Not a compromising figure, the star of In Cold Blood, Robert Blake, would take his role as host very seriously. The actor, arriving in 1982 and ready to command his role as host, set about abusing almost all of the cast members and would never return again.
Having begun acting as a child, landing a lead role in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s short film series Our Gang, Blake would go on to build a prolific career in the arts with a brief stint in the United States Army the only gap on what is a glittering CV. After serving his time, the actor returned to the big screen and television with a series of high profile and impressive performances, a run which would see him enjoying one of the longest and most consistent careers in the history of Hollywood.
However, his attempt to bring his expertise to Saturday Night Live back in 1982 didn’t enjoy the same level of success as the rest of his career to that date. The now-iconic late-night live television sketch comedy and variety show, has been running prolifically each week since launching in 1975. Having triumphed some of the most legendary comedians over the years, SNL has had a long tradition of welcoming a wide range of eclectic artists to arguably the most high-profile stage in television.
While musicians often found themselves in hot water, the pressure on the host far exceeds any other role on the show. While the majority of the talent invited to the show thrive on the high-pressure moment some, unfortunately, do not. While technical issues can plague a live show, the strongest of personalities can refuse to bow down to SNL’s stringent rules and, every now and then, wind up in trouble. Robert Blake, it would seem, falls into the latter.
In the week prior to the live show, it is customary for all involved with the SNL to partake in rehearsals and building up of the sketch content. Given the wealth of supremely impressive writing talent on show, Blake would inadvertently turn the entire organisation against him in a single act with a shameless act of disrespect by throwing a script directly into the face of a comedian.
SNL writer David Sheffield remembered the disastrous moments: “My vote for worst host is Robert Blake. He was sitting in a room and a sketch was handed to him by Gary Kroeger, who was a writer-actor—a sketch called ‘Breezy Philosopher,’ a one-premise sketch about a lofty teacher who’s kind of a biker tough guy, talking about Kierkegaard. Students kept asking questions while he combed his hair, and he’d say, ‘Hey, I don’t know.’”
“Blake sat there and read that, with his glasses down his nose, then wadded it up, turned to Kroeger, and said, ‘I hope you got a tough asshole, pal, ‘cause you’re going to have to wipe your ass with that one.’ And he threw it and bounced it off Gary’s face.”
Naturally, with such an attitude, Blake was never invited to return to the show.