Tonight, Betty White will (if my research is correct) become the first by-popular-demand host of “Saturday Night Live.” I will admit to being a fan of the “Betty White Should Host SNL” Facebook Page. This campaign gained a lot of speed after the Snickers commercial that aired during the Superbowl, but Betty White fans have been laughing at her for decades. I became a Betty White fan in middle school, when she played the ultimate prima donna opposite Mary Richards on the Mary Tyler Moore show. (Just a side note: I still want to be Mary Richards when I grow up.)
So, for those of you younger folks who will be laughing for a full 90 minutes when tonight’s “Saturday Night Live” airs, here’s a few things you might want to look up on YouTube. These characters and moments let Betty White to becoming one of the great T.V. actresses of all time.
1. Sue Ann Nivens, Mary Richard’s co-worker
Sue Ann Nivens was a co-star on the Mary Tyler Moore show. Mary was the girl next door who produced the news in Minneapolis. Sue Ann hosted a cooking show for 1/2 hour of the day and the rest of the day she chased men and insulted her co-workers. When Mary is excited about the prospect that Prince Charles is going to be on her show, Sue Ann quickly drowns that excitement with a comment along the lines of “Oh, it’s too bad you’re old, American and common, Mary.” Never before was middle-aged desperation as funny. And that’s because of Betty White.
2. Rose Nylund, not-the-smartest Golden Girl
As Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls,” she could get a laugh playing foil for her roomates (each of whom was a legendary actress in her own right) or starring in an episode based around her crazy personality, her never-ending stories and her memories of St. Olaf. Here’s a piece of trivia for you: how did Rose lose her beloved husband Charlie? He had a heart attack while they were having sex. Only Betty White could get off telling that story in prime time in the 80s.
3. Betty White as herself on “Match Game”
You can still find the classic game show from the 70s on GSN sometimes. The show was hosted by Gene Rayburn and it really pushed the envelope. The concept was simple. The host would read a sentence or a question with a blank. The contestant would try to give the same answer give by six celebrities. Betty White was on the show a lot as a celebrity guest and she was simply hilarious. I remember watching this with my sister….my older sister would have to explain half of the jokes to me. Betty White was as funny as Betty White as she was in any of her great role!
4. Betty White, animal advocate
Long before celebrities were posing nude to protest the use of fur, Betty White was encouraging her fans to take care of animals and lobbying for tougher animal cruelty laws. She was one of the first celebrities to work phrases like “spay or neuter your pet” and “animal rights” into her comedy routines and the conversations of her characters. She didn’t do it for fame or to help her career. She did it because she loved animals.