45 Years Ago, Gilda Radner Made Her ‘Roseanne Roseannadanna’ SNL Debut

Known by her popular catchphrase, “It’s always something,” Gilda Radner first appeared as an unnamed character in Charles Grodin’s advert, Hire the Incompetent, where Radner was in an oversized, oddly shaped wig, complaining about being fired from a fast food restaurant because customers kept seeing her hair in their hamburgers. Her gestures and speech left viewers howling with laughter, and they knew they had struck a comedy goldmine.

Although originally written by Rosie Shuster, Roseanne Roseannadanna was brought to life by Radner’s friend and writing partner, Alan Zweibel. Alan talked about their first meeting in an interview: “There was a chemistry that we had. We made each other laugh. I didn’t know anybody, and she was new to New York. We were like two kids that gravitated to each other.”

Gilda Radner as Roseanne Rosseannadanna

LOVE, GILDA, Gilda Radner, 2018. © Magnolia Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection
Roseanne’s character was based on Rose Ann Scamardella, a former journalist for New York’s Eyewitness News. Her SNL debut episode begins with Gilda reading a letter from one Richard Feder from Fort Lee. The message would include several questions bordering on the current social issue matters, with Roseanne and her co-host, Jane Curtin answering the requests.

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The fun in the show is Radner’s brash character and regular habit of going totally off the topic being talked about. In this episode that premiered on October 29, 1977, she referred to stories about her “meeting” with celebrities or went into details about bodies and personal hygiene. The idea behind this was that the personalities she has met so far gave her graphic explanations about themselves, which she, in turn, tells the public.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, Gilda Radner, (1975-). © NBC /Courtesy Everett Collection
After her hilarious descriptions, she was interrupted by Jane Curtin, who said, “Roseanne, you’re making me sick,” and reminded her about the questions they needed to answer. Rather will reply by summing up her speech with, “It just goes to show you, it’s always something. If it’s not a thing, it’s another.”

Roseanne is one of the most despised characters
Born in 1946, Gilda was an American actress and comedian who gained fame through her character as Roseanne in the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. Her perfect acting in parodies of television personalities won her an Emmy award in 1978.

Over her years at SNL, Radner pulled a large audience towards loving her characters and maintained those affections till her death. However, she became tired of finding new ways for her character to make Curtin annoyed or irritated. The authors claimed that “within the show, Roseanne became one of the most despised characters ever.”

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, Gilda Radner, 1970s, (1975-). ph: Christopher Little / TV Guide /© NBC /Courtesy Everett Collection
Gilda went on to play the eccentric character of Emily Litella, the classic geek of Lisa Loopner, and act like Barbara Walters, a journalist with an exaggerated speech defect. After leaving SNL in 1980, she appeared in Hanky Panky, Haunted, The Woman in Red, and Honeymoon. Radner sadly passed away from ovarian cancer in 1989 at the age of 42.

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