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Live from New York: It's Spider-Man!

on Tue, 05/26/2015 - 00:00

Marvel Team Up 74
On October 11, 1975, Saturday Night Live premiered on NBC. The skit-comedy series immediately took the nation by storm, turning previously unknown talents like John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray into instant celebrities. Tickets to the show likewise became a hot commodity, with everyone who was anyone wanting to attend an airing of the series.

Amongst those longing to witness the show firsthand was Spider-Man love interest Mary Jane Watson, and during October 1978 her wish finally came true when Peter Parker scored a pair of tickets to SNL. As recounted in issue 74 of Marvel Team-Up, subtitled “Spider-Man and the Not Ready for Prime Time Players,” the evening turned out much different than expected when Parker had to abandon Mary Jane in order to thwart the Silver Samurai in his quest for a ring inadvertently stuck to the finger of actor John Belushi.

Despite waiting over a year for tickets to Saturday Night Live, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson arrive at 30 Rockefeller Center a mere minutes before the show is about to begin, delayed by a late-arriving dinner and torrential rain storm. Forced onto the balcony instead of the main seating area, Parker’s “spider-sense” immediately begins to tingle, but he remains at the side of his date nonetheless. Backstage, meanwhile, the cast of the show watches fellow comedian John Belushi attempt to remove a ring that has become wedged on his finger.

“It was in my fan mail,” Belushi explains. “Sent from somewhere in Japan.” The ring in question, however, was not meant for Belushi. The Silver Samurai has thus assembled a posy of New York thugs to help him retrieve it, despite not knowing exactly which member of the Not Ready for Prime Time players is in possession of the item.

As the words “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” echo throughout the studio, guest host Stan Lee makes his way to the stage for his opening monologue. “Hiya, true believers!” he begins. “For those of you who’ve been living in Siberia the last few years, I’m the guy who runs Marvel Comics. Now I know a lot of people think that’s really neat, but have you ever tried getting through a story conference with the Thing? Aw, but deep down, Ben Grimm’s really a nice guy. I saw him on the street the other day, and I said, ‘Ben, how are ya?’ And he said, ‘Not too good. In fact, I’m feeling a little rocky!’”

At that exact moment in the balcony, Peter Parker witnesses a studio page being attacked by one of the thugs. Unsure if it is a true act of violence or just part of the show, Parker decides to investigate. Changing into his Spider-Man costume, he peeks through the window of the studio control room. Although producer Lorne Michaels is being held at gunpoint, Spider-Man’s vision is restricted and he is unable to notice the true nature of the situation. Realizing that fact himself, Spider-Man heads backstage for further reconnaissance.

Bill Murray is the first Saturday Night Live cast member to encounter the Silver Samurai’s henchman while returning a replica of Thor’s hammer to fellow actor Garret Morris for an upcoming skit. Overhearing their plans to recover the ring by any means necessary, Murray bashes one of the thugs on the head with the hammer and then dons an overcoat and hat in order to infiltrate the group.

Gilda Radner and Jane Curtin do their best to cover for the missing Bill Murray on stage but are dropped through a trap door and into the waiting arms of the henchmen instead. Just as the thugs realize that neither Radner nor Curtin possess the ring, Spider-Man swings in and rescues the comedic duo. The Silver Samurai escapes, but Gilda Radner and Jane Curtin tackle the disguised Bill Murray, who informs every one of the plans he has overheard.

Laraine Newman, meanwhile, has just finished dressing as Ms. Marvel when two of the henchmen break into her room. Fearing a fight with a genuine superhero, they attempt to flee but are immediately subdued by Spider-Man.

By now the rest of the Not Ready for Prime Time members—with the exception of John Belushi—have gathered in a hallway and are brought up to speed on the latest developments. Worried about the safety of the audience, the SNL actors decide to face the thugs themselves while dressed in disguise. Garret Morris, for instance, impersonates Thor with the assistance of Bill Murray and Gilda Radner, while Dan Aykroyd dons the outfit of “Mad Dog Mulcahy, the crazed, killer colonel of the Crimea.”

Spider-Man asks if the costumes are really necessary, to which Aykroid replies, “That’s a heckuva question coming from a guy like you, Spidey.”

The Silver Samurai, meanwhile, has finally tracked down a still unaware John Belushi, who is dressed as his classic Saturday Night Live character Samurai Futaba. The two duel, and although the villain continually has the upper hand during the raging battle, the legendary comedian holds his own nonetheless. “For all your blundering ways, little man, you are not without skill,” the Silver Samurai tells Belushi. When Spider-Man suddenly appears and momentarily distracts the Silver Samurai, Samurai Futaba makes his move.

“That’s it, buster!” he shouts. “You’ve pushed me around long enough. Now it’s my turn!” Victory escapes Belushi, however, as the Silver Samurai not only relinquishes him of his sword but is able to wrest the ring from his finger as well, enabling the Silver Samurai to teleport to safety and out of the reaches of his nemesis Spider-Man.

With the week’s episode coming to a close, the Saturday Night Live cast returns to the stage to take their goodnight bows before a standing ovation. It turns out that the audience believes the climactic battle between the pair of Samurai’s was just slapstick comedy, while guest host Stan Lee is confused by the script changes. “Y’know, kids, I had a great time,” he tells them. “But the live show was nothing like the rehearsals.”

“It never is, Stan,” Gilda Radner replies. “That’s why it’s so much fun.”

Anthony Letizia

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