plopping down on the bed next to Louis-Dreyfus and patiently waiting for the audience’s applause to die down before apologizing. “I’m sorry guys,” the young Barrymore explains through her still narrow baby teeth. “I just got the word out. No bad stuff or violence in this show.” The cast, shifting into protective trooper mode, all assure Barrymore that it’s no problem at all, with Barrymore brushing them off by saying, “Ebersol must be crazy to book a 7-year-old to host this show!” (She also mocks the Andy Kaufman thing.) After expressing her distaste for all the toys that adorn her dressing room, Barrymore finally declines the solicitous Kazurinsky’s offer of a glass of milk, ending the sketch with an enthusiastic, “Milk? I’m a Barrymore! Give me a drink and make it a double.”

There is a lot going on here. Barrymore, after charming audiences as ONEs earliest Gertie, was actually a 7-year-old host Saturday Night Live. Gross’s joke that social workers are on call to protect the child star’s interests has another echo after Barrymore, in her first autobiography, the aptly titled Little girl lost (written with Todd Gold when the actress was just 14), described how she began abusing drugs and alcohol just a few years after hosting SNL. As for her line about the Barrymores and hard drinking, a look back through the famous names of her acting dynasty family reveals an entire clan’s legacy of alcoholism and mental illness, both of which would plague Barrymore herself until she emerged as a grown adult . star and film director. But not before several rehab stops and a suicide attempt before the age of 18.

Watch Drew Barrymore’s ‘SNL’ monologue from 1982

But look at 1982 SNL episode today is to see the refreshingly natural and still innocent Barrymore in the hands of a cast far happier to have her in the house than the cold open suggested. Throughout the episode (which, to be fair, is easier on Barrymore than on the show-long call-in stunt that eventually saw Kaufman banned from the show), Barrymore is constantly held, cuddled and protected by many of the cast. Kazurinsky seems to have been the group’s designated funny uncle, coming out to field softball audience questions for Barrymore to answer in the monologue, and the pair playfully banter through Barrymore’s halting and authentically childlike responses. (Barrymore notes that she originally found ONE creature “gooshy” but that he is now a friend and that she wanted to marry godfather Steven Spielberg if she had to choose one.)

Earlier, Murphy had mocked Kazurinsky’s soft-heartedness to the late-night host, noting how he liked working with “kids and animals,” and Kazurinsky ended the monologue by surprising the delighted Barrymore with one of the baby chimpanzees from his popular “I Married a Monkey”. ” outlines. (As with anything about Barrymore Saturday Night Live experiment, there’s a less rosy tint to the gesture, given how Kazurinsky has recounted his busy and often dangerous time sharing the stage with supposedly trained primates.)

In her limited range of subsequent sketches, Barrymore’s abrupt orphans are happily adopted by Piscopo and Duke’s returning Doug and Wendy Whiner; she also shares the stage with Kazurinsky again (dressed the accommodating cast member in ONEher old lady disguise and makeup) and tells Duke she’d rather see Eddie Murphy.

In The Good Nights (where Kaufman’s viewer-mandated banishment is dutifully read aloud), Barrymore is once again overwhelmed by the cast, exclaiming, “I had an absolutely wonderful time and I love you all! Goodbye!” as Kroeger and Kazurinsky pick her up and cradle her to the sound of the closing theme.

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