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Subject: Archive: Michael O’Donoghue, Nov. 8, 1994


Author:
SNL writer, sometime performer
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Date Posted: Friday, November 08, 11:47:28am

NEW YORK — Original “Saturday Night Live” writer Michael O’Donoghue, a two-time Emmy award winner who later wrote screenplays for Gilda Radner and Bill Murray, has died. He was 54.

O’Donoghue died at St. Vincent’s Hospital on Tuesday after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage at his Manhattan home, said his wife, Cheryl Hardwick.

He wrote many of the show’s funniest sketches, including the “Wolverines” sketch that opened the first show in 1975. O’Donoghue’s writing for the late-night comedy program earned him Emmys in 1976 and 1977.

He co-wrote Murray’s 1988 film “Scrooged” and Radner’s 1979 movie “Gilda Live.”

O’Donoghue’s black humor helped him land jobs at the two cutting-edge homes for 1970s comedy: “SNL” and the National Lampoon. His big career break came as one of the founders of the “National Lampoon Radio Hour” in 1973, where he worked with Radner, John Belushi and Chevy Chase.

Besides his writing, O’Donoghue also appeared with the brilliant ensemble cast on “SNL.” In the show’s opening skit, he played a teacher giving an English lesson to an immigrant played by Belushi.

With Belushi repeating the words, O’Donoghue delivered the program’s maiden line: “I would like . . . to feed your fingertips . . . to the wolverines.”

His two most recognizable bits were Mr. Mike’s “Least Loved Bedtime Stories,” where he spun gruesome kiddie tales, and his “impressions” of celebrities--Elvis Presley, Tony Orlando, Mike Douglas--taking 18-inch knitting needles in their eyes.


“Any good humor is sophomoric,” he once said. “Sophomoric is the liberal word for funny.”

O’Donoghue stayed with the program as a performer and writer through the 1980 season. He returned for one season in 1985 when the show was retooled.

He wrote, produced and directed his own television special, “Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video,” but it was yanked by network censors in 1979. O’Donoghue instead released it in theaters, billing it as “The TV Show That Can’t Be Shown on TV.”

The quirky O’Donoghue, a native of Sauquoit in Upstate New York, also appeared in Woody Allen’s acclaimed “Manhattan” and wrote a song recorded by Dolly Parton, “Single Women.”
In a typically strange 1992 stunt, he drew attention when his collection of paint-by-numbers art was displayed at a SoHo gallery to huge crowds.

“Cheap white wine, cheap American paintings. What could be better?” he joked at the time.

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