These ‘SNL’ Characters Helped Turn Gilda Radner Into An Icon

As one of the original cast members on Saturday Night Live, Gilda Radner brought an undeniable energy and charm to every role she played. Unfortunately, her’s was not a life blessed with longevity a she passed away in 1989, unable to make the most out of her talent in the way that many of her SNL castmates did. Despite this, though, Radner remains in our consciousness for the singular career that she had and the impact that her successes and talent had on future generations. Gilda Radner would have been 69-years-old on Sunday, if the world were less cruel, so let’s look at some of the brilliant characters she played during her five seasons on Saturday Night Live and laugh again in tribute to this immense talent.

Emily Litella

Poor Emily Litella. Despite her best efforts, she never quite understood the situation. Whether it was about “violins on television” or “Soviet jewelry,” she always seemed to misunderstand — in the most literal sense — what the issue was about. What made this work so well is that she seemed so kindly and sweet, and she was just genuinely curious about why people would be so upset about violins on television. Of course, Chevy would tell her what her error was, and she’d reply with a simple “never mind.”

Baba Wawa

Really, the simple fact that Barbara Walters has a speech impediment that causes her to pronounce “r”s as “w”s is the only joke here, but they manage to get so much out of it, having her mispronounce as many words as possible. The sketch is only a minute and a half long, which is all it needs to be in order to drive the point home perfectly.

Roseanne Rosannadanna

First off, it was strange how all of Roseanne’s letters came from Mr. Richard Fader of Fort Lee, New Jersey right? I mean, did anyone else think of asking her advice? Well, if not, that would actually make a lot of sense. Her stories always seemed to gradually get more disgusting as they went on, with her being none the wiser to how grossed out everyone listening was. Naturally, Jane Curtin would be pushed to her breaking point by the time it was over, but Roseanne Rosannadanna’s ability to tell truly gross tales while keeping an oblivious smile on her face the entire time won her a permanent place in our hearts.

The Nerds

Before there was the White House Correspondence Dinner, this was the nerd prom. Unfortunately for Todd, Lisa Loobner has no plans to hook up with him because she’s saving her self for one true love, Marvin Hamlisch. Of course, that doesn’t stop her Mom from giving her The Talk before her big night. We find out that making a baby is like making egg salad, which is… sorta true. Anyway, The Nerds were among Gilda Radner and Bill Murray’s best-loved characters because they perfectly encapsulated what it was like to be awkward and unpopular in high school, and to have one good friend you liked, but weren’t sure how you liked them. Well, that, and they were just really funny.

The Judy Miller Show

In which a girl with a somewhat overactive imagination hosts a variety show in her room. Poor Judy is bored all the time, and frequently overstimulated, so she has to make her own fun, even if she thinks she has the most boring room in the world. Incidentally, this hyperactive young girl seems a lot like the blueprint Amy Poehler might have used when she created Caitlin about three decades later.

Candy Slice

Candy Slice always showed up late, and she always seemed absolutely wasted, but that never stopped her from turning in a transcendent performance. Here, she plays a gig for Rock Against Yeast, a benefit dedicated to fighting yeast infections. Based on how she dressed, Slice appeared to be at least partially based on Patti Smith, but really, she could represent any rock star who could turn in a great show no matter what they were under the influence of.