Wednesday, July 18, 2007

When Reagan Wore Leather

(UPDATE: Now cross-posted at HuffPo and newcritics, for those who like to comment.)

Here's something that has lifted my spirits -- "The Ronny Horror Show" from the December 12, 1980 edition of "Fridays." I haven't seen this since it originally aired, and it only aired once, due to the protests of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" producer Lou Adler, who felt that the parody would hurt his film.

This was perhaps the most ambitious sketch ever done on "Fridays" -- an 18-minute live musical/comedy take on the incoming Reagan administration. You'll immediately recognize Michael Richards, and Larry David plays a biker Richard Nixon. But the whole cast does a great job (though Darrow Igus stumbles on one of his lines -- too many "Ps" for live TV), and I always liked John Roarke's transvestite Reagan. Watching this again with older eyes, there are some politically naïve lines I didn't catch when I was 21; but overall, the feel was right for the time, and I missed Nixon's lyric about overthrowing Allende in Chile. That lesson, among many others, would soon be learned.

The sketch received a standing ovation, a rare thing in TV comedy. It brings back a moment when we who opposed Reagan were waiting to see what was coming down the road. "Ronny Horror" helped to ease the tension, for a few weeks, anyway, before the Real Production got rolling.