LIVE! Dunn's done with SNL stint

Published Jan. 25, 1991|Updated Oct. 12, 2005

For five seasons, Nora Dunn was one of many good reasons to tune into Saturday Night Live. The characters she played, from wonderfully shallow talk show host Pat Stevens to half of the syrupy Sweeney Sisters to her many celebrity skit portrayals, were a lively part of the talented ensemble cast. But last May, Dunn suddenly was done. In the most tumultuous week in SNL's controversy-filled 15-year history, she balked at appearing on the show with guest host and foul-mouth comic Andrew Dice Clay.

Calling Clay a "hatemonger" and citing offensive material about women and minorities in his act, Dunn boycotted SNL and soon was followed by the booked musical guest, Sinead O'Connor. The show went on, and included the two other female cast members, Victoria Jackson and Jan Hooks. Dunn chose never to return.

Today, the 36-year-old comic says she thought it was time to leave the cast. Though she still has some fond memories from her years on SNL, she expresses bitter feelings about how her decision to leave SNL played out.

"The choices that the cast made were mean," Dunn says of the comedy sketch performed that May evening with Clay. Dunn was portrayed as being crushed by a falling trunk, like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz.

Dunn has enjoyed some measure of revenge, because Clay's career has taken on the appearance of yesterday's dirty laundry. At the time of the controversy, he declared: "She's (Dunn) doing this because I am the hottest comic in the world."

Now that Clay's fame has cooled, Dunn says: "I'm glad to see that he really can't make it in the mainstream." She's referring to Clay's movie The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, a bomb at the box office last summer, and his conspicuous absence in the popular entertainment arena.

Dunn will bring her own brand of satirical humor to Ruth Eckerd Hall for a portion of 45 minutes or so in Saturday's show, which includes SNL regulars Dennis Miller and Kevin Nealon.

Dunn isn't sure what her act will consist of, however. "I don't do current politicians," she says. But fans can expect a more brittle edge to the characters she does from her SNL stint. She says that television "waters you down, making much of the satire mediocre."

Dunn says that SNL's comedy isn't as raw as it used to be, because so much money is involved now with the successful show. "We often got bogged down by the high production value. Instead of using a cardboard shield as a prop, it had to be part of an elaborate costume. Instead of a plant and a chair, it was a set. And when you leaf through People magazine to find a host each week, the bite isn't going to be there."

Don't bother mentioning a Super Bowl tie-in to Dunn, whose her appearance in the area falls on the eve of the big game. One of six children, Dunn was born and raised in Chicago where she worked at local clubs until joining SNL in 1985. So she's "been inflicted with the (Chicago) Bears," she says.

After her team was eliminated in the playoffs, Dunn says she lost interest in the Super Bowl: "I'm not a big fan. The game is overwhelming, so overdone."

Married to playwright Ray Hutcherson, Dunn says she's working on projects ranging from writing a book to producing a movie with her husband. She's had noticeable roles in the movies Working Girl and Miami Blues.

Dunn looks forward to a reunion of sorts with SNL's Miller and Nealon. "I miss the close friendships," she says from her Greenwich Village apartment. And though she stays in touch with some SNL cast members, she adds, "it's not the same."