Kaz: An Appreciation

A lot of us have our Favorite SNL Cast Members, our most Hated Cast Members, and those who slip through the cracks. I want to take some time this week to take a closer look at someone who’s actually 2 out of 3 of those things—a favorite that gets lost in the shuffle. So with that, let’s go down Memory Lane with a pre-emptive “eulogy” for the man who’s both still alive and ranked a Respectable (Or at least “Respectable” by Ebersol Standards) #32 on the infamous “Rolling Stone” list. I give you the one…the only…The Kaz…

KAZ_1

Tim Kazurinsky (Who I will refer for the rest of this as “Kaz”) had about as inauspicious a road to & through SNL as anybody else’s, in that a number of varying circumstances had to happen in order for Kaz to get his chance…though I don’t know exactly what those circumstances were aside from several years performing at the various Chicago improv houses (Including Second City), I CAN say that Kaz wouldn’t have an SNL career if it weren’t for John Belushi. During the doomed Season 6 when the Major re-tooling began to take shape, Kaz was tapped to be one of the replacements of the Doumanian cast under new producer Dick Ebersol. Unfortunately, Kaz thought of himself more as a Writer than a Performer, so he initially passed. Then, as the story goes, Belushi was supposed to drive Kaz to an Airport so he could fly back to Chicago…instead, Belushi drops Kaz off at New York’s Bellevue Hospital—known for its psych ward & various Jackie Gleason jokes—and told Kaz point blank “You’re Crazy if you turn them down” (Or at least that’s how the story goes both in Shales/Miller, AND in the Tanner Colby “Belushi” Book). So with that vote of confidence, Kaz became a Cast Member.

KAZ_MONKEY

Kaz hit the ground running on that First Ebersol show in April of ’81 with the first of many “I Married a Monkey” segments—possibly the biggest laugh of that dismal year. I’ll get this out of the way, I always found these sketches to be a guilty pleasure even though some people consider the use of Animals in comedy as a crutch—after all, a trained yet unpredictable Monkey (or two) gets to run wild on Live TV, therein lies some built-in danger if something were to go wrong, making Live TV all the more special. Once we got into the first Full Ebersol season, however, Kaz seemed destined to have pigeonholed himself in specific roles…The Meek roles, The Nerdy Roles, The roles that (given his meek, nerdy persona) he Could’ve been stuck with during his tenure……until he decided to put his meekness to his advantage…

KAZ_JACK

Enter Dr. Jack Badofsky, “SNL Newsbreak’s” Science Editor and Master of the most Groan-worthy wordplay this side of the Catskill Mountains. As a kid watching the Starmaker tapes growing up, Kaz’s “Dr. Jack” was one of the first characters I remembered, and especially remembered being funny…even though 12 year old me had no Idea what Orgasms were (which just so happen to be the topic on the “Best of 1983” tape). Be that as it may, it was still funny as hell; and whenever I caught an Ebersol rerun on “Classic SNL” years later, It honestly felt like I was in for a treat when they’d show an episode with Dr. Jack. In fact, so successful was Dr. Jack, that Kaz spun it off (sort of) by doing several commentaries as himself showing off “Great Moments in Journalism”, including a few potshots discussing the “virtues” of the New York Post and other topics—I guess he had a thing for placards.

KAZ_GURU

After Dr. Jack caught fire, Kaz continued to act as backup quarterback to Eddie & Joe by largely appearing in more straight roles, more Nerdy roles, and more episodes of “I Married a Monkey”. Then in/around 1983, Kaz would come up with his 3rd memorable character, the wise guru Havnagootiim Vishnuuerheer, and his “Unanswered Questions of the Universe”. It was here where SNL probably embarked in its greatest form of Home Audience participation/crowdsourcing after voting off Andy Kaufman, but WELL Before the Betty White moment. Simply put, Kaz as the Guru would implore the audience to write in with philosophical questions that Kaz would attempt to answer in his own unique way. This, unfortunately, turned out to be the last Hurrah for Kaz having left the show at the end of the 1983-84 season…but it Almost didn’t turn out that way.

KAZ COP

As the legend (and Shales/Miller) goes; after Brad Hall was demoted from his post as Weekend Upd…I mean, “Saturday Night News” anchor mid-way through the 1983-84 season due to creative differences (I.e. Wanting to do more “Field” pieces instead of reacting to doctored pictures on the monitor), Kaz was actually offered a position to be anchor for the rest of Season 9 and possibly continue to do so into Season 10. Unlike the initial job offering that required a visit to Bellevue, This was a role that Kaz flat-out refused—partly because he didn’t feel right about taking on a high-profile position on the show while kicking a fellow colleague when he’s down at the same time (And if you Ever wanted to know why they did Guest Anchors for a little while after that, this is can be argued as the primary Reason, but don’t quote me). Turning down something high profile would be completely unheard of today, especially considering a few years of Fake News often leads to a talk show these days. But don’t feel too bad for Kaz after he left the show in ’84, he later found his bread & butter in the Police Academy movies. After those, Kaz continued to do bit parts and also Write on TV shows/other movies, and remains highly active in the theater (Even recently appearing on Broadway opposite Jim Parsons in “An Act Of God”), as well as occasional appearances on various podcasts/webshows, and of course his native Chicago on WGN America (Still with the placards, I see)…the rest—as they say—is history, and we’re glad he’s keeping busy.

KAZ_CURRENTLY

Tim Kazurinsky’s tenure on SNL was the Very Definition of “Clutch Utility Player”; In fact—dare I say—there were times when he was at Hartman levels of “Glue” well before it was even considered to be a term in the lexicon. Whenever Eddie & Joe couldn’t do it on their own or they wanted to take a break; Kaz was there not as glue, but possibly as Duct Tape just to make sure things didn’t 100% fall apart so they could make it to next week. He was—in essence—the “3rd Musketeer” of the Ebersol era, and A Highly underrated performer who deserves a Lot more credit than he actually got. Chances are more than likely that I may have missed a detail or two (Such as the fact that he was able to get THIS footage at the SNL40 Afterparty); so with that, take a little time to check out Tim’s website for more highlights–mostly outside of SNL:

http://www.timkazurinsky.net/

 

Until next time, remember…(*BLOWS INTO HARMONIZING WHISTLE*) ”Everybody doesn’t like something…but nobody doesn’t like…Orgasms

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